A space central to the Department of Plants, Soils and Climate in the Agricultural Sciences building has been named to honor Professor A.A. Heravi, a pioneer of scientific farming in Iran. The atrium’s naming recognizes just one of the many generous gifts alumnus Mehdi Heravi has given across many programs and departments at Utah State University and honors his father’s love of agriculture and legacy of learning and teaching.
A.A. Heravi made remarkable contributions to the science of agriculture, especially in his native Iran. He pursued his own higher education in Paris at the Sorbonne, and returned to Iran as a professor of agriculture at the University of Tehran in 1934–the university’s inaugural year–and was the youngest member of the new school’s faculty.
Heravi was the first to teach agriculture there and became the father of scientific agriculture in Iran. In 1939, he wrote the first book on Iranian agriculture, Family Farming, which was widely used throughout the country. He was beloved by the students who came through his classroom. He gave as much time to his students as he could, often saying, “My time is the students’ time.”
The Heravi family was prosperous and greatly valued education. When Mehdi was 9 years old, he and his older brother began attending a respected school in England. But young Mehdi dreamed of going to the United States. His father was, understandably, concerned about sending his teenage son to the United States, but Mehdi was persistent. In the 1950s, faculty from the Utah Agricultural College, especially those in engineering and agriculture, often collaborated with university and government scientists in the Middle East. Professor Heravi asked visiting colleagues in Tehran where he might send his son to school that would be safe. It proved to be the step that led to Mehdi traveling alone at age 16 from Tehran to Logan, Utah.
“The very first photo I took when I came to Utah State was not of Logan High, or Old Main, gorgeous Logan Canyon, or wonderful Bear Lake, it was a photo of me in front of the old College of Agriculture building,” Mehdi Heravi told guests at the atrium naming celebration. “I thought I would send that photo to my father because it would make him happy to see his son in front of a beloved college of agriculture. However, I must confess, I did have an ulterior motive too. I thought this happiness might spill over and there might be an increase in my allowance…and it worked.”
Mehdi quickly made friends in Cache Valley, graduated from Logan High School, and enrolled at Utah State.
“My adult formative years were not only influenced but were developed here,” he said. “When I first came to Logan I didn’t know anyone, but within a few days, I had several good friends who still today remain my wonderful friends. That circle of friends got bigger and bigger until finally, I ended up having three couples claiming me as their own son. So I think I am qualified to be in the Guinness Book of Records for having four fathers and four mothers. One of those couples was Milton and Bessie Merrill for whom the library was named.”
He added that his father and Milton Merrill had much in common. Both were intellectuals, dynamic professors who cared deeply about their students and good advisors, “but most of all, they were good, decent human beings.”
Mehdi Heravi earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science at Utah State and worked as a teaching assistant. In 1967, he went on to earn his doctorate at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C., and later became vice president of the National University of Iran. When the Shah and the government in his country were overthrown in the late 1970s, Mehdi was forced from his leadership role at the university and spent 11 months as a prisoner in solitary confinement. Yet, he remains a scholar and citizen of the world who works to build bridges between people and cultures, and to educate and care for others.
At the naming event, USU President Noelle Cockett said, “When you hear Mehdi talk about humanity, bringing people together and educating people to learn about others and exchange ideas, and share their cultures, you realize that this comes from his heart. He has lived this throughout his life.”
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Dean, Ken White said it is fitting to name an area of the Agricultural Sciences building for A.A. Heravi because he was passionate about agriculture and about serving his students and would appreciate the many endeavors in CAAS where faculty and students truly work shoulder-to-shoulder. Mehdi Heravi has created eight named endowments for CAAS student scholarships and has made numerous donations to other colleges and programs at Utah State.
“When the dictionary defines the word ‘philanthropist,’ the description should include the name Dr. Mehdi Heravi,” White said. “Dr. Heravi is the epitome of a true philanthropist. His liberality is above and beyond many donors who contribute generous support to Utah State University’s students.”
“I was very happy that I could do this for the college in my father’s name,” he said. “My father and Milton Merrill are no longer with us. When a loved one becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure and they will always be treasures in my heart as long as I live.”
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