News Charles Ota Heller Holocaust Survivor And Author To Speak - Garrett College

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Campus News

October 17, 2017

Charles Ota Heller, Holocaust Survivor and Author, to Speak

As part of the Joan Crawford Lecture Series of presentations this fall, Garrett College is pleased to announce Charles Ota Heller, Holocaust survivor and author, will speak to the community on Wednesday, November 1st at 7 p.m. in the Garrett College Auditorium on the McHenry campus.

Heller, will discuss his memoir, Prague: My Long Journey Home, a true, riveting adventure and moving recollection of a loving family nearly destroyed by the Nazis, it is an inspirational story of a different kind of Holocaust survivor. Son of a mixed marriage, the author was born in Czechoslovakia three years before the German occupation of his country. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was unaware of his Jewish roots, even after his father escaped to join the British army and twenty members of his family disappeared. Before his Christian mother was taken away to a slave labor camp, she hid him on a farm to protect him from deportation to a death camp. As the war was coming to a close, he exited his dark closet in order to watch the exodus of the hated German occupiers. He picked up a revolver thrown away by a retreating soldier and shot a Nazi. He was nine years old.

The book is a personal account of a long journey of persecution, of struggle and survival in Nazi- and Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia, and of eventual escape from tyranny to America. It is the narrative of an assimilated American, who left the horrors of the past – and even his name – behind in the Old World to live the proverbial American Dream. He became a successful engineer, educator, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, management consultant, and writer. Then two cataclysmic events following Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution brought him face-to-face with demons of his former life. On his personal journey, Heller discovered and embraced his heritage – one which he had abandoned so many decades earlier.

Today, he is a full-time writer, the author of Prague: My Long Journey Home (2011) and Name-Droppings: Close Encounters with the Famous and Near-Famous (2013). His business autobiography, Ready, Fire, Aim! An Immigrant’s Tales of Entrepreneurial Terror was recently released by the WriteLife imprint of Boutique of Quality Books Publications on June 1, 2017. He is currently working on his fourth book, a “coming-to-America” memoir, Cowboy from Prague.

Until 2006, Charlie was Director and Investment Chair of Athlone Global Security, an international venture capital firm investing in early-stage companies in the homeland security sector. From 2000 to 2003, he was General Partner of Gabriel Venture Partners, an early-stage, bi-coastal, venture capital fund with $260M under management. He has been very active in the Mid-Atlantic business community for many years as a successful entrepreneur, investor, board member, and mentor to many of the region’s entrepreneurial companies. He was President of the Baltimore-Washington Venture Group, an angel investor network. Until 2000, he was Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where he built one of the nation’s top-ranked entrepreneurship centers.

An internationally recognized lecturer on entrepreneurship, venture capital and corporate venturing, he was a freelance writer and columnist for more than 20 years. Today, he serves on the boards of Walden University (chair of finance committee), NewSchool of Architecture and Design (chair of finance committee), and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (chair of mission delivery committee).

Heller is married, has one son and three grandchildren, and resides in Annapolis, Md., with his wife Susan. He played Division-I college basketball, as well as club soccer and volleyball; today, he is an avid golfer, skier, boater, and hiker. For 30 years, he and his family raced sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay and offshore. He is a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club, CEO Club, Maryland Writers’ Association, Authors Guild, Rotary Club of Annapolis (Paul Harris Fellow), and Naval Academy Golf Association.

In memory and in honor of the dynamic educator Joan R. Crawford, the Garrett College faculty created the Joan Crawford Lecture Series.  Crawford, who died on October 5, 2010, had served the College community for more than 30 years.  She joined the staff of the fledgling community college in 1972 and worked in many capacities in the decades that followed, including serving as the head of the Humanities Division and Director of Enrollment. After her retirement, Crawford was named Professor Emerita.

The Joan Crawford Lecture Series of presentations are offered free of charge and the general public and community members are invited to attend. For more information, persons may contact Dubose at 301-387-3008 or