In Memoriam

Mary Ellen (Meme) Hieneman (1965-2021)

On August 5, 2021, we lost a pioneer and ardent champion of positive behavior support (PBS).  Dr. Meme Hieneman died on that date following a long and valiant struggle with cancer.  Meme left a close and loving family, including husband Brad and sons Jake and Steven, as well as legions of colleagues, students, and the many beneficiaries of her dedicated efforts on behalf of individuals with significant behavioral challenges and their families.  Meme was strong, creative, diligent, and inspiring, and she was never afraid to take on the most daunting of challenges.  Meme’s contributions to PBS were many, but the characteristics we will miss the most were her spirit, her optimism, her smile, and her friendship.


After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida, and working in a program for individuals with severe disabilities, Meme went on to earn her master’s and doctoral degrees in Special Education from the University of South Florida.  Her graduate education coincided with the early development of PBS, and her dissertation research was the first study to illuminate factors that were important for the achievement of successful outcomes in community-based behavioral support (Hieneman & Dunlap, 2000, 2001).  Her early and ongoing efforts in PBS were grounded in these findings, focusing largely on training and dissemination.  Furthermore, as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, she was instrumental in yoking the disciplines of PBS and applied behavior analysis (e.g., Hieneman, 2015).


Consistent with her emphasis on home and community contexts. Meme soon adopted a concentration on families and the role of parents in behavior support.  Recognizing a need for practical resources, she wrote an important guidebook for parents, with clear information about PBS and its use in resolving behavior difficulties in home settings (Hieneman, Childs, & Sergay, 2006).  She also contributed a series of family-friendly articles for Parenting Special Needs Magazine, and an online education and support program for parents through IRIS Educational Media.  As a researcher, Meme was a key participant in a multi-site randomized evaluation of a parent intervention that combined PBS and optimism training (Durand, Hieneman, Clarke, Wang, & Rinaldi, 2013).


Although Meme was an accomplished writer and researcher, her primary contributions were as a teacher, consultant and mentor.  She always sought to do good things for practitioners, students, the PBS community, family members, and the people they supported.  She established the Home and Community Network of the Association for Positive Behavior Support and she served for many years as its president and chair.  She was an instructor and faculty member with the University of South Florida and Purdue University Global, and she was an extraordinarily active consultant, helping numerous organizations to implement effective management and PBS intervention strategies.  Above all, Meme was a revered mentor and a powerful inspiration for hundreds, serving as few others have to disseminate the effective technology, the dedication, and the heart of PBS.


Dr. Meme Hieneman lived a rich life with grace, intelligence, and humanity.  She left the world a better place. We are grateful for her substantial contributions, and we will miss her.


Glen Dunlap

Dunlap, G. (2022). In Memoriam: Mary Ellen (Meme) Hieneman (1965–2021). Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions24(1), 3-3.



Durand, V.M., Hieneman, M., Clarke, S.,Wang, M., & Rinaldi, M. (2013).  Positive family intervention for severe challenging behavior I: A multi-site randomized clinical trial.  Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 15, 133-143.


Hieneman, M. (2015.  Positive behavior support for individuals with behavioral challenges. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 8, 101-108.


Hieneman, M., Childs, K.E., & Sergay, J. (2006).  Parenting with positive behavior support: A practical guide to resolving your child’s difficult behavior.  Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.


Hieneman, M., & Dunlap, G.  (2000).  Factors affecting the outcomes of community-based behavioral support: I. Identification and description of factor categories.  Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 2, 161-169.


Hieneman, M., & Dunlap, G.  (2001).  Factors affecting the outcomes of community-based behavioral support: II. Assessing the relative importance of factor categories.  Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 3, 67-74.

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