He was an 18-year-old Marine from northern Kentucky when he arrived in Okinawa in 1945 — one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. The impact of that horrific battle stayed with E. Bruce Heilman for the rest of his life. Decades later, he told a student forum at Kentucky’s Campbellsville University: “The sounds which have haunted me from the beginning, and I still haven’t wiped away from my memory, were the screams, moans, the outlandish cries of the wounded and dying.”
Following his four years in the Marine Corps, Heilman returned home and used his G.I. bill to attend Campbellsville Junior College. After graduating in 1949, he continued his education, receiving his doctorate and master’s from Peabody College (part of Vanderbilt University). He went on to enjoy a long career in education that included positions at several colleges and universities.
From 1966 to 1971, Heilman served as president of Meredith College in Raleigh. In 1971, he was named president at the University of Richmond, a post he held from 1971 to 1986 and again on an interim basis from 1987 to 1988 after his successor resigned. Today, this University of Richmond chancellor, president emeritus and veteran serves as a spokesperson for The Greatest Generations Foundation. At 93, he continues to promote efforts to honor and preserve the legacy of all World War II veterans.
For most of his life, Heilman has served as an educator and an inspiration to all. On May 25, in recognition of his years of devoted service to the Marine Corps, the University of Richmond and to the education of all young Americans, the Richmond-area James M. Slay Detachment of the Marine Corps League will honor him in a ceremony at Lakewood retirement community. Heilman will be presented with a shadow box highlighting his Marine Corps uniform, his decorations and awards and other military memorabilia. Following its presentation to Heilman, the shadow box will be placed on permanent display in the University of Richmond’s Heilman Center.
During the presentation ceremony, the Marine Corps League also will announce the establishment of the Doctor Bruce Heilman Scholarship Award. The top cadets at each of the four Richmond-area high schools with Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps units will receive $500 scholarships.
We salute both Heilman and the Marine Corps League for their dedication to America’s youth. Active, engaged veterans who continue to give back are just one of the reasons that, according to the personal finance website WalletHub, Virginia has been named the best state in the country for military veterans and retirees. While the availability of services, job opportunities, Veterans Affairs access and other factors certainly played into that ranking, we find the level of care and concern shown by area veterans for those who have borne the brunt of battle to be truly remarkable.
— Robin Beres