University of Colorado administrator named next president

President-Elect Heckler and President HarreVALPARAISO, Ind. – A Colorado educator with more than a decade of administrative experience has been named president of Valparaiso University effective July 1.

Mark A. Heckler, 52, provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at University of Colorado Denver, will become the 18th president in Valparaiso’s nearly 150-year history and will replace Alan F. Harre, who is retiring June 30 after 20 years as president.

In announcing Heckler’s selection, David Hessler, chair of the University’s Board of Directors, said that Heckler’s breadth of experience and his proven leadership skills at a large and complex institution first attracted the attention of the Search Committee, which was charged with guiding the presidential search and ultimately recommending a candidate to the Board.

“As impressive as Mark Heckler is on paper, members of the Search Committee and members of the campus community became even more enthused about the contributions he could make to Valparaiso University after they met him,” Hessler said.

“Comments by faculty, students and staff after he made a two-day visit to campus earlier this month were very positive.  Responses such as ‘energetic,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ ‘visionary‘ and ‘a great fit’ reaffirmed what members of the Search Committee identified during earlier interviews with him.”

A native of Pennsylvania, Heckler has been at the University of Colorado Denver since 1995, when he joined the staff as a tenured professor of theatre and director of the School of Arts.  Under his leadership, the School of Arts was expanded and renamed the College of Arts and Media and he was named the new college’s founding dean in 1998.  He held that position until 2003 when he served briefly as UC Denver’s acting chancellor before being appointed to his current position.

Heckler has extensive experience in development of international study programs and served two years as the U.S. administrator of an undergraduate liberal arts degree-granting program in Beijing operated jointly by China Agricultural University and UC Denver.

Prior to moving to Denver, Heckler was director of theatre and professor of fine arts at Siena (N.Y.) College for 16 years.  While in New York, he also was managing director of an outdoor summer professional theatre for two years, producing 63 nights of theatre for nearly 80,000 patrons a year. His artistic career as an actor, director and designer comprises more than 100 academic and professional productions in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

Heckler earned a bachelor of arts degree in communications with honors from Elizabethtown (Pa.) College in 1977 and a master of fine arts degree in drama with an emphasis in directing from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1979.  He is nearing completion of a doctorate in educational leadership and innovation from the University of Colorado.

At UC Denver, a doctorate-granting research institution with three campuses in Denver that serve more than 28,000 students enrolled in more than 100 programs, Heckler has direct responsibility for seven colleges and schools and shared responsibilities for schools and programs at the university’s Anschutz Medical Campus.

He led development of UC Denver’s first academic master plan and launched work on a comprehensive strategic plan that will be completed next month.  He also guided creation of a university-wide undergraduate core curriculum, launched a special program for first-year students, expanded university honors and leadership programs and inaugurated UC Denver’s Digital Animation Center and the Colorado Film School.

Heckler also played an integral role in raising funds for the university’s $40 million  Kenneth Kendal King Academic and Performing Arts Center, secured a $5.25 million gift for the Starz Filmcenter of which he was co-founder, helped secure a $1 million grant for the Advance Colorado Center that he also co-founded, and helped plan and secure funding for a $104 million Science Building now under construction at UC Denver.

Heckler is a past president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and founder and co-director of the association’s Leadership Institute.  He has served as a member of the boards of the Denver Film Society and the National Center for Voice and Speech at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.  He also is a member of the Denver Chamber of Commerce Cultural Task Force and a member of the Community Advisory Board for KBDI Rocky Mountain Public Television.

“The Search Committee reported that people who have worked with Mark Heckler described him as a leader who fosters teamwork and collaboration to achieve strategically planned goals,” Hessler said.  “These are the skills we sought in our next president and we look forward to continued success at Valparaiso under his leadership.

“Members of the Board of Directors and I are extremely grateful to the Search Committee for its excellent work.  Under the leadership of Fred Kraegel, a member of the Board of Directors, the committee conducted a search that ultimately brought three finalists to campus for two-day visits.  All three have impressive records, but Mark Heckler clearly emerged as the best choice to assume the presidency of Valparaiso University.  He was the unanimous choice of the Search Committee and the Board of Directors.”

Heckler, who attends St. Philip Lutheran Church in Littleton, Colo., said he is pleased to have the opportunity to be associated with a faith-based institution.

“I can now see that my whole life—personally, educationally and professionally—has led me toward this opportunity with Valparaiso,” he said.  “It is vitally important that future generations continue to have the opportunity for an outstanding education in a faith-based environment that fosters discovery and creativity. I believe Valparaiso University has a greater leadership role to play, nationally and internationally, in ensuring access to excellent, faith-based undergraduate, graduate and professional education.  Valpo is the right place for me and I am excited about becoming a part of this outstanding University.”

Valparaiso University is a comprehensive university with a Lutheran heritage that enrolls nearly 4,000 students on its campus 55 miles southeast of Chicago. It has been identified as one of the top master’s-level institutions in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report magazine for the past 19 years, and most recently was ranked among the top three in academic quality for the eighth consecutive year.

More than 80 academic programs, as well as 14 international study options, are offered through the School of Law and the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering and Nursing. Valparaiso also has a distinguished honors college (Christ College) and a rapidly growing offering of graduate programs.