Recognition befitting a leader is difficult to achieve. How to say thanks appropriately to one who made a difference in the lives of thousands of children and their families, and who was instrumental in formulating policy at both the state and national levels, is a challenge. Such was the dilemma Dr. Robert “Bob” Heavenrich’s friends faced.

In 1988, a group of physicians from Saginaw met with pediatrics faculty from Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. Dr. Heavenrich had been a faculty member in the MSU College of Human Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and Human Development during the early years of the medical school. He was held in such high regard by his patients, the Saginaw medical and business communities, and the MSU faculty that they wanted to recognize this exceptional man.

The committee members met with Dr. Heavenrich and posed several options. His humility prohibited him from exploring all but one form of recognition; an annual lecture dedicated to addressing the special and unique needs of children with chronic illness. The idea of dedicating a special time every year for children with special needs was pleasing to Bob Heavenrich.

Fundraising began in 1988 to lay the foundation for the lectureship. At the time of his death in 1991,the Robert M. Heavenrich, MD, Endowed Lectureship in Pediatrics was announced as a memorial gift opportunity. Thanks to the generosity of many people, the fund was fully endowed at Michigan State University with the promise that a visiting lecturer would present each fall.Two lectures are held each year, one in East Lansing on the main campus, and one in Saginaw in concert with the medical school’s community campus and in recognition of Dr. Heavenrich’s many years of practice at Saginaw Cooperative Hospitals, Inc.

and his wife Emily Heavenrich . . .

In addition to honoring Dr. Robert Heavenrich, the program also pays special tribute to his wife, Emily Heavenrich, who died in 1995. A dedicated wife and exemplary mother, “Emmy” was known throughout the Tri-Cities for her work on behalf of children’s education. What her children remember most clearly about her was her ability to balance the time devoted to her family and that to her career outside the home in an optimal fashion. A graduate of Vanderbilt University and the University of Michigan, Mrs. Heavenrich served on the Board of Directors of Child and Family Services of Saginaw County and worked as a social worker in the Saginaw school system for 15 years. Additionally, Mrs. Heavenrich was a founding board member of Peter Pan Cooperative Nursery School, a member of Junior League, a volunteer caseworker for the American Red Cross, and a member of the YWCA Board of Directors.

Together, Dr. and Mrs. Heavenrich have left a legacy of service to children that reaches beyond the confines of this finite world. Dr. Heavenrich’s lifetime commitment to children and to medical education as well as his outstanding reputation for treating thousands of young patients with sensitivity, gentleness, and humor continues to inspire us all. Mrs. Heavenrich’s service to children from all walks of life exemplifies the greatest ideals of our society put into action.