After 20 years of the daily challenges of a high school principal, Ray Herman was faced with a new challenge — helping with the merger of three high schools into one.

In 1988, the Sherburn-Dunnell, Trimont and Welcome school districts consolidated to form Martin County West High School. Herman, the principal at Sherburn-Dunnell, oversaw the transition to the new high school.

“Martin County West would not be the school it is today without his imprint,” said Principal David Traetow. “He was responsible for making sure every piece from each community was represented in the consolidation to form the new school district.

“However, it was his mission to ensure that students, staff, parents, and the communities recognized Martin County West was now their school, and even though the former districts were able to bring forward their uniqueness, we were moving forward with a unified vision and school.”

Six years after the merger, Martin County West was named one of the best schools in the U.S. by Redbook magazine.

Ray Herman died on March 24 in Rosemount. Herman, whose lymphoma was diagnosed in 2013, was 78. Services have been held.

Herman was born and raised in Kulm, N.D. After high school, he attended the University of North Dakota, where he lettered two years in basketball. After graduating with a degree in physical education, he taught two years in the Grand Forks school system. He then completed a master’s degree in educational administration.

He began his career as a principal in Emmons, Minn. During his 10 years at Emmons, he also coached the football and basketball teams. In 1971, he directed the Emmons basketball team to its only district championship in school history. Herman also coached Emmons to a conference title in football.

In 1978, he became the principal at Sherburn-Dunnell. During his tenure there, he coached the girls’ basketball team to three conference titles.

After the merger in 1988, he was the principal and athletic director for Martin County West.

“Ray was my mentor, and like thousands of students and hundreds of staff I wouldn’t be where I am today without his leadership and guidance,” said Traetow. “He taught me the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. This included the students who knew even though his bark may have been loud, no one genuinely cared for them more than he.

“Even after graduation, he would always recognize and reach out to students to make sure they knew if they ever needed anything, he was there for them. I don’t know of anyone who had a more positive influence on the development of MCW as he did.”

In addition to coaching and his duties as athletic director, Herman officiated football, basketball and softball and served as the Valley Conference secretary for several years. Herman was named to the Minnesota Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Hall of Fame in 2006.

Herman was also a longtime member of the Lions clubs in Sherburn and Rosemount.

“He loved being busy,” said daughter Erin Herman, who is the principal and girls’ basketball coach at Hill-Murray High School. “He was not good at being idle. He stayed busy with sports and officiating. He was a people person.”

In addition to Erin Herman, Ray is survived by his wife of 56 years, Lola; daughters Jessica and Chrisan; son, James; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren, and a sister.

Erin Herman said her father was particularly pleased that his four children all graduated from his alma mater and that they are all working in their major fields.