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Honoring the Legacy of James Herbert: A Pillar of Vision and Generosity

Greater Lansing lost a cornerstone of the region’s business and philanthropic communities last month with the passing of James L. Herbert Jr.

The 83-year-old founder of Neogen Corp. and one of the catalysts behind the renowned Sparrow Herbert-Herman Cancer Center died peacefully at his home March 16 following a lengthy illness.

James “Jim” Herbert was born July 3, 1940, in Memphis, Tennessee, to James L. Herbert Sr. and Annette (Claywell) Herbert. He was raised in Whitehaven, Tennessee, and led a childhood filled with the simple pleasures and humble beginnings that forged the resiliency and determination that ultimately defined his integrity throughout life.

Jim’s educational path was evidence to his determination and resourcefulness. Facing financial hurdles, he secured a unique arrangement at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he not only pursued his studies but also met his lifelong partner, Judith Anderson. Together, they navigated life’s winding journey, marking over six decades of companionship and mutual support.

After college, Jim embarked on a career that saw him transition from an editor in agricultural publications to a visionary leader in the corporate world. His role in the founding and leadership of biotech firm Neogen Corp. in Lansing stands as a testament to his exceptional capabilities. Under his stewardship from its inception until June 2020, Neogen transformed from an ambitious idea into a global leader contributing to the safety and quality of food and animal care products. Jim’s humility in acknowledging the collective effort behind Neogen’s success serves as confirmation of his quality of character.

Beyond his business acumen, Jim and Judi’s philanthropic endeavors highlighted their deep commitment to lifting up the entire region through generosity and support. Their contributions have profoundly impacted health care, education and hunger relief, leaving a lasting legacy in communities far and wide. In addition to being a driving force behind the Herbert-Herman Cancer Center at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, the couple’s support also notably included the enhancement of educational facilities at the University of Tennessee and Whitehaven High School.

“In remembering Jim, we are reminded of the power of individual contributions to effect meaningful change, a lesson that will continue to inspire generations to come,” said Tiffany Dowling, president of M3 Group and a friend of Jim’s. “Jim’s mission in life was indeed accomplished, leaving a legacy that will endure, making the world a significantly better place for his having been in it.”

Jim’s life was adorned with numerous awards and recognitions, yet it was his warmth, generosity and the joy he brought to others that truly defined him. He was a cherished husband, father, sibling and grandfather, whose memory will continue to inspire and guide those he left behind.