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News

Carthage mourns loss of Trustee Emeritus Don Hedberg ’50

  • The late Donald D. Hedberg '50
    Submitted photo
September 06, 2021

While saddened by the passing of Trustee Emeritus Donald D. Hedberg ’50, those who knew the extraordinary Carthaginian are celebrating his legacy of philanthropy and expert guidance to the College.

Mr. Hedberg died peacefully Sept. 1 at home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He was 94.

Elected to the Board of Trustees in 1992, the self-made entrepreneur became one of Carthage’s largest donors, with $6.5 million in total giving. He established a distinguished professorship in entrepreneurial studies and provided the lead gift for Hedberg Library.

For his immense influence, Mr. Hedberg received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1991 and the Carthage Flame — the College’s highest honor — in 2002.

“As Don’s relationship with Carthage grew and deepened over the years, he became a dedicated supporter of learning and of entrepreneurship,” said President John Swallow. “His legacy lives on through his important investments at Carthage for just these purposes, and we are all incredibly grateful.”

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, Mr. Hedberg enrolled at Carthage, which was then located in western Illinois. He earned a degree in chemistry in 1950 and taught the subject for 10 years at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Sensing a void in the business-to-business market, Mr. Hedberg’s entrepreneurial mindset led him to launch Lab Safety Supply from his garage in Janesville, Wisconsin. Serving schools and laboratories, the company supplied educational tools and safety equipment.

His daughter Peggy ’81 later ran the highly successful business, which the family sold to W. W. Grainger in 1992.

“Don possessed the most creative mind and spirit I ever encountered,” said President Emeritus F. Gregory Campbell, who served at Carthage from 1987 to 2012.

Shaped by lessons from his own career journey, Mr. Hedberg directed much of his energy in retirement to the intersection of business and the sciences. He envisioned and funded the ScienceWorks program at Carthage and chaired the Natural Sciences Advisory Committee, the College’s first such advisory body.

A committed lifelong learner, he regularly took his children to the library. After he and his wife donated the funds for a new public library building in Janesville, Mr. Hedberg insisted on doing the same for his alma mater.

Carthage dedicated Hedberg Library in 2002.

“After resisting my entreaties for months, Don called out of the blue one morning and said, ‘Greg, I want to fund the library,’” Mr. Campbell recalled. “When I started to ask a question, he interrupted and repeated, ‘I want to fund the library.’ Almost 20 years later, Hedberg Library still serves students and faculty members right where it belongs, at the heart of the Carthage campus.”

In 2004, Mr. Hedberg became a trustee emeritus. In later years, he split time between homes in Wisconsin and Florida and traveled extensively.

“Celebrating atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, rafting past a huge grizzly in Alaska, hiking amid monitor lizards on a Coral Sea island — Don, his friends, and I enjoyed great adventures together,” Mr. Campbell said.

Mr. Hedberg’s surviving family members include his wife, Marilyn, likewise a civic leader and trustee emerita of the College. He has three daughters from his first wife, Geraldine, who passed away in 1998.

Services are pending, with Derrick Funeral Home in Lake Geneva handling the arrangements. Those who would like to share a remembrance of Mr. Hedberg or offer condolences to the family can post a message to the online tribute wall that accompanies his obituary.