At the University of Dayton since 1984, Professor Heitmann has taught a wide variety of courses in the history of science and technology and environmental history. Active on numerous departmental, college, and university committees, He has an active research agenda exploring the history of the automobile and its culture. His "The Automobile and American Life" (2009 and 2018, 2nd edition) was awarded the Ray and Pat Browne Best Book Award in Popular Culture in 2010. Along with co-author Rebecca Morales he published "Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to Gran Torino" in 2014.In his leisure time, he continues to restore a 1971 Porsche 911T Targa and a 1982 Mercedes-Benz 380 SL. Heitmann served as chair of the Department of History between 1991 and 1995. He is the past Alumni Chair in the Humanities (2006-9), and was also the visiting Knapp Chair in the Liberal Arts and the University of San Diego (2011). In 2019 John was named the distinguished Ohio Historian by the Ohio Academy of History.
Awarded the Williams Prize in Louisiana History, 1988; Awarded the Ray and pat Browne Award for Best Book in Popular Culture, 2010; Ohio Distinguished Historian, Ohio Academy of History, 2019