Nathaniel Herring recalls the day he first visited the UNF campus as a prospective student. During a break in touring the campus he spotted a tall, distinguished-looking man who took time out to warmly welcome him to campus and was willing to patiently answer all his questions.
Herring didn’t know it at the time, but he had just met Dr. Adam Herbert, who was then UNF’s president. When Herring learned the identity of the stranger who had greeted him so warmly on campus, he said he knew UNF was the place for him.
As an African-American who was a graduate of Jacksonville’s Ribault High School, Herring said it took time for him to “get my head around” an African-American being president of a state university. “He provided a model of leadership for me that I had never seen before.”
Herring and Herbert would meet regularly in the ensuing years as Herring, a member of the Presidential Envoys, pursued a bachelor’s of business administration. The meetings with Herbert and other UNF professors who took time to mentor him provided a valuable supplemental education. “I like to say when I graduated from UNF I had a bachelor’s in business as well as a master’s in leadership.”
Herring went on to become very involved in UNF activities outside the classroom. He was a Student Government Association senator, a member of the Osprey Productions programming board, and president of the Xi Lambda chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi.
The experience inside and outside the classroom prepared him well for later internships at the Mayo Clinic and Merrill Lynch. Even after his graduation in 1993 he would come back to campus for occasional lunches with professors who continued their mentoring role. “As a young professional, it was very valuable to receive help for the various challenges I faced early in my career.”
The mentoring must have worked. Herring went on to earn an MBA at Wake Forest University where he also serves on the Board of Visitors for the business school. “When I was at Wake Forest,” he recalls, “I was with students from some of the top name universities in the country. I found out in the final analysis I was able to compete with them because of my UNF education.”
Herring joined Wachovia and over the next 15 years served in a variety of positions from branch manager and financial consultant to business banking director and senior vice president for the Tampa Bay market and later senior vice president and retail banking director for Wachovia’s Eastern Georgia region. More recently he was named city president for the Jacksonville market for Fifth Third Bank, based in Cincinnati.
Coming back to Jacksonville has been exciting for Herring, who said he is looking forward to bringing employment to the Jacksonville area through the expansion of Fifth Third Bank in the market. He is also interested in working with the business community to help enhance the superior infrastructure in the community. He specifically praised the improvements made possible by the Better Jacksonville Plan implemented during the administration of former Jacksonville Mayor and now UNF president, John Delaney. “I’ve lived in a number of other cities and I’m impressed with the infrastructure that Jacksonville has built. We are set up to be a premier metropolitan area with the capacity to double our population,” he said.
When not working, Herring and his wife Jan enjoy traveling with their two children as well as running and cycling.
With his rapid career rise and professional accomplishments, Herring values his UNF education and the lessons he learned on campus. Through several on-campus mentorships while he was becoming an Osprey, he learned that in order to continue to grow you must understand what you think and why. “I learned as a society we are sometimes diversity-ignorant. We don’t understand that diversity is what creates growth,” he said. “I have learned through my experience in corporate America the tremendous value of diverse teams. We all really have much more in common than we think. Our differences are relatively minor. To have someone in your life to help you understand that fact and to examine what you think and why you think it, is part of the real growth for an individual.”
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