A photo of Donald "Don" Heggemann wearing a protective face shield as he works on a ceramics project.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Donald “Don” Heggemann, who served as the office administrator for Northeastern Illinois University's Department of Art + Design, died on Oct. 23, 2023. He was 59 years old.


A memorial service will be held from 3-5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at Lakeview Funeral Home, 1458 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. A service will also be held on Monday, Nov. 20 at Martin Funeral Home in Warrenton, Missouri, the city where Don grew up. 


Don is survived by his sisters Nancy (David) Butner and Linda (Dan) Jordan; and his brothers Paul (Lisa) Heggemann and Ronald (Melinda) Heggemann. He is also survived by many nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews and a large extended family. He also had many friends.


Don studied Ceramics at Northeastern and began working for the University as a Student Aide in the Accessibility Center (now known as Student Disability Services) in 2011. In September 2022 he was hired as extra help in the Department of Art + Design before becoming their full-time office administrator. His passing is a great loss for Northeastern and those who knew and worked with him.


Ceramics Instructor Dubhe Carreño remembered Don as someone who was generous with his time and knowledge, sharing what he’d learned with students and making himself available to help others in the Ceramics Studio. He had taken one of her ceramics classes around 2010 and continued to take ceramics classes at Northeastern since. She celebrated his imagination, recalling ceramic-themed Halloween costumes Don and a classmate had created and fun ceramics pieces he had made.


“Don was not only a coworker, he was a dear friend,” said Carreño. “As a student, he was very creative, committed to learning and had fun with clay.  In my advanced ceramics class, he made a 4-foot tall baby giraffe, a ceramic leg of ham and the backside of a life-size deer to hang on a wall as a ‘trophy.’” 


The Department of Art + Design held a memorial gathering for Don on Oct. 31 and has since renamed the Ceramics kiln room in his honor. 


A photo of the Ceramics kiln room sign, which reads "The Don Heggemann Memorial Kiln Room 1964-2023" in gold letters on a black background, hanging above a rack with various ceramics.

“The ceramics area was very important to Don and he was an amazing studio assistant,” said Art + Design Chair Kim Ambriz. “Since he spent many, many hours firing student work in the kilns, we thought it would be good to honor his memory by naming that area after him. His love of ceramics and the importance of the studio really shined in the daily operations and the meticulous care that he gave to the space.”


Carreño, who had lunch with Don regularly, said they were both very happy when he got hired by the Department of Art + Design.


“As a studio assistant, Don was diligent, efficient and meticulous in documenting processes to learn from,” Carreño said. “Don was an advocate for conserving resources for NEIU in the way he utilized our materials and the way he planned gas and electric firings.” She continued, “I knew how organized, meticulous and committed Don was at whatever task he embarked on and I know he was thrilled when he got the job.” 


In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Northeastern Illinois University's Ceramics program in the Department of Art + Design at neiu.edu/give. Under "Designation," select "Other" and enter "Ceramics program," then complete the form as prompted. Please contact the NEIU Foundation at (773) 442-4200 with any questions. 


The University encourages students to contact Student Counseling Services or utilize TimelyCare for mental and emotional support. Employees can utilize the Employee Assistance Plan for self-care and TimelyCare to support students in distress.