We belatedly learned last week about the passing of Dean Herbst in Austin, Texas. She was 88 years old.
While I didn’t know Dean well, I worked for her husband, Harvey, at KLRN-TV/KUT-FM in Austin back in the 1970’s. I knew that she had spent time working overseas as a young woman, but I had no idea just how varied and remarkable her career was until I read her obituary.
Born in Houston, Dean Finley grew up in Austin and graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Texas in 1944. She moved to New York City and worked in the publicity department of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
After her father died in 1946, she returned to Texas and went to work for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. But the position “of her dreams” was offered to her in 1951 when she took an assignment with the State Department as an Assistant Information Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
According to her obituary, Dean was the only ranking woman in the Kabul diplomatic corps. “She established a school and library for women. At the request of the Queen of Afghanistan, she offered an informal seminar for wives of Afghan diplomats who were going to serve in foreign embassies.“
By 1955, Dean had returned to the American-Statesman and renewed her acquaintance with Harvey Herbst, who worked for one of the local television stations. They were married in August 1955 and had two children: Frederick Lawrence and Marian Alice. As a stay-at-home mom, she wrote a novel entitled “Flight to Afghanistan." She became deeply involved with the Theta Sigma Phi women’s honorary journalism fraternity and played a key role in establishing Women in Communication.
Dean Herbst conducted investigative research into Texas medical education as requested by the Texas Legislature. She was later tapped to serve as Assistant Commissioner for Health Affairs for the Texas Coordinating Board of Higher Education and held that job until her retirement.
You’ll find more about this remarkable woman -- including some fascinating stories about her adventures as a journalist, a mother, and administrator -- on our Black Hills Monitor web site.
Our condolences to Harvey and the entire Herbst family. Dean was quite a lady.