Elmhurst U. Alumna to Give $500,000 to Jazz Studies Program

August 20, 2021 | by the Elmhurst University COVID-19 Task Force

From left: President Troy D. VanAken, John Heakin, Doug Beach, Maureen Lamberty Heakin, Dr. Annette M. VanAken

Elmhurst University alumna and longtime donor Maureen Lamberty Heakin will make a gift of $500,000 to establish an international visiting artists series for the University’s acclaimed jazz studies program.

A 1972 Elmhurst graduate, Heakin made the gift commitment to honor and build on the work of Doug Beach, former director of the award-winning Elmhurst University Jazz Band and jazz studies program. Beach retired in May after 43 years with the University.

The Maureen Lamberty Heakin International Artists Series for Jazz Studies will bring world-renowned jazz artists to Elmhurst University for an extended period of time, allowing them to establish relationships between the artists and campus community; and enabling students to experience firsthand how the master performers “think, create and view life.”

“Maureen’s gift is the perfect way to carry forward Doug’s extraordinary legacy as a teacher, mentor, leader and musician,” President Troy D. VanAken said. “We greatly appreciate her generosity, and her role in helping to give our students a transformative experience.”

Heakin has been a fan of Beach’s for more than 20 years—ever since she and her husband, John, began attending Elmhurst’s annual June Jazz concert, then called Summer Extravaganza. “We were wowed by the talent and professionalism of the students,” she said.

“Not only did Doug teach students how to keep the rhythm of the drumbeat, master the fingering on the sax and cause the trumpet to sing, he instilled passion in his students by exhibiting his own enthusiasm and hard work every day. He demanded excellence from them, and they returned it in kind.

“He brought real-world experience to his lesson plans by creating opportunities for the students to interact with well-known professional artists, many of whom are his close friends as well as musical colleagues,” she said.

“What I hope to accomplish through my gift is to provide funding for future Jazz Studies directors to continue this very important piece of the learning puzzle for our students—one-on-one interaction with those who have a wealth of experience to pass on to them.”

Beach agreed that “by bringing in professional jazz artists, our students will rub elbows with them, work one-on-one with them, and learn about this art form just by being around them.” He said Heakin’s gift will be “a tremendous asset to our department for the long term, and one that’s going to have an impact on many, many students.”

During his career at Elmhurst University, Beach garnered some of the institution’s highest teaching honors, including the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award and the Dr. Andrew K. Prinz Faculty Merit Award. He also is a Grammy Award winner, a frequent recipient of the Plus Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), and a member of the Elmhurst Civic Hall of Fame.

The Heakin gift is one of two endowed funds recently established in Beach’s honor. The University also has formed the Doug Beach Jazz Scholarship Fund to commemorate Beach’s significant contributions and career. Proceeds will benefit students with financial need who perform in the Elmhurst University Jazz Band and/or in a jazz combo.

Heakin, who graduated from Elmhurst with a degree in psychology, currently is retired after a successful career in marketing research, primarily at Swift & Co. and ConAgra Foods. In addition to management of marketing research projects for several major processed and fresh meat brands, she developed a company-wide benchmarking program, brand equity study and annual trends review. She also directed the operation of the Consumer Research Center at the Museum of Science and Industry’s popular Food for Life Exhibit.

For 40 years, Heakin has been a loyal donor not only to Elmhurst’s music program but also to the nursing program, the Weigand Center for Professional Excellence, the physical sciences and the Annual Fund.

“At Elmhurst, I found the intellectual stimulation I needed to find my ‘self.’ I got the solid educational background I needed to be competitive in the world,” she said. “Schools like Elmhurst hold an important key to the healthy and happy growth of our young people, and I want to support those efforts.”

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