10 May 2024 • Alums Roberts '89 Establishes Doc Heaton Scholarship By Colin Spencer '19

Friendship with late religious studies professor motivates philanthropy. 

Jeffrey Roberts '89 

Inspired by the dedication to community advocated by the late Professor of Religious Studies Richard L. “Doc” Heaton, Jeffrey Roberts ’89 has committed to establishing the Professor Richard (Doc) Heaton P’86 Endowed Scholarship.

The scholarship will support an academically qualified student as they take advantage of the liberal arts opportunities provided at Hobart and William Smith. 

This scholarship builds on Roberts' support of Hobart and William Smith through an Annual Fund scholarship also in Heaton's name. 

Heaton was a professor of religious studies from 1961 to 1994 and served as department chair during the 1970s and 1980s. He taught and co-directed the popular Western Civilization courses, as well as others including “Prophetic Religions” focused on human rights. He was honored with the Distinguished Faculty Award in 2003. 

Roberts took his first of many classes with Heaton his sophomore year and instantly built a connection. “I just loved the way that Doc taught his classes: lots of dialogue and many opportunities to speak,” says Roberts. 

Roberts recalls that the words “reciprocity” and “connectedness” frequently showed up in Heaton’s lectures and in conversation, and that those two words largely defined his ethos. “He made me think specifically about community and what it means to give back,” says Roberts. 

The two would build a bond over dinners at Heaton’s house during Roberts’ time at HWS.

When it came time to graduate, Heaton encouraged Roberts to follow his interest and become a teacher, which he did for eight years. Roberts taught English and coached football and lacrosse at the Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut and then at St. George’s School in Rhode Island. He then transitioned to the insurance brokerage profession, first with Marsh McLennan and then with Willis Towers Watson, where he is currently the executive vice president of mergers and acquisitions.

As a frequent contributor to the Annual Fund and Athletic Day of Donors, Roberts appreciates the notes he receives from students on how his contributions help fund their education to pursue their dreams and hopes other alumni will be encouraged to give back.

FURTHER TOGETHER: The Campaign for Our Third Century 

On campus, Roberts played on the Hobart Football team under coach Jack Daniels. “He was a player’s coach,” says Roberts. “He loved all of his players and they knew it.” Roberts credits Daniels for teaching him the importance of "team" and pulling together to overcome adversity on the field and in life.

Roberts was also a brother in the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Hobart and holds a master’s degree in liberal studies from Wesleyan University. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire. 

Top: The late Professor of Religious Studies Richard L. “Doc” Heaton P'86 in the early 1960s.