(Posted May 7, 2001)

-- News Release -- Elma Stine Heckler, a native of McVeytown, Pa. and a longtime music educator and choir director, received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree recently from Juniata College. She received the degree at the college's annual May Day breakfast April 21, which was integrated this year into the college's "Celebration of Women" event April 19-21.

Heckler, a resident of Hatfield, Pa., earned a bachelor's degree in music education from Juniata College in 1950. She grew up on a farm in Ferguson Valley near McVeytown and attended McVeytown-Oliver High School. In her time at Juniata, she performed with several college choirs and played in the band and orchestra. She also served as an accompanist for several college organizations.
Upon graduation from Juniata, she accepted a job as music teacher in the Hatfield School District in 1950. She taught all grades, from kindergarten through senior high school. During her time there she started the school band and conducted the school choir.

She left her teaching job in 1953, when she married Howard Heckler, owner of the Estate of George S. Snyder Inc., a family-owned home center business in Hatfield. From 1953 to the mid-1970s, Heckler worked as director of music at three local churches: St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Telford from 1953 to 1956; Zion Mennonite Church in Souderton from 1956 to 1971; and Pleasantville United Church of Christ in Chalfont from 1971 to 1976.

In 1977 she returned to college, earning a master's degree in choral conducting in 1980 from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J..
She also became director of the Bucks County Choral Society in 1977, a position she held until her retirement in 2000. During her tenure as director, Heckler built the choir from 40 members to 65. "My idea was not to create the biggest choir in the area, but the best," she says.

Under her direction, the Bucks County Choral Society toured Europe four times. The group also was selected to perform at a meeting of the American Choral Directors Association, held in 1999 in Providence, R.I.
Mrs. Heckler lives in Hatfield with her husband, Howard. The couple has three sons: George, a financial consultant in Stowe, Vt.; Russell, an attorney in Locust, N.J.; and Daniel, now the fifth-generation owner of the family's home center business.

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.