Myrtle Creek Author Receives Honorary Degree

Myrtle Creek Author Receives Honorary Degree

ROSEBURG, Oregon – On Friday, June 14, Umpqua Community College (UCC) will present a community member with an honorary degree. Last year, the UCC Board of Education approved awarding the degree at commencement. This year’s recipient is Robert Leo Heilman, a retired timber worker and author from Myrtle Creek, Oregon.

The purpose of the honorary degree award is to recognize persons whose lives serve as examples of the College’s aspirations for its students and who have demonstrated meritorious and outstanding service that benefits the College. Heilman has been a guest speaker in classes at UCC since the mid-1990s.

I’ve actually spent more time presenting [in classes] than attending, Heilman said. I took a writing class at UCC in 1981. I decided it wasn’t going to help, so I left and went back to writing.

Heilman says he started writing in the late 70s shortly after his son was born. He decided to pick up his pen after being injured on the job.

I became a stay-at-home dad while my wife worked, he said.

Now an author by trade, Heilman has written three books. His first, Overstory: Zero, is about real life in timber country. His second, The World Pool, is a collection of essays that span 30 years. His third book, Children of Death, was released earlier year. The book covers the migrations of his family through Eastern Europe to North Dakota.

When asked what it means to be awarded an honorary degree after being a student of life, Heilman said it’s a flattering gesture that was not expected.

I have been a blue-collar worker or manual laborer my entire life, he said. Education is a by-product of process and a degree is not a measure of competence. We are all self-educated and I study people all of the time.

Heilman will receive an Honorary Associate of Arts Degree during Friday’s commencement celebration. The ceremony starts at 6 p.m. in Swanson Amphitheatre on the main UCC campus.

Photo courtesy: Robert Leo Heilman (credit: Life Out Loud Photography)

About Umpqua Community College

Nestled in the beautiful North Umpqua River Valley, Umpqua Community College is the regional center for higher education in Douglas County, Oregon. UCC provides high quality college degree programs, workforce development, and community learning opportunities.