Dr. Robert A. Heller, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, passed away peacefully on Nov. 3, 2021, in
Burlington, N.C, with his wife and sons at his side. He was 93 years old and by his own words, “did
everything he wanted to do in life.”
Robert was born in Budapest, Hungary, on Feb. 12, 1928. He had a happy childhood until World War II
when he was forced to go into hiding. He was a holocaust survivor who was placed in a Swedish safe
house where he bravely protected over 100 younger Jewish children.
After the war, he and his family emigrated to New York City where he started a new life and attained a
PhD in civil engineering at Columbia University. He was married in 1954 to Agnes Sekely, the love of his
life, and became a father a few years later.
As a structural engineer, Dr. Heller maintained interests in the elastic behavior of structures, fatigue,
reliability, and the safety of structures and probabilistic mechanics. He co-authored “Structure in
Architecture,” used in numerous university courses and translated into 10 languages and four editions. He
co-authored “Salvadori’s Structure in Architecture” in 2016, contributed over 100 articles to scholarly
journals, and worked with the National Science Foundation to develop educational films that are now in
the Library of Congress.
In 1967, Dr. Heller became a full professor at Virginia Tech where he taught for 30 years and became the
J. Frank Maher professor emeritus. He was a mentor to, and loved by, his students and respected by his
colleagues. In 1982, he received an Outstanding Educator award.
Dr. Heller was a consultant for the U.S Army and Air Force, the government of Sweden, and Brown
Boveri in Germany. He was a Fulbright scholar at Technishe Universitat in Austria and visiting professor
at Budapest University of Technology and Economics. Dr. Heller is endorsed by Marquis Who’s Who as
a leader in the fields of engineering and higher education.
Robert loved to water ski and snow ski. He traveled with his loving wife Agnes to many countries from
Russia to China and all over the U.S. Hewas a devoted and loving husband, often giving Agnes credit for
his success and writing her love poems. Agnes and he shared a love for opera and classical music and
supported many philanthropic endeavors.
Robert was a wonderful, beloved father, who shared with his sons skiing, camping, travel, education, love
of family, and family heritage. He was a mentor, a role model, and an inspiration to many. Robert was a
very modest, humble and selfless man who enjoyed life and minimized life’s difficulties.
He was a friend to many and was always conscious of other’s needs. He had a great attitude, good humor,
and good will who touched and inspired many. Robert was not just a gentleman, but a gentle man, who
took care of, and was loved by his family, friends, colleagues, and students.
He was preceded in death by his father, Jeno; his mother, Sari; and his sister, Aniko. He is survived by his
wife, Agnes; his sons Tom and Jim (Carol; his granddaughter Sara, a nephew, Steve Maroti (Michele),
and various nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held Nov. 12, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. at 1860 Brookwood Ave, in Burlington,
N.C (mailing address is 1880 Brookwood). A graveside service will be held Nov. 12 at 3 p.m. at Temple
Emanuel Cemetery, 2900 Orange Ave NE, Roanoke, Va. 24012.
Non-residents of Brookwood are screened at the Rockwood Ave. gate and are equired to wear masks.
Online tributes and condolences may be posted at mccoyfuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Robert Heller Scholarship Fund, the Department of
Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics at Virginia Tech or to Temple Emanuel, Roanoke VA.
Arrangements by McCoy Funeral Home, Blacksburg.