Throwback Thursday: Warren Heylman

April 19, 2012


Warren Heylman (Track and Field) 1943-45
Heylman is in rare company for many reasons. The Spokane, Wash. native graduated from Kansas in just six semesters as a part of the unique Navy V-12 program in the mid-1940s. Following his military career, the architectural engineering graduate went onto found Heylman Martin Architects in Spokane as well as keep up his recreational running career. The now 88-year old still runs five miles almost every day and had a successful appearance at the 2005 World Masters Games in Edmonton, where he finished in fourth place in the 100-meter dash.

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You took a unique path to college and then to the Navy… describe a little bit about that journey to those who are used to the conventional four years of college.
“The Navy wanted engineers and there was a nation-wide examination offered and 70 percent of men between 18 and 21 took this examination. Out of that, 16,000 went in to V-12 Navy officer training program through 131 different colleges throughout the nation and Kansas was one of them. We spent two years at KU during six total semesters. In my graduating class of 1945, I think there were 294 graduates and out of those, there were about 46 V-12 participants. Seven of us on the 1944 track team were from V-12. From there I went on to Notre Dame for midshipman’s school. After we graduated from midshipman’s school we were an ensign, commissioned into the Navy as an officer. We were obviously midshipman in midshipman’s school and before that we were all just ordinary seaman, or officers in training.”Heylman and the 1944 KU track team

Did you run track in high school?
“Yes, I was a runner at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Wash. I ran the 100 and 200 yard race in high school. I didn’t really run before high school, not any more than any of the other kids at that age were. I came out for track as a freshman or a sophomore and I ran for three to four years in high school before coming to Kansas.”

Do you have a fond memory that stands out from your time at Kansas?
“Well yes, I met my wife there. She was also a KU student. We were married in 1945 and we just celebrated our 66th anniversary. Her name is Katherine Zimmerman. Her two brothers are still in Lawrence. Her brothers Lee and Bob Zimmerman run the Zimmerman Steel company on East 19th street in Lawrence. Katherine and I met at my second year at KU during a dance that was held at the Kansas Student Union.”

What was it like to be in training for the U.S. military, while studying and competing on the KU track team?
“We got up at 5:30 a.m. and had three hours of physical training each day. We did calisthenics and ran and KU of course had a swimming pool, so we had swimming and lifesaving classes along with water safety; expecting that we might have to swim away from a ship or something like that. We were required to carry 17 hours and if we were going to get our degrees than we carried more than that. I finished my time at Kansas with a degree in architectural engineering.”

Did you compete in track and field at Notre Dame while at Midshipmen’s school?
“No, midshipman’s school is rather intensive and we had plenty of exercise without track. But no we really didn’t have any free time. There were no competitive teams, only drill teams and obstacle courses but not teams. It was a very intensive training program. Actually the guy in charge was the world champion boxer, Gene Tunney; he was the guy that beat Jack Dempsey. He was in charge of the Navy V-12 physical fitness program, and he came to visit KU when I was there.”

Heylman at the 2005 World Masters in EdmontonAfter your time studying, did you focus more on the Navy than running?
“Yes, that’s right; I wasn’t able to run competitively coming out of Notre Dame. I was recalled for Korea along with other V-12s and I went back for two years there before I came back to Spokane in 1953. From when I enlisted in November 1942 until returning in 1953 I was on active duty, though we weren’t called up right away seeing as how we were waiting to get into the V-12 program. I didn’t finish my service in the Navy until 1957; so it was about 14 years.”

Did you get back into running upon your return back to Spokane, Wash.?
“Yes, recreationally I would participate in various runs. This will be the 36th year that I will compete in the Lilac Bloomsday Run here in Spokane and I believe they are expecting more than 50,000 participants. It is a 12 kilometer race or 7.6 miles. The race is held on the first Sunday in May, and this year it is on the sixth. It is also the 36th year that the race will be held so I have made it to all of them so far. There are about 100 of us who have competed in each year’s Lilac Bloomsday Run and with this race, finishing is the name of the game.”

How much training do you regularly do to prepare for a race?
“Well, when I get off the phone, I will go out and run five miles. I like to put in about 20 to 25 miles a week; combined running and walking.”

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in running?
“Well last year at Bloomsday I was second in my age group and for a couple years before that I was first in my age group. I suppose my fourth place finish at the World Masters (2005) was the most exciting, but I usually just do it for the enjoyment.”

How often to you go back to Lawrence?
“We still get back to KU every few years. We always enjoy going up to the campus and it is nice that Marvin Hall has remained the architectural department; I always go up there. We love downtown Lawrence, it’s terrific and it doesn’t look greatly different than it did when I was back there. It is just a wonderful town and it has turned into a beautiful little city now. Like I said there were about 294 graduates in my class, so that shows you how large the campus and Lawrence has grown.”Heylman and his V-12 classmates, circa 1944

Do you still manage to follow Kansas athletics while you’re back in Washington?
“Oh yes, of course we follow the basketball team. We were hoping that my hometown team, Gonzaga, would match up with Kansas in the tournament this year.”

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