My Life Since Graduation

By Robert Herring (RIP)

Robert passed away December 12, 2012 Please see RIP:

After MHS graduation in 1959, I enrolled that fall at Rice University in Houston majoring in engineering and enrolled in Army ROTC. While at Rice, I met and dated Jonnie Johnson, also of the class of 1963 at Rice. We married in Houston in the brief space between the end of senior year final exams and the graduation ceremony the following week. For the next two years, we lived in Houston and I continued toward a Masters degree in Materials Science at Rice while Jonnie went across town for a Masters in English at the University of Houston. · Following our graduations in the summer of 1965, we packed our belongings into a U-Haul trailer, hitched it behind my trusted ’55 Ford and proceeded to Evanston, Illinois in the Chicago area where I had been accepted at Northwestern University.

We had friends from Rice that took us in and allowed us to camp on their living room floor while we searched for an apartment. We had not known that the leases in Chicago all run January 1’1 to the end of the year so there are few places available mid-year. Our friends were patient but I’m sure they were happy when a month later, we got our own apartment – the upstairs of a very drafty century plus old house in Evanston.


Each spring I asked the Army for an extension of my delay in starting active duty. Those were granted and I was able to finish the work for a Ph.D. in Materials Science in the fall of 1968 just as my “final extension” came to an end. After four months at Aberdeen Proving Grom1d, Maryland, we moved near Boston to the Arnly Materials and Mechanics Research Center (AMMRC) in Watertown. I was one of about 22 military personnel assigned to the site along with the civilian work force of about 400. After a year living off the base, we got one of six housing units on the base. It was a really small facility as military bases go. We thought of it as our gated community as the only gate was closed and locked at 10 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. the next morning.


By this time, in the fall of 1969, we were starting a family. When the time came for a trip to the hospital, it was of course 4:30 in the morning. We dressed, got in the car and drove down to the locked gate. I had to rouse the civilian guard to unlock the gate and log us out in the official record. I just remember very empty and dark roads as we drove along the expressway into Boston and up over the big bridge over the Charles river and down into the Chelsea Naval Base, the nearest military facilities with family care. Our son, Douglas, was born about 8 a.m.


In the fall of 1970, I completed my Arnly active duty, transferred to reserve status but stayed on as a civilian employee at the Arnly Research Center. Two years later, we moved to Phoenix, Arizona where I worked as a process development engineer for Motorola Semiconductor. I remember leaving my snow shovel hanging in the garage for the next person to use. In the Phoenix area, directions to our house in Scottsdale included: “Drive east until the road ends at the Pima Indian Reservation, turn left and proceed one mile until you pass the roping corral on your right. Take the next left.. .. ” Life in Phoenix was certainly a change from the cold and snowy winters of Chicago and Boston.


In Phoenix, our family was expanded with the birth of a daughter, Katherine. However, after two summers with the heat regularly hitting 110-115°, we were ready for a cooler climate. I had a job offer in northern California and took it. We moved to San Jose, the self-styled “Capital of Silicon Valley”, about 60 miles south of San Francisco, and have lived there since 1974. I worked first for a subsidiary of Applied Materials making single crystal silicon wafers for the manufacture of integrated circuits and later for the main part of Applied Materials where I worked on the design and testing of semiconductor equipment. During the time I was at Applied Materials, my wife, Jomue, attended law school at Santa Clara University and reentered the workforce as a family law attorney handling divorces and child custody issues.


In 1981, I moved from being an equipment builder to an equipment user working for Advanced Microdevices (AMD) and then in 1983 back to equipment building for a start-up company called Anicon. My Silicon Valley hopes for financial gain from three years of grueling work at a start-up company were dashed by yet another economic downturn which spoiled the plan for taking the company public. Instead it was sold to an existing equipment company and my early employee stock became virtually worthless. During the next 15 years, I continued to work on processing equipment for semiconductors (through three mergers) with increasing roles in management. My role in process development led to considerable business travel to customer sites in the U.S., Europe, and the Far East where I developed many friends. I was able to take Jonnie back to further explore favorite places in France, Gennany, Switzerland and Italy.


The fourth of the SVG era mergers in 2003 resulted in sale of my division. At that point, I exited the semiconductor equipment business, declared myself “retired” and started the next phase of my journey. We had long delayed doing a kitchen remodel. With my time available to devote to supervision, that project finally got done by the spring of 2004. The new kitchen needed to be used, so I took over most of the cooking and have continued in that role. I began teaching a class for the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department of our local San Jose State University in 2005 and have continued teaching one class per semester since then. My classes in Metals and Alloys and in Ceramics are core classes for the junior and senior level materials students. In addition, I help part of two days a week in the 5th and 6th grade math program for a local elementary school.

• Also I am consulting for a company in China which is developing a new system for semiconductor processing. The prototype is now starting to run and I expect to make a trip to Beijing in July to help with the process development. Having declared myself “retired” in 2003, I maintain that my teaching and consulting are just my “active hobbies” and I’m sticking to that story.


Jonnie continues to enjoy her work as a family law attorney and has renewed her office lease for two additional years. Our son, Douglas is married and working in New Jersey as an assistant county prosecutor while our daughter is a seventh grade science teacher in Los Angeles.

One thought on “My Life Since Graduation

  1. John McEllligott MD February 25, 2022 / 10:23 am

    Wow now that a water drinker and what a wife. Whist I had known you and your wife. RIP.

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