It took fifteen minutes for me to realize just how much Fine Arts students will miss Anne Heinl, the only academic advisor for the entire faculty, who retired this past week. Interrupting us with three rapid knocks on the door, a student anxiously peered around the door frame to Heinl’s office and asked if it was a bad time to ask her some questions. Heinl informed the frantic student that she was now officially retired, and had been for a week.
Heinl’s retirement on Nov. 18 had brought an end to a 23-year career of making sure that around 300 students each year leave university with a better sense of what to do in life—or that they leave university at all. However, 23 years of habit can’t be undone in seven days.
“What do you need?” asked Heinl.
These are words that most Fine Arts students have heard from Heinl, who has spent the last two decades helping them navigate the complex world of academia.
Academic advisors at UVic are in charge of helping students plan their degrees, walking them through various complicated forms, checklists, and course requirements that need to be fulfilled before graduation. While most faculties have multiple advisors, Heinl was the sole academic advisor for the Faculty of Fine Arts. Serving the most students per advisor at UVic was a daunting task, Heinl admitted, but one she has completed with joy.
“I love my students. It’s the whole reason I’m here,” Heinl said. “It just lights up your day, especially if a student comes in and they’re a little bit anxious or confused, and then when they leave the office they know where
they’re going or what they’re doing. They feel better [and that] makes me feel better.”
Heinl has spent most of her life helping others. She has always loved the fine arts — she even married a musician/photographer and worked for eight years organizing his accounts. The eldest of four children, Heinl was the sibling most responsible for the well-being of her brothers and sisters.
“It’s why I’m not an artist,” Heinl laughed. “I’m the responsible, logical one who had to take care of everybody else.”
Heinl’s highlights as an academic advisor include overseeing the graduation of UVic’s eldest ever graduate—an 86-year-old History in Art student—as well as helping a number of Indigenous students through a variety of programs. And she’s received an “embarrassing” amount of support from former students and faculty when she announced her retirement earlier in 2016.
“I got a lot of feedback from students . . . saying how much they were going to miss me,” says Heinl, “so it was very heartwarming to hear . . . I just love my students.”
David Leach, Department of Writing chair, believes Heinl’s impact on the faculty is “inestimable.”
“I just know how tremendous [of] both a resource and compassionate aid [Heinl is] to students and to staff and to faculty,” said Leach. “[She has this] deeply human and humane ability to listen to students . . . she will be difficult if not impossible to replace . . . in what she does and who she is.”
Heinl plans to spend her time in retirement with her three-year-old grandchild and her newly adopted dog. She will continue to offer her services for the graduating students of the 2016-17 academic year, and may also continue to help dress graduates at convocation ceremonies for a few more years.
Ask any Fine Arts student and they will have a story of how Ann Heinl helped them through a course mixup or reminded them to fill out a vital form. Heinl was an integral cog in the often convoluted machine that is university administration, though her humble nature means she will never admit that herself.
“I’m just doing my job,” Heinl said, “and I hope I did it well enough.”