Have you walked the campus at Rollins College? One man played a significant role in shaping most of what you see today.
Rollins College lost an icon last month with the passing of former Vice President for Business and Finance George Herbst — the man behind one of the largest construction booms in the college’s history.
Herbst died May 15, 2017, from complications with cancer. He was 78.
The former vice president served at Rollins College from 1996 to 2008, working closely with Rollins’ 13th President Rita Bornstein to shape much of the campus that students and faculty enjoy today.
“George cast a long shadow out here,” said Scott Bitikofer, assistant vice president for facilities management at Rollins College. “You could certainly look back at some of the physical campus and the projects he was responsible for, but at the same time, I think you can also look at the personnel that are still here — a decade after his retirement from Rollins — that continue to serve and carry on the work that he and Rita started.
“There’s not a lot of the campus that he didn’t affect over time,” he said.
Herbst was at the helm of the college when it built, expanded and renovated more than 30 facilities, including the president’s residence at the Barker House, the Alfond Sports Center, the Cornell Campus Center, Sutton Place Apartments, the Rinker Building and properties along Fairbanks and Comstock avenues.
Some of his other projects, including the SunTrust Plaza and parking garage and the Lake Island Park Softball Complex, benefited the rest of the city, as well.
Even Rollins’ arched entryway along Fairbanks was placed under Herbst’s watch.
“People forget that the soccer field used to be covered by a vine-covered chain-link fence, and the entrance to the college had a tilting brick sign that announced Rollins College,” said Bitikofer, who worked with Herbst for about 10 years. “You can’t throw a rock without hitting something that he had a hand on out here.”
Herbst also served on multiple Winter Park boards and chaired the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. He was named Winter Park’s Citizen of the Year in 2005.
Bitikofer remembers Herbst as a driven man who was “all business” and striving to make the college better. He was also a developer of young talent.
“He picked me from relative obscurity and put me in charge of one of the largest apartments on campus,” Bitikofer said. “I’m starting my 20th year now, so he opened the door for me.”
Herbst also helped maintain Rollins College’s Spanish Mediterranean architecture, which dates back to the 1930s. This earned him an Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects’ Orlando chapter.
“He was very diligent as the guardian of that heritage of ours architecturally,” Bitikofer said. “He infused in a lot of us that same value. Long after he departed this campus, that legacy continues.”
According to the Rollins Oral History Project, Herbst earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and received an MBA from the University of Notre Dame.
He was an administrator in K-12 schools before spending seven years as vice president for finance and administration at Cranbrook Educational Community in Michigan. Herbst assumed a similar role at the University of Dallas before coming to Rollins.
The final years of his career were spent at Stetson and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical universities.
“He was a special man,” Bitikofer said. “I always counted him as a friend and appreciated all that he did for me and for Rollins College.”
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