Nationally renowned education scholar, teacher and University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professor Ronald Harvey Heck died on January 11, 2023, at the age of 71. Since 1987, Heck taught at the College of Education (COE) as a professor and chair of the Department of Educational Administration (EDEA). Heck wrote influential work on the effects of school leadership for more than 30 years.
Heck was born on April 4, 1951, in Santa Monica, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology, a master’s degree in educational psychology, and a PhD in organizations and policy from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
From the late 1970s, Heck taught in the California school systems and curriculum development at Pepperdine University. The educator had a passion for surfing that took him around the world for waves.
He joined UH Mānoa as an assistant professor in 1987 and earned full professorship in 1992. His work was tied closely to the Hawaiʻi Department of Education and other UH Mānoa units. He was instrumental in reshaping the academic programs in EDEA and worked with hundreds of students who have gone on to elevate the quality of public schools in Hawaiʻi through their teaching and leadership. In 2006, he was appointed as the prestigious Dai Ho Chun Endowed Chair.
Heck published more than 100 empirical papers on leadership in education as well as numerous books, technical reports and assessments. Aside from his widely acclaimed research on school leadership effects, he made important programmatic contributions to teacher quality, higher education administration and applied statistics.
“Ron’s first love was always teaching, and he believed everything else flowed from his time with students,” said Scott Thomas, close friend and colleague. “As a public school teacher in 1986, Ron proclaimed, ‘There’s nothing I’d rather do than sit down in the afternoon and read a neat story to seven or eight-year-olds.’ He went on to say that ‘you use the same principles of learning whether you are teaching six-year-olds or adults. You just have to adjust the content. I believe if you can teach, you can teach anything.’”
In addition to his brother Robert Gordon (Cherie) Heck, Ron is survived by Loretta Yee, her daughters Christina Yee and Marissa Yee, and his nieces, Katherine Heck, Jennifer Welch, Carly Heck, and Alexis Sutfin. No services are planned at this time.