Alex Hersh '99

Alumni Alex Hersh

Alex Hersh

I've been given wonderful opportunities and feel satisfied knowing that a bit of my legacy will be with Medaille after I'm gone.

About Alex Hersh:

By Tara Erwin

For Alex Hersh '99, age is just a number. "I don't feel it," said the 68-year-old. "What I feel is lucky."

Indeed, his story is one that you don't hear every day: a successful professional in his late 50s decides to go back to school to earn his degree and subsequently change careers. Hersh admits that he was never "much of a student" in his youth, as the traditional school setting stifled his free spirit tendencies.

Inspired by a friend who went back to school later in life, Hersh said that completing his degree was on his "bucket list." However, he was looking for something fast-paced to match his energy level, as well as a program he could attend at night so as not to interfere with his professional career as a business owner specializing in estate jewelry sales. Hersh also knew he needed structure so that he could adequately balance his work/home/academic lives. In a thrilling twist of serendipity, Medaille just so happened to be launching its Accelerated Learning Program that met all of Hersh's requirements. He became part of the inaugural class of 1999, earning his Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration.

Graduating from the program provided his fondest memory at Medaille: "As the first graduating class in the program, we participated in a kind of dress rehearsal for the ceremony. Each student got to stand up and make a little speech. One of my friends stood up and said he wanted to be just like me," Hersh said, clearly touched. Another professor told Hersh's wife at his graduation that he was the best student the professor had ever had.

With his new degree in hand, Hersh decided to enter into a completely different field of work, making another unconventional decision. He is now a registered representative for Mass Mutual, offering his clients sound financial advice through asset management.

To say that Hersh feels a strong connection to the College is an understatement. He serves on the Amherst Alumni Board of Directors, was treasurer of the main Alumni Board, and actively recruits for both boards. He's also a generous supporter of the College and has even remembered it in his will.

"My family has always been very philanthropic, so it's part of my heritage," he said. "Our philosophy was that if you have the means, then show the support to the institution that made you who you are."

Hersh, who definitely has the industry knowledge to back up his claim, says having a will and specifying which charities or organizations you wish to remember is the single best way to ensure your legacy is preserved. Sadly, though, some 60 percent of Americans die without a will, which means that state laws will take over and distribute assets according to a generic formula.

A common misconception is that someone has to be very wealthy in order to bequeath some of their money to an organization in their will, but Hersh contends that even people with relatively modest assets can make a meaningful gift. "Any amount has the potential to make a huge impact," he said, using the example of $2,500 left to Medaille in someone's will can generate an annual gift of $100 for years to come. What's more, even someone who doesn't have large cash reserves can still support the college as part of their legacy. "Insurance policies, cars, homes, recreational vehicles, artwork, anything that has value can be left to the school and converted into monetary assets," said Hersh, who noted that a common fear among his clients is the current economic climate and that "they'll outlive their money."

"Time and time again, I tell my clients not to worry about the current market; it will recover, it always does," he said.

Despite the economic ups and downs, Hersh is thrilled at how his life has turned out and is grateful to Medaille for giving him a second lease on life. "My goal is to live life to the fullest," he said. "I'm not an extraordinary person, but I've been given wonderful opportunities and feel satisfied knowing that a bit of my legacy will be with Medaille after I'm gone."

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