Ray Heffner (1925–2012)

Ray Lorenzo Heffner, Emeritus Professor of English, died November 28, 2012, at Lantern Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Coralville. He was 87.

Dr. Heffner was born March 7, 1925 in Durham, N.C., and spent his early years in Baltimore and in Seattle, where he graduated from Broadway High School. At age sixteen, he entered Yale University as a scholarship student. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy 110th Construction Battalion in the Central Pacific. After the war, he returned to Yale, where he earned his BA, MA, and PhD degrees and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Scroll and Key, and the Elizabethan Club.

He began his forty-two year teaching career in the Department of English at Indiana University, where he taught from 1954 to 1966. During that time, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Although he held a number of academic administrative positions during his lifetime—Vice President and Dean of Faculties at Indiana University, Provost at The University of Iowa, and President of Brown University, and served on state and national boards such as the Surgeon General’s Committee on Nursing Education, the Iowa Humanities Board, and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools as an examiner and consultant—he preferred to be remembered as a good teacher.

Upon his retirement as Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Iowa in 1996, he spent his happiest years as a volunteer teacher at the Johnson County Senior Center, where he taught three to four courses each year until he retired in April 2012 because of ill health. During those years, he enjoyed teaching a wide variety of courses ranging from Greek, medieval, and Renaissance literature to Nigerian novels and James Joyce’s Ulysses. "One of his students said that knowing Ray had made him a better person," recalls his wife, Ruth. "I remember that as a great tribute to Ray. He was very much loved by his students."

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ruth Heffner; a son, David Todd Heffner, and his wife, Elizabeth of North Liberty; a son, Christopher Dabney Heffner, and his wife, Marsha of Belleville,IL; and three grandchildren, Christopher Todd, Lindsey Elise, and Jaclyn Nicole Heffner.

According to his wishes, no memorial service will be held. Memorial gifts may be directed to the Iowa City Animal Adoption Center (4852 Sand Road), the Iowa City Hospice (1025 Wade Street), or the Johnson County Senior Center (28 S. Linn Street).