Knox baseball coach Jami Isaacson is right.
After two excruciating and heartbreaking defeats to Oberlin College to end an unsuccessful spring trip, the Prairie Fire baseball team met with its fearless leader in the parking lot of their Hampton Inn hotel in Chandler, Ariz. They were searching for answers, but instead got an emotional plea from Isaacson to keep Knox’s recently fallen idol in mind every time they were to step on the baseball field the rest of this season.
“Whenever you think you have it rough, think about Coach Heimann,” he said. “Think about that man who literally gave his life to the college.”
The truth is most of us can’t dedicate our athletic season to the memory of Tim Heimann like the baseball team — only about a quarter of our student population participates in athletics. What we can do, though, is keep him in the back of our minds from time to time. And, better yet, continue to learn from the life lessons Heimann subconsciously taught through his words, actions, and mannerisms.
We can learn dedication from the man who spent over 40 years giving his all to our institution. Heimann began his Knox years in 1966 as a college freshman, and his work did not end until a month ago. Along the way, Heimann served as Head Resident and worked in the Office of Admissions. He was a professor of sports studies, also serving as head baseball, basketball and women’s tennis coach and as an assistant for the football team. And after leaving the sidelines in 2008, Heimann worked in the Office of Advancement, continuing his personal mission to better his alma mater, this time through fundraising. With a cancer-ravaged body, he continued raising funds until late February, when he left work for good. That was barely two weeks before his death.
We can learn to listen from the man who did it best. Heimann had a way of selflessly pointing the dialogue away from himself, making the conversation about you. He made himself available at all hours of the day and never turned down the opportunity to talk with anyone. During the conversation, if it were a joyous one, he’d celebrate with you. If not, he’d share your pain, but at the same time, he had an uncanny ability to alleviate it. And if he had to cut the chat a little short, he’d look you straight in the eye, flash that famously disarming smile, and promise to pick it up later.
“Listen, kiddo,” he’d say, “I gotta go. But it’s been great talkin’ to you. We’ll do it again soon.”
And Tim Heimann always made good on his promises.
Most importantly, though, we can learn to love from the man who knew few other emotions. At the public memorial service held last week in his honor, Sonja Johnson Crain, a former student of Heimann’s, mentioned how it never failed to impress her when Tim would point to his wife, Cathy, and say in all seriousness, “I love that woman.”
But it was not just the romantic love Tim shared with us. As you’ll read in John Baillie’s eulogy on the back page of this week’s TKS, Heimann loved much more than just his wife. He loved his players, and made sure their well-being was always priority one. He loved his students and co-workers, always making time for them, even when it was sparse. He loved his school; that same smile always returned to his face the moment the word “Knox” entered the discussion.
But most of all, Tim Heimann loved life and everyone with whom he shared his 60 years. And perhaps that’s the most important thing we can learn from his life — unconditional love. We’re all in this together, after all.
To say that Knox College will be the same without Tim Heimann is nothing short of a lie. There are voids left in his passing that may never be filled. But through his teachings, his legacy lives on in our community, and for that, Knox and its students, faculty, and alumni will forever benefit.
So here’s to you on a job well done, Coach. It’s been great knowing you. We’ll do it again soon.