Ray Heitzmann was a Professor, Writer, Coach, Father and Renaissance Man.
“Dr. Ray” or “Coach” Heitzmann was a man of many interests and despite having a great diversity of pursuits – he held a deep passion and loyalty to things he felt deeply about – sports, academics, family, and friends. Ray spent over 50 years as a devoted member of the Villanova University community teaching, coaching, mentoring and laughing. Since 1960, stories have floated around Villanova with tales of eccentricity, sense of humor, and caring with activities ranging from leading the Graduate Education Program to focusing on the value of practicing foul shooting.
As a teacher of teachers, coach and mentor to many, he sought out people who might not have had access to opportunities and supported and helped them achieve their potential. John Robinson, who first met Dr. Heitzmann as his high school basketball coach 53 years ago, praised him by saying “Ray was the father I never had. He helped me achieve things that I never thought were possible. For a kid with my humble start, every step along the way over decades he was there next to me providing the encouragement I needed as I achieved my goals.”
William “Ray” Heitzmann passed away from complications regarding the COVID-19 virus at Wellington in West Chester, PA on July 11, 2020, at the age of 78.
Due to the current pandemic, services will be held later in the year in both Weehawken, NJ, and Villanova, PA.
Ray was born in Weehawken, NJ to Mary (nee Tolland) Heitzmann and William Heitzmann and always considered Weehawken and Columbia Terrace, the street on which he grew up, as home. After graduating from Power Memorial High School in Manhattan, he moved on to attend Villanova University in 1960, which would become his “new home” for the rest of his life. After graduating from Villanova, Ray moved to Chicago where he graduated from the Master’s Program at the University of Chicago. While there he taught and coached basketball in many of the city’s toughest areas including DuSable High School and North Chicago High School as well as mentoring young people and supporting equal rights in the 1960s. He then moved to Highland Falls, NY where he taught high school, coached basketball and met and married Kathy (nee Esnes).
The Heitzmanns moved back to the Villanova area where Ray rejoined the Villanova community as a professor in 1969. He subsequently received his PhD from the University of Delaware, which later awarded him an Outstanding Alumnus Award. He continued as a professor at Villanova for over 40 years through his “first” retirement in 2010. During his time at Villanova, not only did he teach a range of classes in and outside his field as a member of the Education Department and Writing for Publication but also took as much pride in his commitment to student-athletes and the athletic program. From the Nite Cats (evening students team) in the 1970s where he was the player/coach to Intramural coaching in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, he taught and modeled care, grit, and a focus on success. He continued this commitment to student/athletes by serving as the basketball and football teams’ academic advisor - teaching study skills and strategies to achieve success in the classroom. He prided himself on not only teaching but also coaching offseason intramural Villanova athletes who included Howie Long and Brian Westbrook. He was an advisor to the National Champion Villanova Men’s Basketball Teams and cherished the 1985 team that shocked the sports world.
Dr. Heitzmann was an active writer on a wide range of topics from Naval Leadership to Jewish Voting Behavior to Opportunities in Sports and Athletics. He published over 50 books and 2000 articles and performed deep research on diverse subjects. His vast interests led the Philadelphia Inquirer to profile him as a “Renaissance Man”.
Although a long time tenured professor and accomplished writer, he always viewed himself and frequently introduced himself as a “Coach.” Ray attended Power Memorial in the Lew Alcindor Era and always had a love of sports. He was a great support of scholar athletes and told all young people that he hoped that “sports should always be part of their life.” He coached at many different levels from the Narberth Summer League to Sacred Heart High School CYO to Villanova to being the initial coach for Neumann University Men’s Team. He continued to be a coach, mentor and friend to his former players and coaches. He cared a lot about winning but more about giving your best, playing the right way, and showing integrity.
He is survived by his loving children, Rick and Mary, grandchildren Gardner, Alexandra, Ivy, Daniel, and Rose as well as his devoted sister Mary.
Donations are being accepted by ------- The Committee to Protect Journalists (https://cpj.org), or to Villanova University, by mail to Picotte Hall, 800 E. Lancaster Ave, Villanova, PA 19085 or online at www.villanova.edu/makeagift (click on "Memorial Gift" and write-in Heitzmann Scholarship in the “designate your gift” line, then Dr. Ray Heitzmann in the “gift in memory” line or to SOAR! Support Our Aging Religious https://soar-usa.org/.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William Raymond Heitzmann, please visit our floral store.
The Committee to Protect Journalists
The Villanova Scholarship Fund
Web: https://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/enroll/finaid/scholarships grants.html
SOAR! Support Our Aging Religious