A gift in honor of his mentor
By David E. Nathan
While a Brandeis student, he worked for a congressman, interned for two high-profile Massachusetts senators and spent a summer toiling in Bill Clinton’s White House press office. Yet, Alex Heckler ’98 will tell you that the experience that had the greatest impact on his life came when he served as a student-driver during his senior year.
Heckler was fortunate enough to be selected as the student-liaison for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, whom he picked up at Logan Airport every other Sunday and brought to campus. During that school year, Richards gave bi-weekly lectures as the Fred and Rita Richman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Politics. Their spirited in-transit conversations changed his perspective and influenced his career path.
“I really established quite a close personal relationship with her,” Heckler said of Richards, a former Brandeis trustee who died in 2006. “She became a mentor to me.”
During the rides from Boston to Waltham, Heckler and Richards engaged in in-depth political discussions. They quickly discovered that their political philosophies were similar and they were committed to public service for the same reason: helping people. Richards always showed great interest in Heckler’s take on the issues of the day.
“She asked for my opinion on issues because she really wanted to know what I thought, and then listened closely to my answers,” Heckler said. “She treated me like a peer.”
Their relationship continued after Heckler graduated from Brandeis. During his first year of law school at the University of Miami in the fall of 1998, Richards invited him to join her for dinner and attend a speech she was delivering in South Florida. She later helped him land an internship at Verner Liipfert, a high-powered national law and lobbying firm
In recognition of the important role that Richards, Brandeis and his political internships played in his life, Heckler recently established the Alexander P. Heckler Family/Gov. Ann Richards Summer Political Internship Program. Heckler provides an annual stipend for a Brandeis student to spend a summer as an intern in the government or non-profit sector in Washington, D.C. The first recipient, Zoe Richman ’15, served as an intern at the Coalition on Human Needs.
“I wanted to have a direct impact on students who have the same philosophy about public service that I have,” Heckler said. “It is gratifying to be able to help students in the name of Ann Richards. Without Brandeis and Ann Richards, I would not be where I am today professionally.”
A nationally recognized Democratic Party activist, fundraiser and strategist, Heckler founded and serves as managing partner of Miami-based LSN Partners, a national government affairs and communications consultancy. Heckler, a government law attorney, focuses on local and state government procurements. He is a member of the Governors’ Advisory Council of the Democratic Governors Association (and former treasurer) and has served on the National Finance Committee for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama (2008 and 2012), Hillary Clinton (2008) and John Kerry (2004).
As a politics major at Brandeis, Heckler was an engaged member of the campus community. He was active in student government and the Brandeis Democrats, belonged to the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, and helped raise money for a number of organizations.
He worked closely with politics professor Peter Woll, who served as Heckler’s adviser for his senior thesis on the impact of the media and polling on the Clinton administration. It was a natural topic of inquiry for Heckler since he had worked for Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary, during the summer of 1996. Heckler joined McCurry at that year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
Heckler spent another summer working in Washington for Florida Congressman Peter Deutsch. As a sophomore, he interned for Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and Kerry’s Senate re-election campaign.
In Kennedy’s office, he focused on constituent services. He recalled successfully intervening with a utility company on behalf of an elderly constituent whose gas had been shut off during a particularly brutal winter.
“I was awestruck by the power of what one could accomplish as an intern with Senator Kennedy,” Heckler said. “That’s why people go into public service, and that has stuck with me to this day.”