Arnold Heggestad stands in his office in front of shelves filled with books.

Warrington College of Business mourns the loss of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center founding director Arnold Heggestad

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – It is with the greatest sadness we share the loss of University of Florida Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center Founding Director and Professor Emeritus Arnold “Arnie” Heggestad. He was 77 years old.

“We were all brought together as part of Arnie’s vision to create an entrepreneurship center that would challenge students to launch companies and change the world,” said Jamie Kraft, director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. “The Center has grown to do just that since its inception, and we all have been lucky enough to be contributors to that dream.”

In addition to his direction in founding the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center at the Warrington College of Business in 2000, Heggestad taught economics, finance, banking, and served as chair of the now-Eugene F. Brigham Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate and associate dean of the Warrington College of Business. In the 1990s, prior to launching the Entrepreneurship Center, Heggestad oversaw technology commercialization at UF.

In addition to his time at UF, Heggestad served as the chairman of the state Commission on Government Accountability and was a founder of the Enterprise Florida public-private economic development organization and its private equity fund.

Growing up just outside of Washington, D.C. in College Park, Maryland, Heggestad received his BA in economics from the University of Maryland and Ph.D. in economics from Michigan State University. After receiving his Ph.D., Heggestad returned to Washington, D.C. to work as an economist at the Federal Reserve. After three years with the Fed stationed on the fifth floor of the Watergate office building, one floor below the Democratic headquarters during the Watergate scandal, Heggestad came to Warrington in 1973 to try teaching for a year. In that year, he was hooked, and continued at Warrington for 36 years until his retirement in 2010.

In those 36 years, Heggestad had a profound impact on those around him. Dr. Kristin Joys met Heggestad in 2000 while she was a graduate student at UF, writing her dissertation on the nascent field of social entrepreneurship. Now the Director of Social Impact and Sustainability Initiatives at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, Joys credits Heggestad with being her mentor, advisor, cheerleader and the person who made it possible for her to have her dream job creating opportunities for students to learn about social entrepreneurship at UF. 

“Arnie was the catalyst who made it possible for our Social Impact and Sustainability Initiative to launch, followed by the Young Entrepreneurs for Leadership and Sustainability (YELS) Summer program the following year,” said Joys. “Twenty years later, not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for Arnie’s impact on my life and that of countless other students. It’s been a delight to be a part of CEI since its founding – to see Arnie’s vision become a reality – and in some ways, exceed what he’d imagined possible.

“The Center is very much to credit with much of the entrepreneurial activity on campus and the greater-Gainesville community – and that all comes back to Arnie and his passion for entrepreneurship and wanting to empower students to change the world.”

Serial entrepreneur Cameron MacMillan (BSAc ’07, MSE ’09), who co-founded Raise the Village as a student in the Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship program and went on to launch RotoGrinders, acquired by Better Collective in May 2019 for $35M said, “Professor Heggestad was an integral part of my studies, and I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without his vision and initiatives to help create UF’s Entrepreneurship program. He will be fondly remembered, and sorely missed.”

Like with Joys, MacMillan and many others, Heggestad strongly encouraged all students to follow their passions.

“The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center is Arnie’s life-legacy, where his hearty laughter filled the office, and he could often be heard encouraging students and asking, ‘If you have a passion, what time is better than now?’” said Kraft.

Read more about Heggestad and his impact in his obituary.