Cheryl Heppner, a member of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2013, passed away on her 72nd birthday, October 14, 2023, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

According to an obituary posted online by the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, Cheryl A. Heppner was born in Maine, raised in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, lived in Winchester, Virginia, and spent many years in Fairfax, Virginia. Most recently she lived in Golden Beach, Maryland, with her husband of 50 years, Fred Heppner. 

Profoundly deaf from the age of 7, Hepper was mainstreamed through school and graduated from Penn State University in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. It was there that she met her future husband, Fred. 

Cheryl Heppner

Heppner served as executive director of the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC) for 25 years before her health declined. She worked tirelessly for the rights and needs of people who were deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and deafblind. She often testified before the Federal Communications Commission, and helped pass legislation pertaining to television captioning and other accessibility rights for people with hearing loss. 

Prior to becoming NVRC’s Executive Director, Heppner was a dedicated outreach specialist for the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and she taught sign language at Shenandoah University. She was a devout advocate for “whatever works!” in communication. 

After 9/11, Heppner was instrumental in co-authoring a national study for the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network, highlighting the needs of people who were deaf and hard of hearing in emergency situations.  

Heppner was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Women at their Best in 2000. Her memoir, Seeds of Disquiet: One Deaf Woman’s Experience, was published in 1992. She was the recipient of numerous awards from organizations serving the deaf and hard of hearing community, including the Hearing Loss Association of America, Hamilton Relay, Association of Late-Deafened Adults, and Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc. 

During a special event at the White House in the early 2000s, Heppner was photographed with George W. Bush, a dog-lover and owner of Golden Retrievers. The President was drawn to Cheryl’s hearing dog, Galaxy, and was curious about what a hearing dog is trained to do. During the Obama administration, she was invited to the White House again to attend the signing of the 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act. 

Heppner was preceded in death by her father, Ernest McIntosh, and her mother, Norma McIntosh. She is survived by her sister, Gayle Gepert of Golden Beach, Maryland, and her brothers, Randall McIntosh of Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, and David McIntosh of Baltimore, Maryland. 
A celebration of Cheryl Heppner’s life will be held on Sunday, November 19 from 2-4 p.m. at NVRC, 10467 White Granite Drive, Suite 312, Oakton, Virginia. Please confirm your in-person attendance or register for the livestream on the NVRC website. Donations in Heppner’s memory may be made to the Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC). 

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