Don Hegland, a former NASA engineer and the chief editor of ASSEMBLY magazine for a quarter century, died July 21. He was 77.

Hegland was chief editor of the magazine from 1985 to 2009, and, as editorial director emeritus, he was still serving in an advisory role at the time of his death. During his tenure, Hegland shepherded the magazine through five ownership changes, two name changes and six design changes. When Hegland took the helm, ASSEMBLY was published just 10 times annually. Today, the magazine is published 13 times annually, and the ASSEMBLY brand encompasses a Web site that is updated daily, a weekly e-newsletter, webinars, social media, and a stand-alone trade show and technical conference.

“ASSEMBLY magazine would not be where it is today without the stewardship of Don Hegland,” says John Sprovieri, the current chief editor of ASSEMBLY. “Don was the face of the magazine, and he relished that role. He was passionate about the magazine, and he was dedicated to serving the community of assembly technology suppliers. To Don, the people in our industry were more than just customers or sources, they were friends. He will be missed.”

“Don Hegland was the chief editor of ASSEMBLY during my first seven years with the brand,” says Tom Esposito, publisher of ASSEMBLY. “He was a valued associate and an essential member of our management team. He was instrumental in helping move ASSEMBLY effectively into the digital age of publishing. First and foremost, Don was committed to the credibility and integrity of the brand. From content development to production and graphic design, Don had a hand in all of it.

“He was the ultimate professional, and a dear friend.”

ASSEMBLY was not Hegland’s only stint in trade publishing. From 1973 to 1985, he worked at the now defunct Production Engineering magazine, published by Penton Media Inc. During that time, he rose from assistant editor to chief editor. Prior to that, he worked for the Ocean Systems Div. of defense contractor Gould Inc., writing technical manuals for torpedoes.

Hegland earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Northern Illinois University and a master’s degree in physics from Iowa State University. From 1962 to 1971, he was an engineer at NASA’s Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, where he planned and set up a solid-state physics research facility to study the magnetic properties of rare earth metals, alloys and intermetallic compounds. He authored numerous technical articles on rare earth elements.

“He was a flight instructor, an expert marksman who loaded his own cartridges, and a handyman’s handyman who seemingly could tackle anything,” recalls his son, David. “He single-handedly jacked up the sagging floor of my mother’s farmhouse over a span of two years without her even knowing he was doing it. He was an expert photographer, and above all, he taught his children well.”

Besides his son, Hegland is survived by his wife, Eleanor; a daughter, Kathryn Leenhouts, MD; two grandchildren, Donald Leenhouts and Forrest Rosenberg; and a sister, Rev. Carol Hegland.