Meredith Mourns Passing of Betty Heilman, wife of Fifth President Bruce Heilman

Former Meredith College President Bruce Heilman and wife Betty Heilman during his presidency

The Meredith community mourns the passing of Betty Dobbins Heilman, wife of Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, former president of Meredith College.

Betty Heilman passed away on Thursday, December 12, 2013, at age 85. She is survived by husband, Bruce Heilman, who served as the fifth president of Meredith from 1966-71. Dr. Heilman is former president and current chancellor of the University of Richmond.

The Heilmans, who met as students at Campbellsville Junior College, were married for 65 years. The couple has five children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren. Daughters Bobbie Heilman Murphy, ’73, and Nancy Heilman Cale, ’74, graduated from Meredith.

In his memoir, An Interruption that Lasted a Lifetime, Heilman wrote of his wife’s service to Meredith College:

“Betty served in the role of first lady at Meredith with a calm that belied the stresses of meeting the demands of five children, as she shouldered a continuous string of responsibilities connected with the college … throughout my career, her constant support of my endeavors bolstered my career effectiveness and ultimately benefited our family, as well as the institutions I served.”

Meredith College President Jo Allen, '80, paid tribute to the important roles both Heilmans played in the history of Meredith, and offered condolences on behalf of the College.

"The Heilman Family has been an ongoing force in the life of Meredith College, even though it has been over 40 years since Bruce Heilman served as President of Meredith College and his wife Betty served as distinguished "First Lady."  Mrs. Heilman and their five children brought vivacity and laughter to the College. Mary Lynch Johnson's A History of Meredith College records Mrs. Heilman's demeanor:  'Her winsome friendliness and her calm poise make a charming combination.  That poise is not ruffled by a whirlwind of a husband, five lively children, a large house to keep, and dinners for various Meredith groups.'

Despite having left Meredith in 1971 for another successful presidency, the Heilmans have continued to contribute both financially and otherwise to Meredith College. Their scholarship fund makes possible an exceptional education for deserving undergraduate women. The College's ongoing gratitude to the Heilmans is matched only by our mourning the loss of this distinguished First Lady. Our hearts go out to her family and friends."

A memorial service celebrating Betty Heilman’s life will be held on Saturday, December 21, 2013, at 2 p.m. at Cannon Memorial Chapel. The Heilman family has scheduled a visitation at Woody Funeral Home, Parham Chapel at 1711 Parham Road, Richmond, Va., from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, December 19, 2013.

Photo Courtesy Meredith College Archives: Meredith's fifth president, Dr. Bruce Heilman and wife, Betty Heilman, during his presidency 

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Melyssa Allen
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