By Ione D. Vargus, Ph.D.
Not only has President Barack Obama sent words of appreciation for the Herron Speaks blogs but now, kind and reflective words have come from Dr. Ione Vargus, Professor and Dean Emerita, Founder/Director, “Mother of Family Reunions: Family Reunion Institute-Temple University. Her comments are printed in their entirety:
I am sorry that I did not know beforehand of the reception given for you in November. You certainly deserved the acknowledgment of your contributions. I would have sent some kind of greeting, but at least I got a chance to read about it in your blog.
Talking about blogs, I will definitely miss your blog when you have accomplished your 200th. ! As a person who is not fond of reading articles and the like on the internet, I always opened up yours as soon as they came, even when the topic was related primarily to North Carolina. Then, I printed them out.
I think it was more than the fact that the contents would be interesting. I think it had to do with our connection.
You were a great supporter when we formed the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University in 1990. A few years before that, I had heard you being interviewed on the radio about your family reunion by Rowena Stewart, the Director of the African American Museum in Philadelphia. I was then in the throes of conducting research on African American family reunions and I was so excited to hear you talk about yours.
We became part of Dr. Stewart’s planning committee to help Dr Stewart recognize the oldest Black families in Philadelphia and to hold a conference for Black family reunions, funded by the city. When the funding ceased, Dr. Stewart asked if I could carry on the conference through Temple. I asked the planning committee, all of whom were people whose families had reunions, to become an Advisory Committee to me.
We named ourselves the African American Family Reunion Institute and held our first conference in 1990. I’ve kept all of the minutes from that committee and I can tell you, that was a dynamic committee. The ideas were so wonderful. You contributed so much to the discussion.
Although Temple gave us a number of in-kind services, we had to get operational money from outside and you wrote a great proposal. You were a presenter at many of our conferences where you shared so much on the how-to’s and resources related to genealogy.
We evolved from a one-day conference using classrooms at Temple, to moving to hotels so that people from out of state had someplace to stay and extending the number of days, to having conferences in other parts of the country.
I still have a long 1993 article about you entitled "Digging up Roots is Vernon Herron's Business" written in the Philadelphia Tribune. I have a photograph that included you when I retired in 1995 from Temple as an administrator. (I still run the Institute as a volunteer.) I have photos of when you were at the conference and had a table sharing your family’s background. We missed you when you moved to North Carolina but I was happy to be a part of the religious service given in your honor before you left.
So, Vernon, I’ve enjoyed continuing the connection with you. As you probably noticed, whenever there was some mechanical problem with your blog, I notified you immediately. I didn’t think I could write a blog but you’ve inspired me and now I write a monthly one for a company called ReelGenie.com.