[ERH Society] Robert Heath addendum

Norman Fiering norman_fiering at brown.edu
Sun Feb 5 21:25:41 EST 2017

Michael Gormann-Thelen asked a former student of Heath’s, Terry Stevenson, for his memories of Heath, and received the tribute below. Heath’s rebellion against some of the protocols of higher education in this country is much in the ERH tradition.  For an elaboration see Page Smith’s KILLING THE SPIRIT (1990).  Smith himself resigned as Provost of Cowell College at the University of Santa Cruz in California over what he considered to be an unjust denial of tenure to an esteemed colleague.


Von: Terry Stevenson [mailto:tbstao at aol.com <mailto:tbstao at aol.com>] 
Gesendet: Mittwoch, 1. Februar 2017 16:37

I first met Professor Heath while a student at California State University at Northridge in the late 1960s. I was fortunate to take two classes from him.  After my graduation we kept in touch and after I became a lawyer he asked me to assist his lawyer in his lawsuit against the University.  He was asserting that Professors needed to have more control over their scheduled classes and that the University's mandated schedule was an interference with academic freedom.  As a result of his refusal to teach those mandated classes, Professor Heath became one of the few tenured professors in California State University history to be terminated.  Throughout the litigation to try and reverse the University's decision he never looked back or accepted any offers to settle.  He believed he was on a mission to save the University and the passage of time has proved him right.  The system has become dominated by the Administration and the Teacher's Union (which refused to support him) since then.  As he predicted it is more factory with the students as product than a true university.
We lost in the courts and he had to rebuild his life and start over while in his 50's.  He finally found his place again when he moved to France but even there he never avoided an intellectual battle if someone crossed his beliefs.
As far as his World War II experiences in France, I hope someone more knowledgeable about that can give those details.
He showed me what the meaning of grit is and more importantly he showed me how to live a life of sacrifice and faith.  He was a special person whose likes do not come often enough for this poor world.

Norman Fiering
(Director and Librarian Emeritus
John Carter Brown Library)
Correspondence should be directed to:
P. O. Box 603233, Providence, 
RI 02906
Norman_Fiering at brown.edu

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