Dr. BRUCE HEILMAN
Chancellor of the University of Richmond
World War II Veteran
WEDNESDAY. OCTOBER 24
"WHY THEY NEVER TALK ABOUT IT"
On Wednesday, October 24, Dr. Bruce Heilman will be the first Encorepreneur breakfast speaker asked to return for a second appearance. In 2014, a full house in the UR School of Business auditorium listened reverently as he described how, and why, he joined the Marine Corps during World War II, and how that decision has affected his life. This time, he will tell us about the impact of the war on the lives of the veterans he has met and gotten to know during his cross country mototcycle travels and other work supporting veterans groups.
When Dr. Heilman last spoke to Encorepreneur, there were nearly 1 million WWII veterans still alive. Today, the number is less than than half that figure. In four more years the number will be only about 100,000. He will will tell us why they are reluctant to talk about about their experiences and remind us why we shuold still be grateful.
Dr. Heilman left school at the age of 17 to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1944. He fought in the battle of Okinawa, and his outfit was set to invade Japan in six weeks when the United States dropped the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His unit was in charge of disarming the Japanese forces and reestablishing Hiroshima when it was still hot with radioactive material. Dr. Heilman stayed in the Corps for four years and exited as a sergeant.
Grand Marshal Dr. Heilman leads WWII section of National Memorial
Day Parade up Constitution Avenue in 2015.
Today, at age 92, he is actively telling the story of the “greatest generation” across the US. Dr. Heilman serves as the national spokesperson for the "Keep the Spirit of ‘45 Alive Campaign" which works to celebrate the achievements of the “Greatest Generation,” in order to instill the same values in their descendants today.
He received a Harley as a 50th anniversary present from his late wife, Betty, and he now rides on the open road to share the message of the bravery and sacrifices of the members of the Marine Corps and other services who served in World War II. In 2016, on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Heilman celebratd his 90th birthday by completing a 7,000-mile cross-country ride in remembrance of the tragedy. Since his 84th birthday he has traveled 60,000 milies and visited all 50 states on his Harley.
After the Corps, Dr. Heilman used the G.I. bill to get his bachelor’s degree and continued to earn a master’s degree and then a Ph.D; all from Peabody College, a part of Vanderbilt University. He served as president of Meredith College from 1966 to 1971 and served as president of the University of Richmond in 1971 until 1986. During his tenure, he was instrumental in receiving the largest contribution to the school in its history, a $50 million gift from Claiborne Robins. He is currently the Chancellor of the University.