Photo Caption: Theo Heap (left) served as the first Athletic Director of MCC, while John Riggs (right) was the first President. (Photo courtesy MCC Athletic Department)

Theo J. Heap and John D. Riggs

When you walk around the Southern and Dobson campus of Mesa Community College, you will most likely come across the gymnasium and the athletic stadium. These buildings have two names spelled across them, “Theo J. Heap,” and “John D. Riggs”. 

If you are not knowledgeable about MCC and the long path it has taken to become what it is today, you more than likely have no idea who these men were. However, without either man, MCC would be a vastly different place, or not even be in existence, today.

All schools have a beginning, those who forge ahead and sacrifice for the good of not only the school itself, but the community around it. If you were to do a deep dive into the history of Mesa Community College, two of the most common names you would see that would appear in the infrastructure of MCC would be Theo Heap and John D. Riggs.

Riggs was a teacher at Mesa High, Gila Junior College, and Phoenix College before he would eventually become the athletic director of Gila Junior College and Phoenix College.

Riggs was named the Executive Dean of what would become MCC in 1963 when it was called just a Mesa extension of Phoenix College. 

In 1965, he would be named the President of the school. Riggs was known as the “Father of athletics,” due to his determination to make MCC an elite school in the world of athletics.

 Riggs was very dedicated to the school and would attend as many school events as he could, from athletic events to club gatherings and fundraisers. He was very involved with students and wanted to ensure they were put in the best possible position to succeed at MCC.

Riggs wanted the school’s athletic program to be one of the best in the area and tasked Theo Heap with building the program from the ground up into a force to be reckoned with.

Heap was hired by Riggs in 1965 to serve as the Dean of Students and the Athletic Director. Heap was born into a farm family, working on the farm helped instill hard work and dedication into him from a young age. He served in the Air Force during WWII where he was stationed in Italy. 

Heap attended and played basketball at ASU where he earned a degree in education. Before his time at MCC he was a teacher at St. Johns AZ, Coronado High School, and Scottsdale High School.

While serving as the Athletic Director at MCC, Heap helped the school capture 14 National Junior College Athletic Association championships, all coming at the Division I level.

Even though Heap was in charge of athletics, he expanded his role to help the school grow. During his time, he took on roles such as: dean of admissions, dean of administrative services, and was president of the college for eight years.

Heap’s expertise and experience did not help just MCC. He played roles in the NJCAA as the treasurer, regional director, and eventually served as president for 20 years.

Heap would then become involved in the United States Olympic Committee for 28 years. Heap was the chairman of the Education Committee and the World University Games Committee.

Heap was a very dedicated man to his faith as he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where he served in many positions.

Heap did retire in 1978, but still worked at the MCC Red Mountain campus to some capacity. In 2006, Heap was honored and the school named their gymnasium after him. 

Heap and Riggs were foundational pieces in MCC that helped the school gain their footing to be able to grow into what it is today. MCC serves the community by helping thousands gain an education to become doctors, engineers, and countless other productive members of society.

Author