By Courtney Klaus, Editor-In-Chief
Newman is losing one of its longest serving faculty members, Professor of Sociology Larry Heck, who is retiring at the end of this year after spending 46 years at the university.
During his time at Newman, Heck has worn many different hats.
He was the chair of the social sciences division, the adviser for multiple student clubs and organizations, and he serves as the assistant undergraduate dean. He was at one point a part of the Advancement Office, and for a while, he was even put in charge of the Financial Aid Office.
Heck said his many responsibilities at Newman allowed him to see sides of his profession and of the college that he had never seen before, which he said helped him be a more mindful instructor.
“I had to learn a lot. But I got to see the university in a different way, and I saw students in a different way too,” he said. “What a helpful addition of perspective from just seeing them in the classroom.”
Heck said Newman has grown and changed a lot since the 1970s, and he said he was glad to have been a part of some of the university’s biggest developments.
Heck was the coordinator for the Title III grant that led to the development of the Newman intranet, creating a whole new network the university community could use. It was also the grant that put computers on everyone’s desk.
But while the technology and infrastructure of Newman has changed significantly, Heck said the school’s spirit has been the same since he first started.
“One thing that has stayed the same for me is the influence of the Sisters, the Adorers, on the school and especially on me and my desire to do what I do in the spirit of their charism,” he said.
Heck said one thing he will miss the most about Newman is being in the classroom, an experience that ended earlier than expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced all classes online since March. But really, Heck said, his time at Newman was always also all about meeting the people.
“The people that I’ve been able to meet and work with over the years, students, faculty members, people of the community, that would be my biggest reward...I would have never been able to meet with all these great people, to interact with them, if it had not been for my position here,” he said.
Junior sociology major Elena Cummings, who moved to Wichita from Florida, said Heck was one of the first people who helped her feel at home at Newman.
“He’s my teacher, he’s also my adviser, but he’s also someone I turn to when I need advice,” Cummings said. “He has an open-door policy. I think I'll miss his outgoing spirit. He’s so kind hearted and welcoming, and I’ll miss that the most after he leaves.”
Junior and Future Legal Professionals of Newman President Michael VanDeest got to know Heck as his pre-law and club adviser.
“Dr. Heck is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met when it comes to education and his students… I hope he enjoys a great retirement,” VanDeest said.
In 2005, Heck and his wife, Robbi, received the Cardinal Newman Medal, which is considered the highest award that the university can bestow.
Heck and his wife also developed the Larry and Robbi Heck Scholarship to bestow on students interested in studying sociology.
In recognition of his dedication to teaching and to the university, Heck was awarded the status of Professor Emeritus this year, meaning he will retain his honorary title of professor even after his retirement.
Heck says his new status is not only an affirmation of his past relationship with Newman, but also an affirmation of his continuing relationship.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s given my life meaning.” Heck said. “I’ve been able to be a part of a community, so it’s really been so much more than just a job.”
Picture by Dania Jumpa, staff photographer