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Mary Frances Heishman

Dr. Mary Frances Heishman
Department of Health & Exercise Science

Some years ago, a Bridgewater College volleyball player had t-shirts made of "The Three Faces of Coach Heishman." The three faces were sad, happy and mad. All three showed the same picture – of a smiling Mary Frances Heishman. That optimism and confidence, both on and off the court, is part of her 40-year legacy at Bridgewater.

Heishman, class of 1966, didn't have aspirations to be a volleyball coach. She hadn't played the sport and knew only its basics, which she taught in her physical-education classes. But when some BC students asked the school to form a volleyball team in 1975, the role of coach fell to Heishman – at the students' request.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Heishman went on to compile 653 victories during her coaching tenure at Bridgewater, which ended in 2008 when she stepped down as head volleyball coach to focus on full-time teaching in the health and physical education department. And while she said she misses having contact with the players in a sports setting, she said she draws pleasure and professional sustenance from teaching them, and other students, in the classroom.

"My teaching philosophy is to help each of my students develop to their fullest potential mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually," Heishman said. "I want to help my students develop self-esteem, self-understanding and personal responsibility, so they will become intrinsically motivated individuals and achieve their highest potential."

After graduating from Bridgewater, she earned her master's degree at James Madison University and her doctorate from the University of Virginia. She returned to BC in 1970 as head lacrosse and assistant basketball coach. After establishing the volleyball program, Heishman saw it become an official varsity sport for the College in 1976.

Today, Heishman has teaching responsibilities in Health Education and Adapted Physical Education and Recreation.

"I try to create a climate of success by having a positive attitude and seeing the best in each of my students," said Heishman. "I want them to know I care about them as individuals while they are here, as well as later in their lives. We are preparing students for a full, productive life, and I take great pride and satisfaction in their accomplishments when I observe them being so successful in their careers."

In addition to teaching, Heishman has also conducted original research – including an independent study, "Provisions and Services for the Handicapped in the United Kingdom," that required travel to England – and written for publications such as The Sport Psychologist and Coaching Volleyball. She has served as president of the Virginia Women's Lacrosse Association and been involved in many other professional organizations. On campus, she has been intensely active on committees focused on such concerns as faculty and student life, education, curriculum development and convocations.

In April 2010, the College honored Heishman with The Martha B. Thornton Faculty Recognition Award, established in 1990, that honors faculty who "provide caring concern for students well beyond the role as teacher."