Dr. Mark A. Heckler is in his sixth year of service as the 18th president of Valparaiso University, founded in 1859. During his first two years as president, he led the most comprehensive visioning and strategic planning process in the University's history, a process involving alumni, students, faculty, staff, and community leaders that charts the course for Valpo to achieve new levels of excellence over the next two decades. President Heckler also led the final year of a comprehensive fundraising campaign, begun four years earlier by his predecessor, Dr. Alan F. Harre. The “Our Valpo, Our Time” Campaign raised $238 million – the largest ever achieved by a Lutheran university – to build the institution's endowment, fund capital projects, and support ongoing operations.
Under President Heckler’s leadership, the campus has significantly expanded its facilities and academic programs. In January 2009, he dedicated the Harre Union, a facility that is transforming the Valpo student experience by fostering greater conversation and collaboration among students, faculty, staff, and community members. The fall of 2009 saw the opening of the new Fitness Center for students and staff. In a project begun in 2009, through a corporate-university partnership, nearly 230 beds of new apartment-style housing were completed.
In 2011, he dedicated the Heritage Hall Center for Lawyering Skills. The Donald V. Fites Center for Engineering Innovation was dedicated in 2011, and a 52,000-square-foot College of Arts and Sciences Building is currently under construction. A new Welcome Center, a 300-bed residence hall, and revitalization of the campus's signature Chapel of the Resurrection are now in development. The James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility will be fully operational in the fall of 2012.
The September 2011 purchase of the Porter Hospital and surrounding properties sets the stage for expansion goals of the University, while enhancing its connection with the city of Valparaiso on the north side of campus.
Among the new initiatives launched during President Heckler’s tenure are the development of advanced degree programs such as master’s degree offerings in International Economics and Finance, Digital Media, Sports Media, and Arts and Entertainment Administration, along with the Doctor of Nursing Practice; the new Mathematics and Science Education Enrollment and Development undergraduate program, funded by a National Science Foundation grant; and the Health Care Leadership undergraduate program. Under President Heckler, the Institute for Leadership and Service and the Center for Church Relations were newly constituted, with the hiring of a new Executive Director of Campus Ministries.
A reorganization of the University’s leadership team in 2009 led to the addition of three new positions: a vice president for enrollment management, a university legal counsel, and a vice president for integrated marketing and communications.
President Heckler participates actively on numerous national and regional higher education boards and commissions, including the chairmanship of the Commission on Effective Leadership for the American Council on Education, vice-chair of the New American Colleges and Universities, chair of the NCAA Pioneer League for non-scholarship football, and chair of the Quality of Life Council for Northwest Indiana. Regionally, he sits on the boards of the Independent Colleges of Indiana, the Indiana Campus Compact, and the NCAA Division I Horizon League.
Previously, President Heckler served the University of Colorado Denver for more than a decade, most recently as provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the three-campus university, including its health sciences center. He joined the institution as director of the School of the Arts and a professor of theatre; later was named founding dean of the College of Arts and Media and professor of theatre, film and television; and served as acting chancellor prior to being named its chief academic officer in 2003. He also served as UC Denver's coordinator of the International College at Beijing from 1996 to 1998 and was known for his success in internationalization efforts.
Prior to moving to Denver, he was professor of fine arts and director of theatre at Siena (N.Y.) College, where he directed, acted, designed, and/or produced more than 100 academic and professional productions in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. Active in numerous professional and civic organizations, he is a past president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and founder and co-director of its Leadership Institute.
President Heckler earned his PhD in Educational Leadership and Innovation from the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado. He completed his MFA with an emphasis in directing at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and earned his BA in communications summa cum laude at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
President Heckler and his wife, Veronica, grew up together in Windber, Pa. The Hecklers are parents of four children and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.