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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

The Passing of Samuel F. Heffner Jr. '56

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Samuel F. Heffner Jr. '56

It is with extreme sadness that I announce the passing, on Saturday, April 8, 2017, of longtime Chairman of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees, Samuel F. Heffner Jr. ’56. Mr. Heffner was the founder and president of Dickinson-Heffner Inc. (now Heffner and Weber), a successful building and land development firm in the Baltimore-Washington area. He was 82.

One of the very great pleasures of my experience as president of Rensselaer was the opportunity to work closely with Sam Heffner. He was a visionary, doer, incredible supporter, mentor, and friend. Never in my observation of volunteer leaders in various sectors of society have I encountered a more dedicated, committed, and hard-working person who was able to offer such a remarkable combination of true wisdom, a willingness to devote countless hours to the work of the Institute, and the generosity to make significant philanthropic commitments.

Mr. Heffner graduated from Rensselaer with a bachelor of architecture degree in 1956. After his graduation, he served two years in the U.S. Air Force, and then began a career in the real estate development business that spanned nearly 50 years and resulted in the development of several million square feet of office and industrial space in the Baltimore region, primarily in the vicinity of Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport.

In addition to a wide range of experience in the real estate field, Mr. Heffner participated in a broad range of outside civic, business, and educational activities. He served on numerous civic boards, including the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, and was a founder and former chair of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., devoted to the fostering of economic development and transportation interests by businesses in the BWI area.

Mr. Heffner joined the Rensselaer Board of Trustees in January 1977, and later chaired the Advancement Committee, the Rensselaer Technology Park Committee, and the Rensselaer New Century Campaign. He was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees in December 1995, and served in that role for 15 years.

During his tenure as Chair, Rensselaer underwent a true renaissance, and made significant strides in revitalizing the campus, including the renovations of many of the core campus buildings, along with the construction of several new buildings. His support of the Rensselaer Plan led to increased enrollment, enhanced scholastic excellence, and significant research growth. A key contribution he made to Rensselaer was his leadership effort in the construction of the Samuel F. Heffner Jr. ’56 Alumni House — fully designed, constructed, and funded by Rensselaer alumni and alumnae (including Mr. Heffner himself), and the new President’s Residence. Upon his retirement, he was named honorary chairman and trustee emeritus.

Mr. Heffner was a member of the Stephen Van Rensselaer Society of Patroons of Rensselaer, and received the Rensselaer Alumni Association's Alumni Key Award in 1980, the Albert Fox Demers Medal in 1984, the Distinguished Service Award in 1987 for his extensive Rensselaer volunteer work, and the 1993 Fellows Award from the School of Architecture.

Mr. Heffner is survived by his sons, Scott Heffner and Stephen Heffner, and three grandchildren: Scott Jr. and Matthew Heffner (Scott) and Danielle (Stephen).

A celebration of his life was held on Thursday, May 18 on the Rensselaer campus at 2:00 pm in the theater of the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, with a reception to follow. View at:

Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Sam Heffner’s family and friends. Please join me in taking a moment to reflect on the contributions this giant made to our university and to our world. He will never be far from our thoughts.