On Friday evening, Charles Dunnahoe presented the Ronny Heil Memorial Scholarship to Jatavia James. James is a 2022 graduate of Corsicana High School and is a psychology major at Navarro College with a minor in theater.
Dunnahoe, a graduate of Wortham High School and close friends with Ronny Heil, began the scholarship solely as a tribute to his friend and to assist Navarro College students in continuing their education without the worry of paying for living expenses.
Ronny Heil, 18 at the time, was a student enrolled at Navarro College and was very involved in theatre since his years at Wortham High School, as he did until his untimely death in the spring of 1992.
Heil’s future was stolen from him after two brothers asked him for a ride to Mexia, and then insisted upon a trip to South Dallas. During the early hours of May 24, 1992, Ronny lost his life to many hours of assault after assault to his person by two brothers, local to the Wortham area.
Dr. Debra Airheart, former drama director at Wortham High School, stated, “Two of the most talented young men I have had the privilege to know are Charles Dunnahoe and Ronny Heil. As teenagers, they both were willing to help others, including this drama director, and support all UIL activities.”
Dr. Airheart also stated, “I am glad to see that Charles is continuing that support and keeping Ronnie’s spirit alive.”
The scholarship is privately funded by Dunnahoe, who is looking to expand the program. He stated, “When I started Nurse Practitioner school, I made a promise to myself that I would start a scholarship in Ronny’s name and gradually increase the amount to a full scholarship to Navarro College for a theatre student.” Typically, the scholarship is $500, however, Charles and Alyssa Dunnahoe have seen the need to increase it to $2,000, at least for this year. He continued, “The need is there, and it our job to ease the burden of that need to a deserving student and her dreams.”
Feeling the need to help the recipient of the scholarship, Charles and Alyssa Dunnahoe both contributed to the RHMS this year. The scholarship recipient is decided upon by Shellie O’Neal, the chairperson of the Theatre Department at Navarro College, and is dependent upon need and dedication. Dunnahoe stated, “Dr. O’Neal knows the need and the dedication of the student. They must work for it; participate in Theatre and hold a job while attending classes regularly.”
NavCo Publisher, Kris Smith stated, “If you would like to donate to the Ronny Heil Memorial Scholarship program, please contact Charles Dunnahoe at Hometown Medical Associates or by contacting myself at the NavCo Chronicle office.” You are encouraged to tag your check with the RHMS Scholarship.
Publisher note: When I was made aware of this scholarship, all of those old High School memories came flooding back – from standing in line in the old Wortham School Cafeteria on Pizza Day in the late 80’s through graduation, to attending the same prom, to the late night parties that our parent’s knew nothing about, and to finally hearing the news that a classmate had lost his life to such a horrific tragedy. The pain that Ronny must have endured, just praying he would be able to see his parents, siblings, and friends again.
I researched to find out just where the cowards were that ended this young man’s life before he even got to be who he was supposed to be. I will not dignify their existence in this article, however, one died in prison and the other is serving in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system.
Ronny was frustrating sometimes, but was a kind, gentle soul who deserved more from this life than what they gave him.