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Editor’s note: This column was written by Doug Ernst, the Napa Valley College public information officer.

If age is a state of mind, Herbert Rice checks in at about 35. He’s in his third career, thanks to his second stint at Napa Valley College.

The first time he took classes at NVC he was working in construction.

“For decades, I was one of the finest master craftsmen you could find anywhere,” said Herb.

In 2002, he began a second career as a photographer. About two and a half years ago, Herb’s wife Margaret noticed Herb needed more from life.

“She told me, ‘You love learning, why not go back to school and find a new career.’ So I came back to Napa Valley College – the second best thing that ever happened to me, after Margaret.”

He met Angie Moore in the Student Counseling Department, who introduced him to Reed Davis, a career development counselor.

While he was learning about himself in Davis’s career development course, Angie introduced him to the Digital Design & Graphics Technology (DDGT) program, suggesting it might be a perfect fit.

“Angie suggested that I meet Gary Strommen, the program coordinator of the DDGT lab,” said Herb. “When we met, he sold me on the program.”

Because of the training in the DDGT program, Herb earned a professional certification in AutoCAD (computer-aided drafting and design software), and is now on his way to professional certification in Inventor and Revit as well.

“I can help the client see their dream house, with the materials they favor, in the colors they want, complete with landscaping, placed in the neighborhood – looking like it had been photographed there. And yet it is all virtual, with the bare lot untouched by the first shovel in the ground.”

He said he also has learned more than a few people skills throughout his life.

“Construction can be very hard on relationships, and I have learned to foresee problem areas in a project and try to head them off. I have learned to be very level-headed and understanding in attempting to smooth over the rough times in a project.

“When people ask me how old I am, I always say 19. It forces them to judge me for who I am, not slot me into a pigeon hole that is based on other people my age. One’s mindset and attitude about life makes you who you are. The younger I can be, the more things I can accomplish.

“I did it, but anybody can do it. I simply was connected to the people here who helped me to discover the career path that best suited myself and my skill set.”

On May 27, Herb Rice will cross the Napa Valley College graduation stage in front of his classmates, counselors and kin.

He’s already looking for a job with an architectural firm that might be seeking someone with a background in construction, photography, and design. I think he’ll get one.

Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or


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