Joan Cummings Hebert W’45: Enduring Devotion

Some stories are so quiet that they’re easy to miss. They don’t jump out and beg to be told. Joan Cummings Hebert’s long commitment to the alma mater of her late husband, Robert S. Hebert ’45, is such a story.

Robert S. Hebert ’45 and his wife Joan.
Even though they both grew up in Scarsdale, New York, Joan and Robert—known as Bob—didn’t meet until she was a student at Mount Holyoke and he was a student at Amherst. Bob’s education was interrupted in 1943 by his service in the United States Army Air Force as a bombardier. He returned in 1946 as a first lieutenant, having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters for serving in Europe. “After a tense wartime bombing of Germany, a peaceful spot to continue his education was on Bob’s agenda,” Joan said. So he resumed his studies at Amherst and finished his degree in 1947. For her part, Joan studied psychology at Mount Holyoke, served on the Representative Council, and was Junior House President. She graduated in 1947 as well.

Joan and Bob married in 1949 and settled in Tuckahoe, New York. Bob was hired by J.H. Redding, Inc., an import/export company in New York City, of which he eventually became secretary. The couple had two children: Cynthia and Robert III.

In 1963, Bob died of cancer at age 40. And here’s where the quiet story begins. Every year since the late 1960s, without fail, Joan gave to the Amherst Fund. For more than half a century, she honored the memory of her husband by supporting the college he loved.

Joan Hebert
Joan’s first recorded gift, in 1968, was in the amount of $10. Over time, her giving grew and she became a member of the Noah Webster’s Circle. Ultimately, she contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars to the College. “We both come from ‘education-prone’ families, so supporting college was a built-in factor,” Joan said last September. 

Joan made her final gift to the Amherst Fund in October, 72 years after Bob graduated from the College and 56 years after his death. She passed away on December 9, 2019 at age 93, but her extraordinary dedication to Amherst—which continues through a bequest to the College—will endure, carrying a hopeful message of commitment, consistency and loyal love across time.