William H. Heaney, PhD
(April 10, 1945 - November 25, 2020)

William Hardy Heaney was an anthropologist, fisherman, and photographer, who passed away much too early, on November 25, 2020, after a four-month battle with COVID-19.  Born in Washington, DC, on April 10, 1945, Bill grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Even with a life spent in motion — for he would later settle with his family in Ridgewood, NJ; Big Timber, Montana; and Waimea, Hawai’i — his mind was never far from the Wisconsin of his childhood where his family co-owned with the Schwalm family the daily local newspaper, The Oshkosh Northwestern, until 1998.

Bill’s travels began early. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, in 1963. Following a year at the Leys School in Cambridge, England, he continued his studies at Amherst College. He earned a PhD in Anthropology (1977?) from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, under the guidance of Professor Lambros Comitas. Fieldwork for his dissertation took him to the Pacific to research migration, economic opportunity, and clan life in the Wahgi Valley of newly independent Papua New Guinea. When one of his Omngar hosts was killed in a road accident, Bill assisted in the rescue of his minman, his soul, so that it would not wander aimlessly.

In 1981, after teaching at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, Bill returned to the United States and lived in New York where he worked in finance and joined the Anglers’ Club. After earning an MBA from Yale University’s School of Management, he worked in non-profit management, administrating Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. However, anthropology remained his real love, and he went back to teaching classes in anthropology at Columbia and the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh.

A true Renaissance man known by family and friends for his “insatiable curiosity and a boundless heart,” he always wanted “just one more” photo of his family, “just one more” book, “just one more” cast in a river’s fading light.

Bill was instrumental in establishing with other Teachers College alumni The Anthropology Research Fund in Honor of Lambros Comitas in 1992. The fund supports field research expenses of graduate students in the Applied Anthropology Program in their pilot ethnographic work.