Tiger Take-Off




Campbellsville University dedicates E. Bruce Heilman Welcome Center

Members of E. Bruce Heilman’s family and the CU community gather for the ribbon-cutting of the E. Bruce Heilman Welcome Center at Campbellsville University.
Photo/Gerard Flanagan

By Gerard Flanagan, lead writer and communications specialist, Office of Marketing and Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – In June 2015, Dr. Benji Kelly met with the late Dr. E. Bruce Heilman on a visit to Dallas, Texas.

There, over a dinner conversation, Heilman shared his vision for a new welcome center to greet prospective students to Campbellsville University.

Nine years later, members of the CU community recently gathered inside Heilman’s completed vision – the E. Bruce Heilman Welcome Center – to dedicate the new facility.

“It is a vision he had,” Kelly said. “He was very engaged with us in terms of the architecture and all the different programs that would go into this facility, and I firmly believe we have honored that, and I know he would be pleased with what this facility is today.”

CU President Dr. Joseph Hopkins noted the building was dedicated in the name of E. Bruce Heilman. But, he emphasized the building was being dedicated to God.

“We want to make certain this building is devoted to His Kingdom, to what He would have us do in this place,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said the Heilman Welcome Center has exceeded expectations.

“The creativity of the classrooms and the theater and the usefulness of the offices, the way we can open this building up and have a large gathering like this and most certainly the way it has welcomed our alumni, prospective students and current students,” Hopkins said.

He added the Welcome Center has quickly become a popular location on campus for students.

“Until deep in the night, you can find students gathered in these spaces and enjoy this place to study, meet and share with one another,” Hopkins stated. “They use this facility in a wonderful way.”

Hopkins noted Heilman is “the essence” of what it means to be a servant leader.

“But perhaps the most enduring legacy is the story of this family,” Hopkins said. “Bruce and Betty Heilman (his wife) made their most precious life investment through their children.”

Hopkins told Heilman’s family, “We are honored and humbled that your parents and you have chosen to bless Campbellsville University with this remarkable place. Countless generations of students will begin their first encounter at Campbellsville University right here.

“Faculty will mentor the next generation of student leaders in this space. Alumni will be welcomed home. Students will be served, and careers will be ignited. And I have to believe, over a study session, a cup of coffee, new legacies will be forged.”

CU President Dr. Joseph Hopkins said the E. Bruce Heilman Welcome Center has quickly become a popular place for students on campus to socialize.
Photo/Gerard Flanagan

Bruce Heilman’s daughter, Terry Heilman Sylvester, shared her father recognized “the significance of providing a front door to Campbellsville University, welcoming students to a life-changing educational experience while preparing them for a future as Christian servant leaders.”

After serving in the Marines during World War Two, Sylvester said her father decided to take advantage of the G.I. Bill and find a college to attend.

“The challenge was finding a school that would take him, considering his dismal high school record,” she noted. “At the time, Campbellsville was a small junior college so financially stressed it would admit almost anyone. And it was the only school that gave him a chance.”

At Campbellsville, Heilman met his wife, Betty Dobbins Heilman, over a piece of pie while she was working in the cafeteria.

“One evening, after finishing his piece of chocolate pie, he asked her if he could have another piece. There was a strict policy of one per person, so she gave him her piece of pie, and the rest is history.”

After a short time dating, the two were married by the president of Campbellsville College.

“Six children later and a college degree in hand, his pursuit of a career in higher education had begun, ultimately culminating in becoming the president of Meredith College and then the University of Richmond,” Sylvester explained.

Sylvester noted her father traveled to all 50 states as the spokesperson for the Greatest Generation Foundation and the Spirit of ’45, meeting other veterans and visiting Gold Star families.

“It was another way of making a difference in the lives of others and one that gave him a purpose until the day he died,” she said.

Heilman’s motorcycle, on which he made so many trips and covered so many miles, is on display in the Heilman Welcome Center.

“It only seems fitting that the motorcycle is on display where my dad’s best efforts were given, representing the life of an extraordinary man who left his largest legacy at Campbellsville University,” Sylvester stated.

Sylvester and her family gathered at Campbellsville University in 2019 to celebrate her father’s 93rd birthday and also to break ground for the Heilman Welcome Center.

“For my niece, Corey, and my nephew, Nick, both proud graduates of Campbellsville, it was like coming home,” Sylvester said. “For the rest of us, Dad wanted us to see firsthand why he and my mom had invested so generously here and had such confidence in the future of the institution.”

Sylvester explained that today’s Campbellsville is not the Campbellsville E. Bruce Heilman attended, even though the Christian mission has not changed.

“With the dedication of this new facility, the continued dedication of those who serve here, and the thousands of students who will pass through these doors, it is with confidence that we look to the future and the endless possibilities that lie ahead,” Sylvester proclaimed.

Bruce Heilman’s daughter, Terry Heilman Sylvester, explained that the dedication of the E. Bruce Heilman Welcome Center is a reason to look ahead to the future and “the endless possibilities” that lie ahead.
Photo/Gerard Flanagan

Stan Curry, member of the CU Board of Trustees, recalled a story when he met Heilman at the funeral of a mutual friend.

“Bruce Heilman walks into the funeral home in his full Marine uniform,” Curry said. “He was amazing. You knew right then you were in the presence of someone of greatness.”

Speaking to Heilman’s family, Curry added, “We often stay we stand on shoulders of people. We have stood on the shoulders of your dad. From the Campbellsville alumni, Board of Trustees, we can’t thank you enough.

“Thank you is not good enough. But that’s all we can give you.”

Shelby Bollinger, president of CU’s Student Government Association, told the audience that, “The Heilman Center is seen by students as a place of community, comfort, and conversation.”

She added, “This center has allowed for the campus to improve and has allowed more opportunities for each student to put academics first and allow more social spaces.”

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that offers over 100 programs including doctoral, master, bachelor, associate and certificate programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.