Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
Class: Masters Student (first year)
Major: Civil Engineering (Water Resources)
Hometown: Bellefonte, PA (born in St. Mary's, PA)
High School: Bellefonte (Bellefonte, PA) - Class of 1998
Previous College Education: BS, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology (2003, Penn State);
BS, Civil Engineering (2006, Penn State)
Died along with Prof. Loganathan and 8 other students in Advanced Hydrology class.
CNN video: Remembering Jeremy Herbstritt
WJAC video: Jeremy Herbstritt
Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues
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In Memory of Jeremy Herbstritt - 11/6/79-4/16/07 at Facebook
Jeremy Herbstritt at Facebook
From Peggy Jackson, Jeremy’s math teacher in 12th grade:
Jeremy was a warm and loving young man. He would be the first to befriend and defend anyone who was new or was being picked on by others.
From Mike Casper:
Jeremy led long-distance relay teams in the fall of 2003, 2004, and 2005 in the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Relay and Ultramarathon in central Pennsylvania . Those teams included friends and his siblings Jennifer, Joe and Stephanie. As race director of the Mountainback, I remember Jeremy for his gentle exuberance; he was on everyone’s team in spirit. We can all learn from that perspective, which I know he applied in all aspects of his life.
Newspaper Remembrance Stories
Romance Blossomed Quickly for
'Outgoing’ and 'Friendly’ Grad Student
Alexis Bozzo and her boyfriend, Jeremy Herbstritt, talked for a good hour on the telephone before both went to bed Sunday night.
They said they loved each other and then he texted her again. “Good night VT Turkey, love your favorite Nittany Lion,” he wrote.
That was the last Bozzo, 22, from Maplewood, N.J., heard from her boyfriend of six months.
Herbstritt, 27, was in his second semester pursuing a master’s degree in civil engineering at Virginia Tech. He was deeply loyal to Penn State, where he completed his undergraduate degree.
Monday morning, a gunman shot and killed him while he worked as a teaching assistant in Norris Hall.
Bozzo, a fifth-year senior, was in Richmond when she heard about the chaos. At noon, she learned the shooting had occurred at Norris Hall.
“When they showed a picture of Norris Hall, my heart just dropped because he had classes in there,” she said.
Herbstritt was teaching a 9 a.m. class in Norris 206. When Bozzo learned that, she exclaimed, “Oh my God, that’s where Jeremy is at.”
Bozzo called her boyfriend’s parents, Michael and Peggy Herbstritt. He came from a close-knit family and was the oldest of four children, she said. His father works as an electrical engineer at Penn State and his mother is a nurse.
Herbstritt’s passion was running. He shared it with his family, and they often ran together. On Monday, his sister Jen was running the Boston Marathon and the family was in Boston to support her.
Jen “called me right after the marathon and was like, 'What the heck is going on?’ ” Bozzo said.
“He was just the most outgoing person,” Bozzo said. He had lots of friends and was friendly with several of the students he taught.
After they began dating in October, Bozzo and Herbstritt quickly became serious. They spent Thanksgiving together in Bellefonte, Pa., at his parents’ house and then celebrated Easter in Vienna, Va., with his grandfather and uncle.
Bozzo had just been accepted to master’s programs at various universities, including Clemson and Rutgers. Herbstritt said that he would move to wherever Bozzo wanted to study. “He wanted to be with me as much as possible,” she said.
Herbstritt recently received a Susman Internship, which would have funded his research about dams on the Roanoke River in North Carolina.
Monday night, Bozzo talked to Herbstritt’s mother, who she remembers saying, “I just can’t imagine life with out Jeremy.”
Bozzo said she knows how his mother feels. She feels the same way.
— Jessica Marcy (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)
York Times Profile:
A runner and an engineer who always went after what he wanted: that is how the family and friends of Jeremy Herbstritt will remember him.
Mr. Herbstritt, 27, who was killed at Norris Hall, was doing graduate work in civil engineering and hoped to begin a career in environmental work. He already had two undergraduate degrees under his belt from Penn State: one in biochemistry and molecular biology, and another in civil engineering.
He was known as the kind of student who went out of his way to make others feel at ease.
"His smile is half his face," said Pam Vaiana, a family friend and the principal of the Catholic grammar school that Mr. Herbstritt attended.
The oldest of four children - two boys and two girls - he was raised on a farm in the small community of Spring Township in Western Pennsylvania. At nearby Bellefonte High School, Mr. Herbstritt stood out for his cheerfulness and outgoing personality - even being voted "most talkative" in his class one year - but it was on the track where he really left his mark.
He was a member of the cross-country and track and field teams, and for three years led the school's long-distance relay team. Several of his former coaches told The Associated Press that he was gearing up for a lifetime of competing in marathons, and had already competed in three with his family.
His parents had gone to Boston on Monday to watch his sister run in the Boston Marathon as part of a charity group, Centre Volunteers in Medicine. They were planning on stopping by Virginia Tech to see their son that night.
They released a statement to the media the next day.
"Thoughts and prayers for the Herbstritt family are encouraged and deeply appreciated," they said. "The family also extends their deepest sympathies to the families of the other victims of this tragedy. The family's prayers are with them all."
Honor student also avid
Jennifer Herbstritt wanted her older brother, Jeremy, to run the Boston Marathon with her Monday. Their parents were going to be there to cheer them on.
Jeremy, 27, a graduate civil engineering student at Virginia Tech who had already earned two bachelor's degrees at Pennsylvania State University, said no because he didn't want to miss school.
"She wanted so badly for him to be there and run with her, but he wanted to be in class," said David Proven, teacher at Bellefonte (Pa.) Area High School, who taught Jeremy and still saw him at church. "Here's a kid in grad school who still feels that way."
His family did not find out about his death until late that evening, when they had returned to Bellefonte from Boston.
"They had no idea anything had ever happened," Proven said.
An avid outdoorsman who ran and kayaked, Jeremy was the oldest of four. He graduated from Penn State in 2003 with a dual major of biochemistry and molecular biology. Three years later, he earned another bachelor's degree in civil and environmental engineering, according to Penn State spokesman Geoff Rushton.
"He graduated with honors both times," he said, and had numerous academic scholarships. Jeremy was interested in environmental engineering after his graduate studies at Virginia Tech.
"He started out as a relatively shy ninth-grader and ended with the 'most talkative senior' award," Proven said. "He was the most talkative boy in the senior class, but not in a bad way."
Proven talked recently with Jeremy's father at a retreat sponsored by their church, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. Michael Herbstritt caught him up on Jeremy's academic accomplishments.
"He was so thrilled and so proud," Proven said. "His dad just idolized that young man and rightly so. … I just can't impress upon you what a nice guy he was. He was always asking about you. The whole family is like that."
Washington Post Profile:
Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, of Bellefonte, Pa., received several academic scholarships and earned two undergraduate degrees from Pennsylvania State University before enrolling at Virginia Tech last fall as a graduate student, according to a Penn State spokesman. Family friends said the tall, lanky young man was a devout Catholic, a cross-country runner and a civil engineering student who wanted to pursue an environmental career.
On Monday, Herbstritt's parents were notified that he was killed at Norris Hall. His father, Michael, who works as an engineer at Penn State's Office of Physical Plant, and his mother, Margaret, were in Boston watching their daughter run the Boston Marathon, according to Penn State spokesman Geoff Rushton.
Jeremy Herbstritt earned his first undergraduate degree in 2003 with a dual major in biochemistry and molecular biology. He earned another bachelor's of science degree in civil engineering in 2006, graduating with distinction, Rushton said.
The personable young man had other distinctions as well.
According to his high school yearbook, he was voted "most talkative guy" in his senior class when he graduated from Bellefonte Area High School in 1998, according to Principal Ann Hutcheson. "Talkie-talkie, everybody likes to talk," noted his yearbook entry. "Or at least Jeremy Herbstritt and Denise Ritter do. Their mile-a-minute mouths wear out the ears of their classmates." Herbstritt also ran cross-country in high school and later ran the Boston Marathon, she said.
Herbstritt and other family members often ran in Bellefonte, a close-knit rural community near Penn State, according to Mike Shuey, whose family lives across the street and whose son used to play basketball with Jeremy.
Herbstritt and his family were active in their parish, and Jeremy frequently attended Mass when he was home on break and on vacation, according to Pam Vaiana, a family friend and principal of St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, which Jeremy and his three younger siblings attended.
"He was a thoughtful kid," she said. "He lived his faith."
Yesterday, Vaiana retrieved his elementary school photo.
"His smile filled his face," Vaiana said. "He was a really good kid. I talk to my children about drugs and alcohol, but these outside things you can't control, and they just rip your heart out."
-- Lena H. Sun, The Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:
Jeremy Herbstritt, 27, had nearly completed his first year of graduate studies in civil and environmental engineering and was a teaching assistant.
Although he worked hard, Alexis B. Bozzo, his girlfriend, says he always found time for outdoor sports. “He loved running and hiking,” she says. “He was so full of life.”
Jared M. Daubert, a friend, knew Mr. Herbstritt from 4-H summer camp. “He was very outgoing and very energetic,” says Mr. Daubert. “He was a happy person with a huge heart.”
Mr. Herbstritt earned two undergraduate degrees from Pennsylvania State University at University Park, the first in biochemistry and molecular biology in 2003, and the second in civil and environmental engineering in 2006. He wasn´t happy with the jobs the first degree qualified him for, so he told his friends he burned the first diploma after realizing that. Still, he graduated from both programs with honors.
He could be forthright. One time a professor at Virgina Tech came into the room where Mr. Herbstritt was leading a lab class and announced, somewhat belligerently, that he needed the room for his own class. Mr. Herbstritt, who was younger, said to the professor, “Dude, take a chill pill,” according to Ms. Bozzo. “That was his personality,” she says. “He was always raring to go.”
The oldest of four siblings, Mr. Herbstritt came from a close-knit Bellefonte, Pa., family. They all ran together. On the day he was killed, his parents were in Boston watching his sister, Jen, run the marathon there. The evening before, he had spoken with her on the phone. “Don’t worry, I’m praying for you,” he said. “You’ll finish the race.”
This past winter Mr. Herbstritt taught Ms. Bozzo how to ski. “He was going to take me kayaking this summer,” she says.
PSU grad, Bellefonte native, among Va.
Resident's boyfriend slain in massacre
MAPLEWOOD, NJ - She remembers the touch of his arm around her waist the night they met and she remembers how his lips felt upon hers the first time they kissed. She remembers Thanksgiving with his family in Pennsylvania and Christmas together at Rockefeller Center. She remembers hanging out, studying and watching movies together — and making plans to share their future.
And she also remembers the phone call that told her for them, there would be no future.
On April 16, 22-year-old Alexis Bozzo, a Virginia Tech student who had returned home to Maplewood for a long weekend, woke up at 11 a.m., expecting to begin getting ready to head back to school.
Instead, she found her father in the next room glued to the television. Immediately realizing it was her school on the screen, she broke down.
“I saw what was going on,” Bozzo said. “I saw Norris Hall and I knew Jeremy had classes there. I just started to cry.”
Bozzo and the rest of the world watched in horror as details unfolded of yet another madman snuffing out innocent young lives at a place believed to be a sanctuary of safety and learning for children.
Only this time, for Bozzo, it was personal.
Twenty-seven-year-old Jeremy Herbstritt, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, was her boyfriend. The six-month relationship had quickly become serious, as the two had planned to move in together when Bozzo starts grad school in the fall.
Through her tears, Bozzo immediately tried to reach Herbstritt, hoping against hope he had somehow survived.
“As soon as I saw the images on TV, I kept calling and texting him,” Bozzo said. “I went on the Virginia Tech Web site and I saw he had a class from 9:05 to 9:55 in Norris Hall. I said ‘Oh my God.’”
Norris Hall was where most of the bloodshed had occurred.
Then ensued seemingly endless hours of attempting to get information about Herbstritt — sometimes resulting in misinformation.
“I was back and forth on the phone all day,” Bozzo said. “I had friends of mine in Blacksburg going to all the hospitals. My roommate drove around for five hours looking for him. Some people even thought they saw him.”
Bozzo spoke to Ken Stanton, the friend who had introduced her to Herbstritt.
“He got in touch with someone who was in the building and made it out,” Bozzo said. “He told Ken that the shooting was in Norris 206.”
Realizing it was Herbstritt’s classroom, she and Stanton both “broke down and started crying,” Bozzo said.
Finally, desperate to know if the man she was in love with was still alive, Bozzo and her roommate, Lauren O’Neill, concocted a plan. They decided O’Neill would pose as a weepy Bozzo in order to get more information.
“My roommate went to the police department at the campus and demanded to see the list of the deceased,” Bozzo said. “She pretended to be the sorrowful fiance. I told her ‘Do anything you have to do to get the information.’”
The plan worked. The call she had feared for all those long hours finally came.
The phone rang. It was O’Neill.
“She said ‘I’m so sorry to have to tell you this,’” Bozzo said through tears, “‘Jeremy’s name is on the list.’”
A distraught Bozzo, who had been in touch with Herbstritt’s family all day, then gave O’Neill the family’s cell numbers to give to the police so the family could be notified. The entire Herbstritt family, who live in Pennsylvania, had been in Boston that day to cheer on Herbstritt’s sister, who was running in the marathon.
That night, Bozzo could not sleep. Another woman close to Herbstritt also lay awake.
“It was about 1 a.m.” Bozzo said. “My phone rang and it was Jeremy’s mom. She said the same thing I was feeling, ‘I can’t imagine my life without Jeremy. I just want to wake up and have it be a nightmare that’s over.’”
Three days later, Bozzo learned the details of Herbstritt’s last moments.
“The shooter came into the classroom,” Bozzo said. “Because it was a grad class, it was very small. Jeremy and Nathaniel stood up because they didn’t know what was going on. The shooter shot the professor and then he turned to Jeremy and shot him. Jeremy’s dead body landed on Nathaniel and his body shielded him. Nathaniel played dead. After shooting Jeremy, he shot about nine more students.”
The shooter never realized Nathaniel, also a grad student, was still alive under Herbstritt’s lifeless body.
“He would have been glad knowing he saved a life,” Bozzo said. “That’s the kind of person he was.”
The last time Bozzo and Herbstritt had seen each other was one week before his death.
“We spent Easter weekend together in Northern Virginia with his grand-aunt and grand-uncle,” Bozzo said. “His mom said she is so glad we went there so he at least had a recent meal with family members.”
The Bozzo and Herbstritt families were beginning to merge even before Herbstritt’s death, but now they have suddenly been brought together by a common bond of deep love for Jeremy and agonizing pain with his untimely passing.
Out of evil and suffering, members of the two families are already joining forces to bring about good by combining two of Herbstritt’s passions — running and the environment. As Herbstritt was the oldest of four and Bozzo is the youngest of four, there are plenty of family members who will miss him and are anxious to lend a hand to honor his memory.
“We are going to work together to get a 5k going in his town and it will be in memory of Jeremy,” Bozzo said, “probably for his environmental project that he didn’t get to finish.”
Bozzo is referring to the Sussman Internship which Herbstritt had just been awarded and which provides summer funding to graduate students who are working on environmental projects.
“I’ve never run in a 5k and me and Jeremy were supposed to do that together, so now I want to do one in his name. His sister is a marathon runner, so she’s going to set up a training schedule for me to help me get ready.”
Bozzo, a senior, will also be getting ready for her graduation, but not the joyous graduation she had planned.
“I’m supposed to graduate in less than a month,” Bozzo said, “and Jeremy was supposed to be there. Graduation will be different this year.”
Bozzo, who is pursuing a double major in political science and interdisciplinary studies, still has some requirements left before graduation and, although it won’t be easy, she will do her best to concentrate on her studies.
“I probably will go back to class,” Bozzo said. “Going back will help me focus on my academics. Jeremy wouldn’t want me to drop everything. He’d want me to continue what I was doing and be successful.”
Their last conversation was the night before he died. They spoke for about an hour about the usual things — the weather, friends, plans for the summer — and ended the conversation how they usually did.
“We said we loved each other and that was the last thing we both said."
By Debbie L. Hochberg, Staff Writer
Virginia Tech Magazine
Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, a master’s student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, loved to hike, kayak, bike, ski, and work on the family farm. Born in St. Mary’s, Pa., in November 1979, his family later moved to Bellefonte, Pa., where he grew up on the Herbstritt farm.
Jeremy attended elementary school at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Bellefonte and then the Bellefonte Area Middle and High Schools before graduating in 1998. He went on to Pennsylvania State University, where he received a bachelor of science in biochemistry and molecular biology with a minor in chemistry in 2003. He later returned to Penn State to pursue a second B.S. in civil engineering (2006). He graduated with honors.
While at Virginia Tech, Jeremy served as a teaching assistant for the Fluid Mechanics for Civil and Environmental Engineers class. Jeremy was awarded the Sussman Scholarship for summer 2007 and was planning to conduct research on the Lower Roanoke River in North Carolina as part of the project and thesis he was working on.
Throughout high school and college, Jeremy worked for the Guided Path Dairy Farm in Bellefonte. Jeremy also worked for the Centre County, Pa., Extension office, where he collected mosquitoes to be tested for the West Nile virus. Jeremy is credited with the discovery of the first West Nile virus-infected mosquito in Centre County.
While growing up Jeremy was involved in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. He was an active member of the Centre County 4-H Gold Bullets Club, the Centre County Sheep Club, and the Centre County Beef Club. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 1314.
Jeremy was an avid runner, competing in the Pocono Marathon and the Steamtown Marathon, as well as the Tussey Mountainback 50-mile relay three years in a row with his siblings and friends. Jeremy was also actively involved in helping his sister, Jennifer, train for the Boston Marathon.
Jeremy was a phenomenal friend, brother, son and dedicated teacher. He will forever be loved and missed by all. His amazing life will never be forgotten. A memorial 5K will be run annually by his friends and family. We want his compassionate heart and passion for life to live on.
Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Jeremy Michael Herbstritt Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in his memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.