The Oliver Heckman School was named to honor Dr. Oliver S. Heckman for his many years of loyal service to the Neshaminy School District.
In August of 1946 the Langhorne-Middletown School District chose Dr. Heckman as their regional superintendent. He remained in this position for twenty years, guiding it through difficult years of growth to the present District of Neshaminy.
Dr. Heckman’s family has resided in Pennsylvania since pre-revolutionary days. Albrecht Heckman was the first member of his family to migrate to America. He left his homeland in Westphalia, Germany, a province in Bavaria, in 1758. The rich farmlands of south-west Pennsylvania attracted Albrecht’s interest in agriculture, and he settled there and made it his land. The Revolutionary War disrupted his pursuits, but eventually he was able to return to work the soil. A branch of the Heckman family has lived and worked in this vicinity during these many years.
Oliver S. Heckman was born on September 4, 1900 on his father’s farm near the village of Lehmaster, in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It was here that the young Oliver spent his boyhood. Like many of the boys of this community, it was expected that he would grow up to follow agricultural pursuits. However, for Dr. Heckman it proved different, as his interest in books and learning led him into the field of education.
His earliest experience with learning began in the one-room schoolhouse of Peters Township, where he had his primary training. He then entered the Lehmaster Grammar School to complete his 8th grade education. As was customary in the early 1900’s, those who wished to continue on to high school had to pass an examination given by the county superintendent. In 1915, Dr. Heckman took and passed the examination and began his high school years in the one-room, one-teacher high school of Lehmaster.
With very limited encouragement, but a strong desire to further his education, Dr. Heckman entered Lebanon Valley College in 1918. This was the time of World War I, but Dr. Heckman was too young for the draft and the war ended before he was called to duty. He received his B.A. in 1922.
Upon graduation, Dr. Heckman began his long career in education. He accepted a position as a teacher of Social Studies and English in the Port Allegheny High School, Pennsylvania, and then as a teacher at Swarthmore High School, Pennsylvania. In 1925 he was accepted at the University of Illinois as a teacher and graduate student. The degree of M.A. was conferred upon him in 1926.
Dr. Heckman wished to continue his education for a doctor’s degree, but financial conditions necessitated his working. He accepted a temporary teaching position at Lake Forest College, Illinois, during the sabbatical leave of Dr. C. E. Ellingwood.
In 1927, Dr. Heckman married Eva Cooper in the Little Church Around the Corner, in New York City. He accepted a position as Assistant Professor of History at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. There he remained until June of 1933.
The depression played its hands. Financial resources and decline of college enrollments led to the closing down of school offerings and many colleges found it necessary to terminate the services of their young professors. However, with the help and influence of Dr. Denrus, President of Earlham College, Dr. Heckman obtained a fellowship at Duke University, where he was able to fulfill his ambition. He received his degree as Doctor of Philosophy in History, in 1935.
Dr. Heckman planned to continue as a professor of History and Government. Fortunate circumstances brought him to Pennsylvania. Here he accepted a position with the Department of Public Instruction as a senior advisor in secondary education. Dr. Heckman remained with the Department until 1946. During these years he worked throughout the state to improve the curriculum offerings in secondary education and to encourage district consolidation.
Every year until his death in May of 1997 (at the age of 96) the students and staff of Heckman celebrated his birthday with hand made cards and flowers.
During the summer of 2011, Dr. Heckman's son, Richard, visited with his wife and family. A photo from their visit is posted in the lobby of our school, just below Dr. Heckman's photo.