Trip was gift but turned tragic Provost memorial planned at YSU



YOUNGSTOWN — It was to be a joyous trip, a high school graduation present for his youngest child.

But the trip ended tragically when Dr. Robert K. Herbert, Youngstown State University provost, drowned in the ocean off a beach in Costa Rica.

Dr. Gary Salvner, chairman of the English Department at YSU where Herbert’s wife, Dr. Barbara Nykiel-Herbert, is an assistant professor, said Sunday that he had been in contact with her via e-mail.

She wasn’t with members of her family in Costa Rica but was just winding up a six-week consulting session at a university in Taiwan when she got the news of her husband’s death, Salvner said.

He said he learned that Herbert had taken his two youngest children, Veronica and Ian, on a holiday to the tropical country, and all three were swimming in the ocean when Herbert may have been caught in a current or undertow and got pulled under.

The drowning

The exact day of the drowning was uncertain but it apparently happened late Friday or early Saturday, Salvner said.

The trip was a graduation present for Veronica, who graduated from Ursuline High School this year, Salvner said, adding that the trio had been in Costa Rica for a only few days.

Herbert, who grew up in Long Island, N.Y., was regarded as an excellent swimmer, Salvner said.

Authorities recovered his body and it will be returned to the United States, a process that could take up to a week, Salvner said. The family plans to bury Herbert in New York although a memorial service will be held at YSU at some point, he said.

The Herberts’ older son, Sebastian, and an uncle flew to Costa Rica on Sunday to handle arrangements to bring the body and the two children back, he said.

Dr. Nykiel-Herbert was due to arrive in New York on Sunday night, he said.


Meanwhile, Dr. David C. Sweet, YSU president, called an emergency meeting of his cabinet Sunday morning to make sure they were aware of what had happened. He planned to meet with the deans of the eight colleges as well as a select administrative committee today, said Ron Cole, YSU spokesman.

Herbert wasn’t due back at work until about July 16, according to Cole.

Just who will take over his duties and when hasn’t been announced by the university at this point. Dr. Bege Bowers is YSU’s associate provost.

Herbert came to YSU in July 2005 as provost and vice president for academic affairs and continued to hold both titles.

His death was tragic news for the university, Sweet said, adding that he will be missed by the YSU family and as a colleague and friend.

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