John Herbin- 1890

John F. Herbin of the Class of 1890 was a gifted athlete and visionary whose organizational skills and leadership ability contributed greatly to the growth of Acadia University’s sports facilities.

Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and a descendant of French settlers in Grand Pre, he left school at the age of nine and began learning the trade of watch-making. By the time he was 16 he had taught himself shorthand. At the age of 21 he had taken up residence in Colorado, obtaining a post as a school teacher.

Returning to Nova Scotia after two years south of the border, he became a resident of Wolfville, becoming employed as a jeweller. During the fall of 1886 he enrolled as a student of Acadia while continuing his daily work in his chosen profession.

During his student years at Acadia, John F. Herbin, better known as “Jack”, earned the reputation as a man “for all seasons”, receiving tributes for his literary contributions to The Athenaeum while being involved as well in music and such athletic events as swimming, running and cricket. As a testimony to Herbin’s athletic prowess, longtime family friend W. H. Wilson, in a September 1928 letter to a newspaper editor, described him as a superb athlete who was particularly gifted as both a cricket player and coach. He was remembered, too, as a champion swimmer who, in a series of water sports events organized by the Halifax military forces and held in Dartmouth, received many of the prizes for “long swimming, fast swimming, fancy swimming and diving.” In running, walking and snow shoe events, this versatile athlete was also highly applauded by his peers.

As a member of the freshmen class of 1896, John Herbin brought with him “a knowledge of Spanish and the trade of a watchmaker.” While working at his chosen profession and pursuing academic excellence, he still found time to be a leader in athletics, a musician of some renown and perhaps most significantly a rising figure in literary circles.

On the Acadia campus during the late 1880s, many editorials and letters to the editor focused on the fact that the University lacked a gymnasium –having only a room in the basement of a building which accommodated some gymnastic apparatus. Soon, however, John Herbin and his classmates took up the cry for a proper facility and spearheaded a campaign that saw the realization of a dream. During the fall of 1889, Herbin, who was entering his senior year, was elected president of the newly-formed Acadia Amateur Athletics Association. In this capacity he and his associates combined with the Board of Governors to finance the building of a gymnasium and provide it with the appropriate apparatus.

As a result, by November of 1890 an impressive structure erected at the cost of $1,500.00 and described as “the largest and best equipped gymnasium in the Maritimes” was operational for the use by Acadia students with H. V. Corey of the class of 1891 as the instructor. Following graduation from Acadia, this future councilor and mayor of Wolfville, and a “driving force” behind the establishment of the Grand Pre National Park, became deeply involved in the plan to provide Acadia students with their own playing field. In this pursuit, he organized work parties of students, supported by town and college employees. Intimately, through tools provided by the town, muscles by the students and leadership by Herbin, the playing surface later to be named Raymond Field became a reality.

In the field of literature John Herbin became widely known throughout North America. Such works as his sonnet ‘~cross the Dykes” and such longer works of prose and verse entitled History of Grand Pre, The Land of Evange/ine and The Marsh/ands earned him the admiration of such Canadian literary giants as Bliss Carmen and Archibald Lampman.

What an honor it is to induct posthumously to the Acadia Sports Hall of Fame in the builder category, the original proprietor of Wolfville’s well known business firm called Herbins Limited and a gentleman whose vision and organizational skills contributed immensely to the excellent facilities made available to a countless number of Acadia students.