Grace Worsham

Resigned due to medical issues, community misses Rev. Amy Heller’s on-campus presence

Rev. Amy Heller, who served at ESD for seven years, left a solid mark on the whole community with her overall peaceful presence and emphasis on creating a better understanding of the Episcopalian foundation.

Heller resigned just before Christmas break due to her second case of metastatic breast cancer after 19 years of remission. This concluded her medical leave that started on Sept. 18. As of now, treatment has been successful, but there is still a journey ahead.

“I think the overriding memory of her for me is her calming presence,” Associate Head of School Ruth Burke said. “She always maintained this cool collected demeanor, which I believe helped all of us in situations that were either sad or challenging, and I love that about her.”

Heller especially influenced and convinced current Rev. Tim Kennedy to take his current position.

“People who know her have tremendous amounts of respect for her,” Kennedy said. “So the idea of getting to work for her and with her was a huge, huge, huge reason why I wanted to come to ESD. She was a huge help to bring me here and was a mentor for me when I got here.”

“People who know her have tremendous amounts of respect for her.”

Rev. Tim Kennedy
Middle and Upper School Chaplain

Heller further influenced the community as she helped to explain what it meant to be an Episcopal school and how the school should behave to exemplify that. 

“I think she really helped ESD better define and understand our Episcopal identity,” Burke said. “If you go on our website now, you see all kinds of things about what it means to be an Episcopal school,… and I really credit that to Reverend Heller because she really stressed the importance of our Episcopal identity.”

With Heller expressing the importance of the Episcopalian identity, it inspired the topic to become a central topic with families in the admission process.

“Before [Rev. Heller, the Episcopal meaning] was part of the conversation, but now, we lead with that…,” Burke said. “We are an Episcopal school and make sure that we as community members understand that and express that to families who are looking into ESD who might want to come here.”

Not only did Heller emphasize the Episcopalian identity, she also stressed the acceptance of all people, no matter what their belief or background was.

“It is really great to be in a community that… is not just one expression of one religion even though we have that foundation,” Heller said. “I find that creating a place where everybody [is welcome], no matter who they are or what they believe or working on what they believe, enables us to learn from and respect one another.”

Student’s cherish Heller’s continual support of the student body and her dedication to leading the Vestry student organization in previous years. 

“You could tell Rev. Heller loved being at ESD because no matter when I passed her, in the hallway, at her desk, or in the chapel, she was always smiling,” senior Sophia Sinacola said. “She always wanted us to be happy, whether that be from the snacks she kept for us in her office or her occasional check in with us. She was always someone I knew I could come to at any time.”

Students and faculty alike miss the presence of Heller, but everyone wants her to focus on her health and healing. 

“Her absence has definitely been felt, and a lot of people have said to me how much they miss her personally and professionally,” Kennedy said. “We wish her the best personally, but selfishly, we also miss having her around as a trusted colleague, a friend, a supporter and someone to lean on.”

Heller continues to have a positive mindset during her illness and strongly believes that her faith has grown through this time in her life. She suggests to everyone to take life one day at a time and live in the present.

“Part of [my strength comes from] what I call my prayer warriors,” Heller said. “The amount of love and prayers that are just covering me is humbling. I have great peace of mind, and I don’t worry. I think that is how we are meant to live––to just stay rooted in the present and feel the love and give the love.”

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