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. “(Doug) 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.

“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. 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.

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.


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