Siegfried "Zig" Engelmann
1931 - 2019

Siegfried "Zig" Engelmann
November 26, 1931 -
February 15, 2019

Siegfried "Zig" Engelmann died peacefully at his home in Eugene on February 15, of heart failure with his life partner of 35 years, Lou Bradley, by his side.

Zig was born on November 26, 1931 in south Chicago, the second of three sons of Victor and Rose Engelmann. He was raised in his house with his grandfather, George Engelmann, a German immigrant who came to the United States in 1865. Zig graduated from Fenger High School in 1949. He attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Philosophy and met his future wife. He married Therese Piorkowski in 1953 and divorced in 1984. They had four children, moving to Oregon in 1970.

A pioneering scientist and educator for more than 50 years, Zig invented Direct Instruction (DI), an efficient and effective way to teach any skill. The first DI programs Zig developed focused on teaching foundational skills in reading, writing and math. As a professor of education at the University of Oregon and founder of the National Institute for Direct Instruction, he attracted graduate students from around the world. He eventually wrote more than 100 programs, covering core academic subjects from preschool to high school along with a variety of other important subjects. Millions of at-risk children learned when taught by teachers trained in DI, often when nothing else worked. He never gave up on a child or blamed children for the failings of the instruction they received. He lived by his motto: "If the student hasn't learned, the teacher hasn't taught."

Soon after Zig arrived in Oregon, he purchased 120 acres of logged property, which started his non-professional mission as a steward of the land. On most weekends, during the growing seasons, he and his sons (and later, he and his life partner) cleared trails and pruned trees. During trees' dormant months, they planted trees – lots of trees of many different varieties. If Zig wasn't working or riding one of his many motorcycles, he was on the land caring for trees and enjoying nature. Today, thousands of trees flourish in forests around Lane County because of Zig's stewardship.

He is survived by his brothers, Manfred and Gerhardt (Mary Ann), children Eric (Annette), Kurt (Dianna), Owen (Charlene) and Joyce, three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and his life partner, Lou Bradley, and her son , Devin.

There will be a memorial to celebrate Zig's life at 1pm on April 13 at Venue 252, 252 Lawrence St., Eugene, Oregon, with a reception to follow.

Donations in Zig's name can be made to the Engelmann Foundation , PO Box 448, Eugene, Oregon, 97440 or to the McKenzie River Trust at

Please sign the guest book at

Published by Eugene Register-Guard on Mar. 24, 2019.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
Memorial service
Venue 252
252 Lawrence St., Eugene, OR
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I am a student of education at a university in the Midwest. I never met professor Engelmann, but over the past few years, I have read his work and the work of his colleagues as I have realized the lack of value in what the teacher education program at my college was offering. While the teacher education program at my college simply taught us about useless fads and pseudoscience, I was lucky enough to discover via my own research the works of Zig Engelmann and his cohorts, and I am incredibly grateful for that. Professor Engelmann was a great man, and in his honor, I want to assure all who are reading this that, as a new teacher, I will always use research-based teaching methods that ensure the success of all students.
Kevin Butler
May 20, 2019
Zig was larger than life. Although it's been 40 years, I have some lasting memories of him that have endured. He would hold class down in the basement of his clinic while lifting weights, and snap himself with a rubber band around his wrist every time he had the urge to smoke. I found myself championing his methodologies for capturing the child not benefiting from a traditional learning approach throughout my career. DI worked wonderfully. This world is better place because of Zig. Philosopher/Educator
Ed Fiegenbaum
April 17, 2019
Zig was the most AMAZING educator of all time! He cared about kids---especially the hard-to-teach kids and conveyed that commitment to everyone he touched. I was an award-winning ADI recipient; however, I could never have begun to approach being the teacher I was without Direct Instruction. In fact, I told Ziggy when he handed me my award (2000) that I felt as if I was getting an award for "adding two eggs and a half a cup of water to an OUTSTANDING cake mix!" (Zig's kind response was, "It looks like you found the eggs and the water.") We have lost the giant of educational curriculum. There could never be another to fill his shoes!
Angelica Fazio
April 3, 2019
I had the privilege of meeting Zig at a NIFDI conference, and I was immediately in awe of him. I loved listening to him speak, he was not one to mince words and told it like it was. I appreciated that about him. He will be dearly missed.
April 2, 2019
I worked for Siegfried Engelmann & Wes Becker at Engelmann & Becker Corp in 1973. Was for only 8 months but enjoyed working for them. Ziggy as he was called in the office will be greatly missed.
Judy Muir
March 23, 2019
Zig was an inspirational man who did a lot for the educational world. His sharp and witty sense of humor will be missed.

My love and prayers are with his immediate family and his DI family as they grieve his passing.
Dede Rouse
March 23, 2019
"A DIku" by Tom Besson

Zig did more for kids
Than anyone else could do
Just by teaching them
Tom Besson
March 20, 2019
Missing my education-father.
kerry hempenstall
March 19, 2019
An amazing American, whose passion for equal and high achievement outcomes was unparalleled in American education. Plus, a source of great stories.
Mark Shinn
March 18, 2019
DI has made a huge difference for thousands of students in the school district where I worked. I felt privileged to attend a national DI conference in Eugene where Zig's speech inspired and affirmed. Hopefully, the DI faithful will continue to promote DI and Zig's high standards and expectations. Karen Cochran - Maryland
Karen Cochran
March 18, 2019
Randi Saulter
March 18, 2019
Thank you for your existence Zig, now forever in the ultimate dimension.
March 18, 2019
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