In Memory of Leonard Heumann


Leonard Franklin Heumann, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, July 31, 1941 - September 13, 2016

By example, he taught us the meaning of social glue. He was our professor, our colleague, a mentor to faculty and students, our friend. Len had a profound impact not only for his outstanding teaching and research in housing and social gerontology, but also for his unsurpassed community involvement here in Champaign-Urbana.

Len was born July 31, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois to Jewish parents who had managed to escape Leverkusen, Germany and the Holocaust in 1937. They eventually moved to San Diego and Len attended San Diego State University and then University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a degree in Architecture in 1965. He completed his Master’s in City Planning at U.C. Berkeley in 1967, and in 1973 earned a Ph.D. in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

Len Heumann joined the faculty of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in 1970, part of a newer era of academics with Ph.D.s who were joining a faculty which had largely been practitioners such as Louis B. Wetmore and Lachlan F. Blair. As only Lock Blair could get by with saying, “Len is the other nice guy in the department.” Len taught housing policy, Len3community development, and planning practice. He served as Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and Psychology (1970-2001) and as the first coordinator for the Ph.D. Program in Regional Planning (1984-1996).

Len regularly contributed his musical skills to department events by transforming himself into “Lennie” and the Lennettes, performing at the Student Planning Organization’s Fall Ball, the International Food Extravaganza, retirement events, and more. Len would slick back his hair, put on shades, and transform to the style of the song, whether a flash back to the ‘50s or channeling punk band Devo’s “Whip it.” Len’s urban planning lyrics replaced the originals and the Lennettes chimed in with background vocals and smooth moves. A special family version of Lennettes paid tribute at his retirement dinner.

Following his retirement in 2001, Len returned to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning for several years (2004 - 2011) to teach UP 473/Housing and Urban Policy. He also contributed an annual housing lecture for UP 101/Introduction to City Planning, in which he commanded the attention of a tough crowd without the use of slides.

Len2Professor Heumann was a pioneering researcher in the field of housing policy and community development, with a particular interest in the housing needs of minority groups, the elderly, disabled, and low income populations. He is recognized for his domestic and international research in urban and regional planning policy, including the development of better housing for low income and functionally disabled elderly, studies on how stable interracial neighborhoods evolve, and the improvement of analytical tools for low-income housing problems. His research on housing for the elderly, race and neighborhood change, housing needs analysis, and public housing has had a worldwide impact and continues to influence scholars today. Len also made significant contributions to scholarship on planning pedagogy, especially regarding how to integrate community based research and engagement into the teaching of urban planning.

Len was internationally recognized for his research on all aspects of community development and planning, especially those that address the needs of the disadvantaged. Some of this research focused on how to develop housing and supportive services for the elderly in places such as: Great Britain, West Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Australia, and the United States. He has served as a member of the Steering Committee at the International SYSTED Conferences, a series of international conferences that focused on problems related to health and social services for the elderly and disabled. He was a speaker at eight conferences from 1983-2011 in Montreal, Canada; Perth, Australia; Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Geneva, Switzerland; Grenoble, France; and Tokyo, Japan, and he organized the SYSTED conference in Chicago. In 1986, he was awarded a Fulbright grant for his research on aging support in Israel, which further connected him with others doing similar research worldwide. In 2003, Len was awarded the Gerontological Society of America Fellowship for his career of international gerontology and urban planning research.

In his early career in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, Len concentrated on racial segregation and integration of housing in the Philadelphia area, particularly West Mount Airy, the focus of his dissertation. These studies were groundbreaking and indicative of his tremendous personal engagement. This research was supported by his desire to help minority families get housing loans. He and his wife Roberta provided financial assistance, co-signed loans, and even forged loan applications by changing the 'race' category. Len was also a visiting instructor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (1969); an instructor in the Graduate Department of City Planning at Columbia University (1969); and an urban planning consultant for several firms and organizations in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The footprint of Len’s commitment to engagement in our local community remainsLen4 large. Numerous student projects and workshops continue to serve as foundational documents for community engagement, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods . Len was a founding member and former vice-president of the Homestead Corporation, a non-profit organization that builds affordable housing and rehabilitates deteriorated housing for homeless and low-income families in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois. He served as a Strategic Coordinator for Partnership Illinois and he developed a model for the University of Illinois to better engage with the needs of Champaign-Urbana’s low-income community. In addition to his service at the Homestead Corporation and Partnership Illinois, Len also served as president of the Sinai Temple, president of the Board of Family Services of Champaign County, and as chair of the Planning Commission in the City of Champaign.

Professor Heumann received many honors for his research and service including University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Campus Award for Excellence in Public Service (2001). The Leonard F. Heumann Endowment for Social Equity Issues was established in honor of Professor Heumann’s tenure. Part of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, the Endowment supports activities that address the needs of the disadvantaged, especially in the areas of housing, social planning and community development. Len received the American Institute of Certificated Planner National Award for instructor of best student project (1983), among many other professional honors.

Despite his great academic and community success, Len’s greatest tribute is his loving family, including wife Roberta (married June 21, 1964), daughter Sarena, sons Aaron (Gina) and Micah (Sara), and beloved grandchildren Sydney, Allena, Landrey, Maddox, Daniel, and Asher.

To learn more about the Heumann Endowment, please follow this link to our web site:

With thanks to the University of Illinois Archives, Professor Andrew Greenlee, and Assistant Head Alice Novak

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