John F. Heflin, PhD.

John passed away April 11, 2014 after a 15 year valiant fight against heart disease.

Born in Sweetwater, Texas, April 7, 1941, he is the son of Willis Heflin and Espanola (Samples) Heflin. He attended Booker T. Washington School (TX) and Hobbs High School (NM) graduating in 1958. He was recruited by New Mexico Highlands University from the 1958 Hobbs state championship basketball team. As a freshman, Heflin was named to the NMHU varsity squad. The following year, his sophomore year, Heflin was named to the starting lineup and during the season he established a NMHU single - game scoring record of 36 points. He was a member of the 1960 Frontier Conference Basketball Team which qualified for the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City, Kansas. During his NMHU career, he earned four varsity letters in basketball, was a member of the H-Club, the 1959 Frontier Conference Championship Baseball Team, was a member of Kappa Theta Fraternity and the Baptist student union.

Graduating from NMHU in 1963 with a B.A. (majors in Political Science and History), Heflin took a position in a management training program for a large food corporation and later worked as a cartographer with the U.S. Department of the Interior/Bureau of Land Management.

Heflin's strong desire to work in professional education led him to move to Merced, California where he was employed as a teacher/coach with the Merced Union High School District. After five years with the MUHSD, Heflin was selected as a fellow with the Ford Foundation Leadership Development Program. The Ford Fellowship incorporated graduate study at U-C Berkley's Institute for School Desegregation Problems; Internship with Research for Better Schools (Philadelphia, PA); Internship with the U. S. Senate Select Committee on Equality of Educational Opportunity (Washington, DC); visitation to the Foundation for Community Development (Durham, NC); Internship with Ford Foundation SE Leadership Development Program (Atlanta, GA); and graduate study at Stanford University, where he was subsequently selected for a position as administrative assistant to the dean of the School of Education. In this role he implemented the first program to diversify masters and doctoral students at Stanford University School of Education. Recruitment visits to NMHU and UNM were incorporated in this plan. Following his completion of doctoral studies at Stanford, Heflin was employed as a coordinator/specialist of equal education opportunity programs at the Oregon State Education Agency. He also served as member of the Oregon State Superintendent's task force to develop the Oregon Action Plan for Excellence in Education (Oregon's response to A Nation at Risk).

Specializing in education policy analysis, organization and administration, and sociology of education, Heflin began a career at Portland State University in 1976. At Portland State, he was a member of the faculty which designed and implemented a joint PSU - University of Oregon original doctoral program in Educational Leadership. He also served on the Advisory Board (Training Center) at NW Regional Educational Laboratory, Portland, OR and on the Advisory Committee for the Communication Arts Program, Southwest Regional Educational Laboratory for R & D, Albuquerque, NM. During his PSU career, Heflin was on the Board of Directors and Education Chairman for the NAACP - Portland Branch; a charter member of the Oregon Association for Multicultural Education, an organizing member of the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs (a statewide political action organization) and a Charter member/Secretary for Oregon Chapter of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Heflin also served as chairman of the Portland-Multnomah County Human Rights Commission. Heflin was elected to two terms as national chairman of Research Focus on Black Education (American Educational Research Association), chaired the American Educational Research Association's (Division A) affirmative action committee, and was a member of the editorial board of the Educational Researcher (AERA's monthly publication). He also served on the executive board of the National Urban Education Association, AERA National Convention Program Planning Committee for Division A (Administration), Committee member for outstanding dissertation award (Division A: Administration), and Board of Consultants for The Journal of International Reform.

During his career Heflin served in several administrative positions: administrative assistant to the dean of Stanford University School of Education, Oregon Department of Education Equity Programs Coordinator, Portland State University department chairperson, and Kent State University department chairperson.

A graduate of New Mexico Highlands University, Heflin has a master's degree in educational administration and politics of education and a Ph.D. with specialization in educational administration and policy analysis and a minor in sociology from Stanford University. Owing to his family values and the cultural context of his socialization to adulthood, Heflin became committed at an early age to the values of equity, equal educational opportunity, and social justice. These values are reflected throughout his academic scholarship and civic commitments. Examples include: A Survey of California State Policy for School Desegregation; A Survey of ESL/Bilingual Education Policy in Oregon School Districts; A Survey of Multicultural Education Policy Across the 50 states; and A Survey of Oregon Colleges of Education Compliance with the NCATE Standards for Multicultural Education.

He loved teaching and it was expressed in his everyday life. Even in retirement, he often used every opportunity to explain and educate.

John is survived by his wife of 51 years, Anita; and his beloved sons Kyle of Portland, Oregon and Jonathan of Boston, Massachusetts; Uncles, Charlie Samples, John Charles Samples, and Bobby Samples; Aunts, Ardelia Heflin Walker, Lena Samples Prince and Emma Samples Fields; Cousins, Bert E. Walker, Lilly Cumbo, and Fred Terry; and extended family.

He is preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Claudette Murphy and Janet Marie Heflin; Grandmothers, Maude Heflin Henderson and Ruby King Samples; Grandfathers, Calvin Heflin and J.T. Samples; Uncle, Cecil Samples; Aunts, Ruth Samples Olds, Marie Samples Terry, and Clara Samples Hurdle.

The family wishes to thank profusely his Doctors: Michael Hughes, Hugh O'Neill, Michael Pelini, Sunita Midha, Melinda Phinney, and Rachel Waldman for their patience and superior care all these years.

(RC 4-14-14)

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  • Dear Heflin Family,

          May God be with you and give you comfort. John and I go all the way back to Sweetwater, Texas where we played Baseball together in Little League and then in Pony League. If you do not have pictures of this please send me an e mail and I will send you a copy. What a wonderful teammate and person he was. We all knew he would be a great success in life. We enjoyed a lot of great times together and had a great All-Star Team. He was an exceptional shortstop and good hitter. We would always say a prayer in the dugout before we went out to play a game.

           Since John traveled with us  to the  All-Star Tournaments, my Dad and Mr. Herndon always made sure the diners would serve John and all of us before we went into eat. We could not have been prouder of our Dad's.

           You are in our thoughts and prayers. I will look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

                                                               Yours in Christ,

                                                                Gordon Marcum II

  • We send our deepest and most sincere condolences to John’s family, especially his wife and children, Anita, Kyle, and Jonathan (KSU alumnus, and member of the Track Team).  For many years John taught at Kent State University, and served it, and our community, with the utmost devotion, commitment, and dedication.  He was an extraordinarily impressive academician—well trained in his discipline, exceptionally experienced, at multiple levels of the educational system in this country, and in multiple disciplines.  John fit within the Du Boisian model of the scholar, teacher, activist, in that he was not only a disseminator of knowledge to the many students, across generations, that he taught so effectively, but throughout his life, he was an unusually gifted change agent, who, through the multiplicity of his involvements, improved the lives of many, most of whom were unaware, and assisted in the progress and evolution of the institutions with which he was affiliated.  Throughout his life and career, his contributions extended throughout the local communities where he lived and work, through the regions, and the nation; and his impact was direct, through his own efforts, and indirect, through the contributions of his students.  His impact on this campus was both immeasurable and invaluable.  Many of the changes that were made over the last two decades relative to race relations, and issues of equity, equality, climate, inclusion, and general racial and ethnic respect on this campus, was influenced greatly by his gentle, wise, and experienced touch.  He had the intelligence, insight, courage, skills, competence, forthrightness, and wisdom of those in the mode of an A. Philip Randolph, or Nelson Mandela.  He never asked anyone to do that which he was not willing to do himself, nor that which was unreasonable, unattainable, or inappropriate.  His knowledge of institutions and systems was unsurpassed.  His understanding of human nature, its parameters and boundaries, was beyond the norm.  His ability to effect change, under the most difficulty of circumstances, was a major asset that he brought to his work.

    Kent State University is much improved because of the tenure of John Heflin at this institution.  He was a true friend and exceptional colleague, and will be greatly missed.

    May God rest his soul, and comfort his family,

    George R. Garrison