Electricity-free water heating system developed by one of USF's first alumni

A dirt road and a “swampland better fit for ants and alligators than for students and faculty”, these were the humble beginnings of the University of South Florida. Nevertheless, the doors opened on September 26, 1960 when fewer than 2,000 students attended classes in only five buildings.

The University was founded in a time of change, an era of social and political reforms that forever changed the face of America. Dreams were held high and new ideas were welcomed with open arms. From Bob Dylan to Ella Baker society was making a made dash for change. The USF Campus was not far from that hub of culture that surrounded the Sixties. Fowler Avenue may have still been a dirt road but big things were happening on the small campus.

Walking  in the windstorms that once plagued the university was Thomas Hebert, one of the first USF students. Nostalgia set in as Hebert fondly recalled his U number, coming in at only 1900. Hebert got involved on campus, playing intramural football for the Golden Redeye’s and joining a fraternity. For the next twelve years, from 1960-1972 Hebert would attend USF, acquiring a bachelors degree in both physics and math and moving on to get a masters in chemistry.

Only 8 years later his hard work paid off when he created the product now called ZeroEnergy Water Heating System. This venture then grew into a company, Olive Tree Energy. “Understanding how heat moves and changes things it just popped into my head one night,” said Hebert.

Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at rroa@cltampa.com