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Allan V. Heely Collection

Identifier: DC036

Scope and Contents

The Allan V. Heely Collection consists documents relating to the personal affairs of Allan V. Heely and his family. Included in this collection are personal correspondence, documents relating to Patti Heely, biographical materials, personal writings and other personal documents, clippings, and ephemera.

This collection does not include any documents relating to the work Allan V. Heely did in his role as Headmaster for the Lawrenceville School. While references to him being headmaster can be found within this collection, they were not created by the Office of the headmaster and as such are housed within DC115 Office of the Headmaster Collection.


  • Creation: 1934 - 1978
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1934 - 1959


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies and digital photographs may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Archivist. Researchers are responsible for determining any other copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

Allan Vanderhoef Heely was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1897, the son of a banker. His family soon relocated to Plainfield, New Jersey, where he was educated at Mr. John Leal’s School. He was a member of Phillips Andover’s class of 1915, and graduated with a sparkling academic and extracurricular record. He entered Yale following his graduation from Andover, and excelled in the study of English literature. At Yale he was active in several musical clubs, including the noted singing group the Whiffenpoofs. In 1917 he joined Yale’s R.O.T.C and left school to serve with a field artillery unit in South Carolina, where he attained the rank of second lieutenant. He returned to Yale late in 1918 to complete his studies. Following graduation he went into business with a wholesale dry-goods firm, but found that the work did not inspire him. In 1924 he happily accepted a position teaching English at Andover. Allan Heely, as well as his wife Frances Thompson (better known, affectionately, as Pattie), were enormously well liked at Andover. His reputation for excellence in teaching was matched by hers for a warm and welcoming nature. The board of trustees at Lawrenceville quickly became interested in Allan Heely as a potential asset to their own school. Following the death of Mather Almon Abbott in 1934, Heely was elected to replace him as headmaster. He was sworn in on Thanksgiving Day, in front of an audience of nearly 800, who assembled following chapel service for Thanksgiving dinner in the gymnasium. Heely became enormously popular with the student body, as he had at Andover. His quiet good nature allowed even timid or apprehensive boys to feel comfortable in his company, and he was known for fairness and an even temper. Mrs. Heely, with the breezy, casual warmth that became her trademark, played a powerful role in the social life of the school as well. Allan Heely’s primary goal throughout his tenure was the enhancement of the intellectual life of the school, not merely to cement the school’s reputation, but in order to prepare students for successful careers and lives. One major victory in this quest for excellence was the arrangement of a generous financial gift from Edward Harkness. This gift would enable the physical renovations, faculty enhancement, and curriculum redesigns that contributed to what is now called the Harkness method or conference method of teaching. This educational method is one of the cornerstones of Lawrenceville’s philosophy.

Another of Heely’s significant missions was an emphasis on training students to be conscientious participants in democracy. This effort manifested itself in broader and more active student leadership, and through the creation of a work program. This new program encouraged students to take pride in and responsibility for the appearance and operation of the school. The Heelys as a couple were instrumental in shepherding the school through the Second World War. Allan Heely’s goal was to prevent students from abandoning their studies in order to pursue military service. Sweeping changes in curriculum and more flexible graduation schedules made this effort a success. Pattie Heely championed an enormous effort to keep in touch with Lawrentians in the armed services. She sent out letters and questionnaires to alumni in the services, publishing their responses and letters in newsletters called “Bons Mots Millitaires”, which she distributed throughout the community.

On July 7, 1959, Allan Heely died at home from an embolism following a period of illness. His death during the summer vacation prevented his memorial from being attended by many of the students who considered him a role model and an inspiration. The service was well-attended, however, by alumni, colleagues, and friends. Noted author Frederick Buechner (L’43) spoke eloquently of Heely’s tremendous personal commitment to the school and its community members, and of his generosity with his energy and attention.

“You always came upon him as a whole. When he gave you his attention, the gift was complete; and even at large school gatherings, besieged on all sides by alumni, faculty, and students, he was seldom vague or desultory. No matter how briefly you saw him, he left you with the feeling that you had genuinely met.”


0.417 Linear Feet (1 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Allan V. Heely Papers are arranged into four series: Series 1: Correspondence, Series 2: Patti Heely, Series 3: Writings, Series 4: Subject Files.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Allan Heely were transferred to the Archives sometime after his death.


Appraisal has been conducted in accordance with The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives guidelines.

Related Materials

Documents relating to Allan V. Heely's role as Headmaster of Lawrenceville School can be found in DC115: Office of the Headmaster.


Information in the biographical note was gathered from material within the Allan Heely Collection. The Lawrenceville Lexicon: A Compendium of All Things Lawrenceville, Merrell Noden, editor, was also consulted.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Casey Babcock in November of 2011. The biographical note was written by Zoe Vybiral. The collection was reassessed in August 2018 by Stephanie Eder aand Rebecca Driscoll.

Allan V. Heely Collection: Finding Aid
Stephanie Eder
2018 August
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the The Lawrenceville School Stephan Archives Repository

Box 6128
2500 Main St.
Lawrenceville 08648 U.S.A. US