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Former ECC president Heath dies; was known as ‘The Builder’

Paul Edward ElgCommunity College President

Paul Edward, Elgin Community College President

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Updated: February 7, 2013 6:36AM

Paul Richard Heath was known as “The Builder” when he served as the fifth president of Elgin Community College in the 1980s and 1980s. Heath died Dec. 27 in Xenia, Ohio. He was 78.

Heath was president of Elgin Community College from 1987 to 1994 and was remembered Friday by the college as “instrumental” in leading it through one of its greatest periods of growth since the 1960s.

Enrollment at the community college increased 69 percent under his watch, according to the college. Also during his time as president, 13 new occupational programs were implemented, and a $48 million expansion of the present-day Spartan Drive Campus was initiated, it noted in a statement about Heath’s death.

That’s why the former president had been described as “The Builder” in the commemorative book “The Community’s College: Sixty Years of Elgin Community College,” the statement said.

Heath also was honored at the White House for his work at the community college, according to the college.

In a June 1987 interview with The Courier-News right after he had been hired by ECC, he described himself as “humanistic in nature” and likely to be “quite visible” in the community. And he said he came to the college because it “has a fine reputation in the state of Illinois.”

Elgin Community College District 509 Board of Trustees members at the time told The Courier-News “we never had a hint of a discouraging word about him” while visiting John Wood Community College during the hiring process.

Before coming to ECC, Heath had been the founding president of John Wood in Quincy, created in 1974.

His administrative career started a decade before that at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Mich., according to the community college. He then became an academic dean at Parkersburg Community College in Parkersburg, W.Va., from 1973 to 1975.

Heath also was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving in the medical corps at the Naval Air Base in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the Neeld Funeral Home website.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Jean Heath; his daughter, Kathleen Renee Bunyer, and her husband, Bruce, of Shannon, Ill.; and his son, Kevin Heath, and his wife, Karen, of Cedarville, Ohio, according to Neeld. He also is survived by five grandchildren, two grandchildren by marriage and a great-granddaughter, it said.

Contributions may be made to Hospice of Miami Valley in Xenia and the Legacy Assisted Living Center in Xenia, where Heath passed away. Condolences may be made to his family at

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