Heilig gift creates annual Jewish Studies lectureship
Alan Heilig and his sister, Debra Heilig Schwartz, have given $125,000 and Alan has pledged an additional $225,000 to establish an endowed lectureship in Jewish Studies.
The gift goes to the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, which is a part of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“We are enormously grateful to Alan Heilig and Debra Heilig Schwartz for giving us the opportunity to pay tribute to their family in this manner,” said Jonathan Hess, director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies and a professor of Germanic languages. “The Morris, Ida and Alan Heilig Lectureship in Jewish Studies will enable us to bring in a major public speaker to campus each year, enriching the intellectual life of students, faculty and the broader community for years to come.”
The inaugural lecture, on Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hanes Art Center Auditorium, was given by Ian Lustick, a political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Lustick discussed the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Alan Heilig, who lives in Aventura, Fla., but grew up in Kinston, N.C., said the gift is a tribute to his late parents. In 1928, Morris Heilig moved from Goldsboro to Kinston to open a furniture store. Morris and Ida were very active in Kinston civic activities and in the local Jewish community, Heilig said. The couple lived in Kinston for 68 years.
“Our father was a lifetime member of Temple Israel, and he was a lifetime director, too. Our mother was a lifetime member, and she was very active in the sisterhood and the Hadassah,” he said. “Their lives revolved around the synagogue.”
Debra Heilig Schwartz, who lives in Miami Beach, Fla., insisted that Alan also be included in the name of the lectureship because of his involvement in the Jewish community and his love for Carolina. The lectureship has become a real family affair, as Schwartz’s children and grandchildren have made gifts in honor of their uncle Alan to the lectureship fund.
Alan Heilig graduated from Carolina in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After earning a master’s degree in hospital administration from the Medical College of Virginia, he spent 22 years as a hospital administrator. He then worked for 10 years as a synagogue administrator.
“I have a real love for the university and always wanted to do something to promote understanding of Judaism and Jewish history,” Heilig said. “The opportunity to promote the university and Judaism at the same time was more than I could resist.”
When he was at Carolina, Heilig was very involved with the former Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau. He was principal trustee of the fraternity’s foundation and was instrumental in the construction of the fraternity house on Finley Golf Course Road.
“What made me fall in love with Carolina is what makes everyone else fall in love with Carolina: It’s a wonderful place,” he said. “The association with the fraternity was especially significant. I made friends there that I’m still friends with today. I’ve been to their weddings and bar mitzvahs. The friendships were long-lasting.”
Morris Heilig also had a connection to Carolina — he went to UNC for one year in the 1920s, but couldn’t afford to stay, Alan Heilig said. Instead, his father became an entrepreneur. The Heilig furniture store was a fixture in the downtown Kinston community for many years, with a large customer base, particularly in the farming community, he added.
“They provided a means for working people to have up-to-date home furnishings at reasonable prices,” he said.
The Heilig gift counts toward the university's Carolina First Campaign goal of $2 billion. Carolina First is a comprehensive, multi-year, private fund-raising campaign to support Carolina's vision of becoming the nation's leading public university.