In memoriam: Cheryl Heckler

She leaves legacy with Miami journalism students

Cheryl Heckler

Cheryl Heckler and her dog, Pip. (Photo by Ian Marker)

Cheryl Heckler, an associate professor in media, journalism & film, died, Sunday, Feb. 18, at her home in Carthagena, Ohio. She was 59.

A passionate, caring teacher who took delight in teaching journalistic writing through the lens of international journalism, Heckler was an accomplished journalist. She focused on covering the influence of religion on politics, political figures and world events.
 
She developed strong personal ties with generations of Miami students — many of whom maintained close relationships with her for decades.
 
Whether these students came to regular “pasta nights” at her condo in Oxford or her extended “office” hours at Kofenya, they could always count on her support, explained her colleagues.
 
“Cheryl was absolutely one of my favorite people I met at Miami and I had the pleasure of learning from,” said Jenna Sauber, a media relations & public outreach manager at the National Communication Association in Washington, D.C. and a 2007 Miami graduate.  “All these years later, she continued to check on me and believe in my journey. She never gave up on her students, on journalism, on living. Her bright spirit and intelligence will be missed by so many.”
 
Her colleagues added that when her students succeeded, she was often the first to celebrate with them. When they suffered, she empathized and comforted them. And as she herself faced a series of health problems over the years, she was forthcoming with her students and modeled what it was like to face a life-threatening disease with positivity and humor.
 
Heckler graduated from Miami in 1981 with a degree in journalism. She earned a master’s degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. Her research focused on Civil War journalist Whitelaw Reid, a Miami alumnus who was the editor of the New York Tribune and a vice presidential candidate in 1892 who ran unsuccessfully with Benjamin Harrison.
 

Heckler was the impetus behind (and primary donor for) the Reid-Heckler-Gambrell Scholarship for Overseas Reporting, named after Heckler, Reid, and Heckler’s fellow Ohioan and Miami alumnus Jon Gambrell. Gambrell,  a former student of Heckler’s, became an accomplished international correspondent and now serves as the Associated Press’ Senior Gulf Correspondent in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
 
Heckler was the author of two books, An Accidental Journalist: The Adventures of Edmund Stevens, 1934-45 and Heart and Soul of the Nation: How the Spirituality of Our First Ladies Changed America. She was the co-author of The Carpenter’s Apprentice: The Spiritual Biography of Jimmy Carter.

During her time at Miami, she also was a correspondent at Ecumenical News International, an international religion wire service based in Geneva, Switzerland. She wrote for the organization from the United States, focusing on religion in American politics, as well as breaking news stories related to religious leaders or interfaith events. She served as adviser to The Miami Student for many years.
 
Heckler is survived by her children Brady (Abigail) Feltz of Oakwood, Ohio, and Leah Feltz of Lexington, Kentucky; siblings Susan (Alex) Heckler-Pittman and Karen (James) Philpot all of St. Marys, Ohio; one niece; and one nephew.
 
Mass will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 24, at Immaculate Conception Church in Celina. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, at the Hogenkamp Funeral Home, Coldwater. Memorials may be made to Cancer Association of Mercer County. Condolences may be left at hogendampfh.com.
 
A memorial service will be held at Miami, date to be determined.