- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

CLEAR SPRING, Md. (AP) - While most 6-year-olds spend their summers playing outside, participating in sports or watching TV, 17-year-old Joseph Heavner of Clear Spring spent his childhood teaching himself mathematics and reading high-school textbooks.

As a child, Heavner not only taught himself high school math and science, but by middle school, he had read the entire “Grey’s Anatomy,” the 19th century text on the anatomy of the human body.

Heavner likes to joke that the book has no relation to the popular television show of the same name.

“I was kind of an odd child,” he said. “I was kind of a secluded kid when I was little. I didn’t have great social skills. I don’t think many teachers knew what I was doing because I was so secluded.”

Heavner’s passion for learning and his quest for knowledge continue to this day.

Not only will he receive a diploma from Clear Spring High School on June 3, but on May 14, Heavner received an associate degree of science in biology, physics and mathematics from Hagerstown Community College.

Heavner was part of HCC’s STEMM Technical Middle College, a program that allows students to earn an associate degree while completing their high-school graduation requirements.

The STEMM program includes courses in science, technology, engineering, math and medical. Heavner was one of 15 students enrolled in the program.

While at HCC, Heavner took an average of 20 credits per semester. On top of that, he was a volunteer and paid tutor, served as president of the STEM Club, a liaison to the Phi Theta Kappa Student Government Association, a member of the school’s History Club and the student government president.

HCC President Guy Altieri praised Heavner during commencement.

“Joe is an avid learner, seeking out resources and knowledge beyond the classroom, networking with universities, taking courses over the summer and teaching himself new subject matter,” he said. “Just as importantly, those who know him personally describe him as kind, considerate and always willing to lend a hand. There is no doubt that Joe will have a bright future and excel in all that he does. HCC is proud to have been a part of his journey.”

The coursework was challenging and the days were long, but Heavner said he wouldn’t change a thing.

“The nice part of being (at HCC) are the professors,” he said. “They have significantly more background in teaching.”

Christopher Lewis, an associate professor of mathematics, said it was a privilege having Heavner in his class.

“In a career of teaching that spans over 30 years at the community college and university levels, Joseph Heavner is without a doubt the most accomplished and gifted student I have ever taught,” Lewis said in an email.

“He is also mature, kind and thoughtful. He has volunteered many hours as a tutor and has been a personal mentor to students in the math program, constantly encouraging them to take additional classes and become involved in competitions. He has been a source of inspiration to those around him, which I am sure will continue as he begins graduate courses in mathematics this fall at the University of Maryland, College Park,” he said.

Heavner, who will enter the University of Maryland’s Honor College as a junior, is slated to take three graduate math courses.

“I’m looking forward to the course work,” he said. “It’s going to be challenging and certainly not like anything I have had before.”

He then plans to pursue a doctorate degree in mathematics or physics, followed by a medical degree and a law degree.

Heavner’s career plans also are ambitious.

“Ultimately, I want to have a few careers in academia, doing research, teaching, medicine, law and politics,” he said.

For now, Heavner said he just wants to relax.

“It feels good to be done,” he said. “I’ve been here so long, and I’ve been so busy. I want to play some sports and hang out with family and friends.”


Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., https://www.herald-mail.com

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