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dean herdlick with homecoming court

Ray of Hope Award winner Dean Herdlick

My name is Jenna Smalley, I am a senior majoring in Marketing with a minor in digital innovation and design. I am a third year peer mentor on campus and also the President of Tiffin University’s Business Club this year!

Mike Herdlick was nominated for the Ray of Hope Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). NAMI is a nonprofit organization that educated, advocates, and supports individuals, families, and caregivers living with or affected by a mental health condition or brain disorder. NAMI gives this award annually to honor an individual who has demonstrated valiant leadership and dedicated service to those affected by mental health conditions.

What is the mission of NAMI SSW?

NAMI SSW, the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot counties is a nonprofit, 501(c)3, grassroots organization which educates, advocates and supports individuals, families and caregivers living with or affected by a mental health condition or brain disorder.

History of NAMI:

The first organized meetings of NAMI SSW began in 1988 with discussion groups for the families of those with loved ones who were diagnosed and/or hospitalized with a mental health condition. These groups met at Fremont Memorial Hospital (now Promedica Memorial Hospital) after visiting hours. A representative from Sandusky Valley (now Firelands) and a nurse from Memorial Hospital chaired these discussions. This was the beginning of the volunteer organization known as the Alliance for the Mentally III (AMI). The timeless efforts of John Van Der Laar and Joy Varnasky kept these support groups going. John and Joy attended numerous meetings in the area and made frequent trips to Columbus to become more knowledgeable about mental illness and the state and national organizations. Today, the office is conveniently located in downtown Fremont and is handicap accessible.

History of the Ray of Hope Award:

The Ray of Hope Award was started as a way to honor individuals in our community who are dedicated to serving the needs of those affected by mental health conditions. This is usually an event that is celebrated in person as an awards dinner with raffle items. However, this year because of COVID, especially since most of the attendees are older, it was decided that it would not be safe to proceed with an in-person event. However, it is still important to have the award this year as so many people are really going above and beyond the call of service during these stressful times.

What is the Ray of Hope Award?

NAMI SSW gives this award annually to honor an individual in the three counties who have demonstrated valiant leadership and dedicated service to those affected by mental health conditions.

Who is eligible to receive this award?

Anyone who has made an outstanding commitment to bettering the lives and giving hope to individuals, families or the community. They may have achieved this by educating, advocating or supporting them; volunteering their time; through their work; or through a special effort such as fundraising, meeting with legislators or a community project.

How does Mike Herdlick meet the requirements of being nominated for this award?

When thinking of the duties of a Dean of Students, we usually think of student conduct, student safety, school policies and procedures. Many people don’t stop and think about those aspects and how they may be affected when students are coping with mental illness.  Mike Herdlick is the Dean of Students at Tiffin University, and he makes it a number one priority to be  educated about mental illness and always takes into consideration a student’s mental health and emotional well-being while serving our students. Mike is a huge advocate for our students when they are hospitalized and has shown up at the hospital numerous times to make sure our students are safe and their return to campus is thoughtful and well-planned with appropriate support services. It is not uncommon for Mike to drop everything he is doing to sit with a student, have in-depth and reassuring conversations with family and friends, or even to run to the fast-food restaurant of the student’s choice to make sure they are fed and comfortable. Mike treats all of our students with the utmost of respect and dignity. He is encouraging and empowering, and he is not afraid to make a few waves if it means keeping our students safe while they try to navigate the complicated world of insurance, inpatient and outpatient counseling, along with access to appropriate care. When the campus community was feeling the huge impact of COVID-19, and most of campus was evacuated, there were a handful of students who did not feel safe/comfortable returning home due to a myriad of family issues within their families. Mike and Tiffin University President Dr. Lillian Schumacher worked tirelessly to make sure our students were able to remain safely on campus. They insured these students did not have to jeopardize their mental health during this already stressful and scary time. Mike checked in daily and made sure these students knew he was there for them. In some of the scariest and most uncertain times in our student lives, Mike instills hope in our students.

Jenna is an intern with the marketing department at Tiffin University. She is a senior majoring in marketing and digital innovation and design.