- Wayne Baker Staff Writer
Cheryl Heckler, an acclaimed Miami University associate professor of journalism, has died after a battle with cancer.
Students, staff and many in the field of journalism were saddened by the news of her passing on Tuesday.
Cheryl Gibbs, who was the area chair of journalism at Miami University and is now in Washington D.C., told this news outlet that Heckler was a “passionate, caring teacher who took great delight in teaching journalistic writing, showing students the world through the lens of international journalism and talking for hours (and hours) about celebrated Civil War journalist Whitelaw Reid, one of her fellow Miami University alumni”
She remembered Heckler as an accomplished journalist, who focused mainly on covering the influence of religion on politics, political figures and world events, while developing strong personal ties with generations of Miami students.
“Many of the students have maintained close relationships with her for decades, as is obvious from their posts on her Facebook page years after she mostly likely ‘friended’ them even before their first day of class with her,” Gibbs explained.
She added that whether or not students came to regular “pasta nights” at her condo in Oxford or came to see her during her extended office hours at Kofenya, they could always count on receiving warm words of support from her during periods of struggle and enthusiastic words of praise when they excelled.
“When her students succeeded, she was often the first to celebrate with them. When they suffered, she empathized and comforted them,” Gibbs said. “And as she herself faced a series of health problems over the years, and in one case had to take visible precautions like wearing a sterile mask during chemotherapy, she was forthcoming with her students and modeled what it was like to face down life-threatening disease with positivity and humor.”
Both Gibbs and Ritter Hoy, a former student of Heckler’s who now works in Miami’s Office of Communications, say Heckler found creative ways to convey course content by doing such things as arranging class-related projects in which students in her “Media and the Military” class helped wounded veterans or got a taste of the rigors of military training by going to the gun range with Miami’s ROTC instructors.
Heckler was the author of “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.”
According to Gibbs, Heckler was also the impetus behind and primary donor for the Reid-Heckler-Gambrell Scholarship for Overseas Reporting, named after Heckler, Whitelaw Reid, and Heckler’s fellow Ohioan and Miami alumnus Jon Gambrell, a former student of hers who went on to become an accomplished international correspondent now serving as the Associated Press’s Senior Gulf Correspondent in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.