PRINCETON — How far can a graduate of Princeton High School go? All the way to Timbuktu.
That’s how far Dr. Timothy Herrick has been, and this was part of his message to students during an assembly Friday that recognized him as the third inductee into PHS’ Academic and Career Hall of Fame.
Herrick graduated from PHS in 1975 and went on to the University of Illinois where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural science. He then received his medical degree from Northwestern University and also earned a Master of Science degree while a fellow in family medicine at the Ohio State University.
After completing his medical studies in the U.S., Herrick spent more than 20 years in Africa as a medical doctor and received his certification in tropical medicine from the American Tropical Medicine and Health Society.
In his presentation to students on Friday, he passed on four bits of advice: “Figure out what you were created to do or be, make the sacrifices you need to in order to make this a reality, surround yourself with good people on the journey, and don’t forget to have fun along the way.”
At around age 13, Herrick knew he wanted to be a doctor, helping people in extreme need. He said back then, he was thinking of Peoria.
It wasn’t until age 20, he began dreaming of Africa.
Herrick admitted getting into medical school was not exactly “a slam dunk” for him, hence the agricultural science degree. He said he took the ag route just in case his Plan A of going to medical school did not pan out.
Plan A came through for him only one month before he started school in Chicago. After that, things sort of fell into place as they do in life.
When he moved to Africa, he worked in rural hospitals, began a community health program in several villages, treated people living on city streets and taught in a variety of settings.
Herrick shared photos of him working in hospitals in Africa and also during a visit to Timbuktu with his family, where they took a photo holding a copy of the Bureau County Republican, which later ended up in the newpaper’s “Where in the World” feature.
“Princeton High School is a great place, in my view, to start this process, because here you can do a little bit of everything,” he said.
He encouraged students to take advantage of everything high school has to offer.
“Try a lot of stuff. See what you’re good at. See what you’re bad at. If you’re bad at it, keep doing it anyway until you can get a little good at it,” he said.
“You get a good teaching at PHS. It’s up to you whether or not you get a good learning.”
Today, Herrick lives in Portland, Ore., where he is currently an assistant professor and physician at the Oregon Health and Science University.
He and his wife, Joan, hope to finish their careers back in Africa and are planning to move in 2021.
Although he lived across the world for more than two decades, Herrick stayed in contact with many people from PHS and shared they all “feel blessed to have gotten their start at PHS.”
“The people we met here, our families, and our friends are part of what made us who we are. … They are really our foundation for the future,” he said.