Memorial Service for Donna Habenicht

   Life Stories | Posted on June 24, 2022

Donna J. Habenicht, EdD, emerita professor of counseling psychology at Andrews University, died at Woodland Terrace on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, at the age of 87.

Her memorial service will be held at Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University on Saturday, June 25, at 4 p.m. Visitation with the family will take place from 3–4 p.m.

Memorial contributions can be made to Your Story Hour, PO Box 15, Berrien Springs, MI 49103. Messages and memories can be shared at or you may add comments below.

written by Dr. Larry Habenicht (son)

Donna Jeanne (Lugenbeal) Habenicht is best remembered for her passion for the spiritual development of children. She was an elementary teacher, missionary in Puerto Rico, professor and chairperson of the education department at Andrews University, author, and world-renowned lecturer.

Donna was born Dec. 13, 1934, in the Philippines to missionary parents, Edward Newton and Cora (Garber) Lugenbeal. She grew up in the Philippines, Argentina, Mexico and Peru where her parents served the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After Pastor Lugenbeal’s tragic death in Lima, Peru, on March 11, 1949, Cora with her two children, Donna and Ed, moved to Michigan where Donna graduated from Adelphian Academy in Holly in 1950. She went on to Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) graduating in 1954 with a major in elementary education and a secretarial science minor.

The week after graduation, she married Herald Habenicht and they honeymooned across the United States to Loma Linda, California, where Herald began medical school that fall. Helping support the family through Herald’s medical school years, Donna worked as an elementary school teacher and a secretary in various departments and doctor’s offices in Loma Linda and later White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.

After Herald finished his pediatric residency the family accepted a call to mission work at Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Donna soon noticed that there were no children’s ministry programs in the local Seventh-day Adventist churches in all of Puerto Rico. She set about to change that by writing lessons and program helps in Spanish and then visiting all the churches on the island to give workshops on how to have programs for children.

After nine years of mission work the family moved to Berrien Springs in 1970 and Donna worked as secretary for the chaplain’s office at Andrews University and later was put in charge of freshman education. With her two children now in academy and college she felt she could continue her own education and obtained a master’s degree in education in 1974 and went on to complete an EdD in educational psychology in 1977, both from Andrews University. She taught in the Andrews University School of Education and served as chair of the education department from 1990 until 1995.

 Throughout this time, she remained active in promoting the spiritual development of children. She was active in Sabbath School programming and set up the Children’s Resource Center for her local church, Pioneer Memorial Church. Through the years, she also worked with the General Conference Sabbath School Department in development of programs for children, including the GraceLink curricula which is now used in children’s Sabbath Schools throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

After her retirement from Andrews University in 2000, Donna and Herald traveled the world giving seminars and promoting spiritual growth and development of Christian values in children. She authored five books on the spiritual development of children including her most popular one, “How to Help Your Child Really Love Jesus,” which was translated into at least six languages.

Donna passed quietly to her rest on June 22, 2022, after declining with dementia for several years. Those who took care of her during those years were always impressed by her smile and pleasant nature.

Donna is survived by her husband of 68 years, Herald Habenicht; a brother, Ed (Marilyn) Lugenbeal; son, Larry (Debbie) Habenicht; daughter, Nancy (Bruce) Schilling; four grandchildren: Liza (Matthew) Knecht, Jeffery (Yomarie) Habenicht, Jonathan (Kristen) Schilling, and David (Brianna) Schilling; and five great-grandchildren: Jocelyn Schilling, Levi Schilling, Edward Knecht, Calvin Knecht, and Colton Schilling.

Throughout her life Donna had a growing relationship with her Savior, Jesus Christ and she dedicated herself to sharing with as many as she could how they too could develop a friendship with Him. Only in heaven will she meet all those who benefitted from her efforts. We look forward to that day.


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