Legendary MCC president Theo J. Heap passes away

Picture of Diana Occhiuzzi, Theo Heap, Tony Occhiuzzi
Theo Heap with active Alumni Board members Diana and Tony
Occhiuzzi at the Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Future
rededication of the iconic stained glass Thunderbird on April 27, 2016.

Legendary Thunderbird Dr. Theo J. Heap, 95, passed away Dec. 12, 2021. Hired in 1965 by MCC’s first president, Dr. John D. Riggs, Heap was tasked with building the college’s athletic program. By the time he became president of MCC in 1978, the Thunderbirds had won an amazing 14 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national championships, all at the Division I level. In 1986, the college recognized his many contributions with the naming of the Theo J. Heap Gymnasium. At the 2006 MCC Athletic Hall of Fame, he was honored with the Dr. John D. Riggs Award.

Current Athletic Director John Mulhern said, “Theo J. Heap was a great leader at MCC in athletics and across the campus community. He was one of the college’s early pioneers. To me and many others, he is synonymous with MCC’s successful founding during its early years.”

While athletic director, Heap was also associate dean of students and took on the role of dean of admissions for one year, dean of administrative services for two, and led the college as president for eight years. Even after his retirement he continued to work part time at the Red Mountain Campus.

Heap’s reputation extends nationally. He played a major role in the NJCAA as regional director, treasurer, Theo Heap seated at desk and president of the organization, leading to his induction into the NJCAA Hall of Fame. During his time with the NJCAA, Congress passed the Title IX Act, aimed at ensuring equal opportunities for female athletes. Heap authored an NJCAA constitutional change that brought the organization into compliance with the new law. For more than two decades, he served in leadership at national and international organizations such as the United States Olympic Committee, the United States Collegiate Sports Council, and the World University Games. Please find an expanded obituary at tinyurl.com/TheoHeapObituary.