MOAA Tribute: Col. Arville L. Hickerson, USA

MOAA Tribute: Col. Arville L. Hickerson, USA
Col. Arville L. Hickerson, USA (Photo by Erin Mac/for MOAA)

A Life Member of MOAA who relied on a need-based scholarship-loan to pay for his college tuition and later donated nearly $1 million of his savings to support military children during their college years has died. Col. Arville L. Hickerson, USA (Ret) was 86.


Col. Hickerson and his late wife of 38 years, Elizabeth R. Hickerson, had made donations to MOAA worth more than $175,000 during their lifetimes. They also included the MOAA Scholarship Fund in their estate planning. The MOAA Scholarship Fund recently was informed of a gift exceeding $500,000.


“Arv was an amazing officer who took great pride in being able to give back,” said Col. Jim O’Brien, USAF (Ret), MOAA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, who regularly met with Hickerson to catch up at his favorite Irish pub in Northern Virginia; Hickerson split time between a home in McLean, Va., and a residence in Florida.


Hickerson wasn’t an affluent businessman but rather a retired Army officer who received disability pay and was disciplined about saving and investing. He regularly gifted his savings to help kids, especially military kids.


After making a gift to his high school’s alumni association in 2019, Hickerson said he hoped his gifts would inspire wealthier people to give proportionally, especially for scholarships, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


“An education is now in many good schools over $50,000 annually, and even the upper middle-class, if there is one anymore, needs scholarship money,” Hickerson said. “I needed it when I went to school.”


Colonel Hickerson and Elizabeth Hickerson were named founding members of MOAA’s Never Stop Serving Leadership Circle for their lifetime of giving. Elizabeth Hickerson died in 2008.


Hickerson’s donations supported four Designated Scholarships worth $100,000. He was a founding member of the MOAA Heritage Society at the Platinum Level.  


Hickerson traced his own success in life and in the Army to his education and felt it was the key to the nation’s future, O’Brien said.

The MOAA Scholarship Fund appealed to Hickerson because he liked to support accomplished military children with strong academic performance, extracurricular activities, and community leadership. He appreciated that the fund would continue to help future generations as students pay back their loans, O’Brien said.


Hickerson’s discipline to invest made it possible for him to give back, but he never thought he’d be able to help as many students as he did, O’Brien said.  

At the pub, where Hickerson would order fish and chips and a single Guinness draft beer, he and O’Brien sometimes would “talk for two hours about how much he loved Betty, the Army, the country, and of course hardworking and ambitious military children,” O’Brien said. “He always took that last sip of beer as we were saying goodbye.”


Hickerson’s generosity is also behind MOAA’s most successful fundraising campaign to date.


When The MOAA Foundation established its COVID-19 Relief Fund in April 2020, Hickerson pledged to match $25,000 in donations for families in need. Donors met the challenge within one day, and Hickerson matched the donation, then later donated an additional $25,000, according to Andrea Rand, executive director of the MOAA Scholarship Fund and The MOAA Foundation. The fund has raised nearly $300,000.

“His impact on our programs is profound,” Rand said. “He was a wonderful person who wanted to help military families and knew education was a true gift. He will be missed.”



Col. Arville L. Hickerson, USA (Ret), and
wife Betty (MOAA file photo)


Dozens of children benefited from the financial assistance and scholarships gifted by the Hickersons.  


After assisting family members with undergraduate education funds, the couple established a scholarship for a graduate of Hickerson’s alma mater Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio, to attend Lake Erie College, where Hickerson’s father had been an English professor for 40 years.


Over time, Hickerson gave the high school scholarship funds about $530,000, according to The Plain Dealer, along with other significant donations to local programs in northeast Ohio.


A Lifetime of Service

Hickerson graduated from Dartmouth College in 1956 with a degree in Engineering Sciences through a combination of scholarship-loan, renewable annually, that covered half of his tuition. He was commissioned as a regular officer and first assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.


During his three decades of military service, Hickerson served in multiple command assignments.


He was a company commander for the 2nd Battle Group, 6th Infantry Regiment, when the Berlin Wall was built in August 1961. He also served as a special forces instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School and spent 27 consecutive months with the 1st Air Cavalry Division for eight designated campaigns and the Tet Offensives of 1968 and 1969.

He received six valor decorations and the Purple Heart for his time in combat.


Hickerson met his wife while attending the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, graduating in 1970. After they were married, Hickerson served as the battalion commander in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea and later served on the staffs of the Army Chief of Staff and Inspector General.


While on unpaid leave from the Army, Hickerson used a second scholarship to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Dartmouth. He retired from service in 1983.


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About the Author

Amanda Dolasinski
Amanda Dolasinski

Dolasinski is a former staff writer at MOAA.