2022 Dream Big Award

Longtime QSHS principal Richard “Dick” Heitholt is posthumously recognized as the recipient of the 2022 Dream Big Award. He was formally recognized at the Night to Dream Big Gala on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022 at the Ambiance in Quincy, Ill.

Mr. Richard “Dick” Heitholt

Born in 1927 in Hannibal, Mo., Heitholt grew up in the Fall Creek area on his family’s farm. Dick attended the one-room Bluff Hall Grade School, Seymour High School in Payson, and spent his senior year at Quincy Senior High School where he graduated in 1945. At QHS he was a member of the National Honor Society and lettered in football, basketball, and track. The Blue Devils finished 3rd in the 1945 State Tournament with Heitholt attaining all-tournament honors. Dick was later inducted into the Quincy High School Sports Hall of Fame. He was proud of being the first of three generations of Quincy High School athletes with his brothers, Bob and Bill; son, Chuck; and grandsons, Steve and Scott Berry.

Dick with his mother & siblings.

Dick met the love of his life, Fern (Heimer) in 1942 when her family moved to the Payson area and they were classmates at Seymour High School. They were happily married on June 22, 1947.

Dick & Fern in 1945.

Heitholt was called into the U.S. Navy Reserves one month before graduation from QHS and entered the Navy as Seaman 1/C assigned to Radar Technician School in Wright College, Chicago. As WWII ended, he finished his naval duties at Farragut, Idaho where he played on the basketball and baseball teams.

At the end of his naval tour of duty, Dick accepted a Basketball Scholarship at Northwestern University in 1946. After one semester, he joined his high school teammates to play basketball and baseball at Quincy University where he was All-Conference in both sports. Awards at Quincy College included being the first recipient of the Mart Heinen Memorial Student-Athlete Award, elected to Who’s Who in American Colleges and inducted into the Quincy University Sport’s Hall of Fame.

Three generations of Blue Devil athletes.

Dick began his teaching and coaching career in 1950 at West Pike High School in Kinderhook. At the same time, he pursued a Master of Education degree at the University of Illinois. In 1954, he taught one year in Carlyle, IL before taking a math position and varsity basketball coaching position at Pittsfield, IL. In 1957, while attending a Summer National Science Institute at the University of Wyoming, he was appointed Principal of Pittsfield High School. He enjoyed this position until he received a prestigious Mott Foundation Fellowship at the University of Michigan for advanced educational studies in 1964. A year later, Heitholt accepted the appointment as Assistant Principal at his alma mater, Quincy Senior High School. He became principal at QHS in the Fall of 1967, where he remained until retirement in 1985.

During his educational career, Heitholt was an active member and office holder in the Illinois Principal Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He presented several papers at national meetings. He was also elected to the Legislative Commission of the Illinois High School Association where he was an early advocate of expanding athletics for girls. He was one of the original founders of the Western Big 6 Conference and the Quincy Thanksgiving Tournament. He was a member of the National and Illinois Education Associations, Adams County Retired Teachers Association and a past member of the Quincy Rotary Club. Following retirement, Heitholt, was Executive Secretary for the Society for Academic Achievement.

Dick & Fern in 2018.

Heitholt passed away in March of 2021, shortly after the passing of his beloved wife, Fern.

Messages from His Peers

Former Quincy superintendent, Dr. George Meyer, said of Mr. Heitholt, “Dick was an outstanding leader and a wonderful person. I worked FOR him and later worked WITH him as a colleague. He was great to work with because he was always open with everyone and just wanted to do what was best for all concerned. His attitude and leadership philosophy were perfect for being a high school principal.”

Dan Sherman, choir director emeritus of Quincy Senior High, states “Dick Heitholt was my first principal. He was such a caring man and very supportive of our program. He attended rehearsals and concerts and always followed performances with kind and positive notes. His warmth and attentive concern for me as a young educator was essential to my success in my early career. “

Dick Moore, a longtime and fondly remembered QHS Assistant Principal said of Mr. Heitholt, “Dick Heitholt was the nicest man I ever knew. A great family man.”

In 1982, the entire faculty of Quincy Senior High presented the Superintendent at that time with a letter of recognition in which each faculty member wrote statements of support and praise for Mr. Heitholt. It states, “This letter is to commend Quincy Senior High principal, C. Richard Heitholt, not only for his work as an administrator, but also for being a sensitive human being, one who has the respect and admiration of his faculty.”

Legendary QHS librarian Beth Young remembers “In the late 1970’s ….Dick took a group of QHS students to an area Scholastic Bowl competition where the group was slaughtered by a small school from Missouri. At that point, Dick saw the need for an actual TEAM, coach, and practice. When no one at QHS II would take on the challenge, he called me at QHS I. I was reluctant, since I had absolutely NO knowledge of what was involved; but, against my better judgement, I said I would try IF he would work with me as the co-coach. He agreed and came to the first few practices. We soon competed in a local tournament match and won! At that moment, Dick said to me that ……it looks like YOU should take over the reins, and he would bow out. I believe that makes him the ONLY QHS varsity coach with a 100%-win rate and THE holder of the shortest coaching record at QHS.

Have a memory of Mr. Heitholt that you would like to share? Email foundation@qps.org.