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Heyck, Thomas William, 1938-2014



  • Existence: 1938 - 2014


Thomas William (also known as “T.W.” and “Bill”) Heyck was a distinguished professor of History at Northwestern University from 1968 until 2007.  He specialized in British and Irish history, writing particularly on intellectual and political life in the late Victorian era.  He was an extremely active scholar, serving on various panels and professional associations as well as being heavily involved in the Residential College system at Northwestern.  Although he served on numerous faculty committees and in a number of university posts of distinction, including an appointment as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, among his most important university committees was the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience that he chaired in 1988.  This task force examined all facets of undergraduate life at Northwestern and made substantial recommendations for improvements that became the subject of much discussion on all sides of the issues involved.

After earning his B.A. (1960) and M.A. (1962) degrees from the Rice Institute and Rice University, Heyck entered the United States Army, where he served from 1964 to 1966, rising to the rank of Captain.  He arrived at Northwestern as an Assistant Professor in 1968, earning his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 1969, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1973.  His arrival coincided with a time of tremendous flux and anxiety in American universities in general, and Northwestern was not immune to these issues.  Almost coterminous with Heyck's arrival, ongoing efforts to reinvigorate community and academic life at Northwestern resulted in the push that eventually formed the Residential College system.  Heyck was active in this system almost from the start of his tenure at Northwestern, and he served in Lindgren House, which became the Philosophy and Religion Residential College, until that house was closed.  Soon after the closing of Lindgren House, the members of various disciplines in the humanities succeeded in starting Chapin Humanities Residential College, with which Heyck was associated throughout the rest of his career at Northwestern either as an associate, a fellow, or as master.

In the 1970s, Heyck published The Dimensions of British Radicalism: The Case of Ireland 1874-1895, an important text dealing with Irish Home Rule in relation to the overall political situation in Britain in that era; he also began his involvement with the Midwest Council on British Studies at this time.  He served as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1979-1982. In 1981, he was promoted to full Professor; in 1982 he published his second book, The Transformation of Intellectual Life in Victorian England (the Choice outstanding academic book of 1982); and in 1984-1985 he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow.  Among many teaching awards, he was named CASE Professor of the Year for Illinois in 1991 and was the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence from 1997 to 2000.  During his tenure at Northwestern, he was quite active as a director of student dissertations, and many of his former students kept in contact with him for years afterwards.  Also in the late 1980s, Heyck established the Humanities College tutorials, focused courses with very small class sizes based out of Chapin in which fellows of the college directed their students in readings on focused subjects of long-term interest.

In the 1990s, besides serving as chair of the History Department from 1989-1992, Heyck was also involved in the Peer Review of Teaching initiative.  He continued to be an active scholar, much sought after for conferences and academic fora, and was unflagging in his support of the work of other scholars in his field.  In 1992, his two-volume history of the British isles was published in the United States as The Peoples of the British Isles: A New History, from 1688 to 1870 and The Peoples of the British Isles: A New History, from 1870 to the Present.  In the latter part of his career, Heyck was also associated with Northwestern’s Heyck lecture series on Irish and British history, which brought key figures in Irish life such as Bertie Ahearn, the Taioseach of Ireland, and George Mitchell, an architect of the Good Friday accords, to speak at Northwestern.  In June 2007, Heyck was appointed an Emeritus Professor of History. He died on September 7,  2014.

More extensive listings of Heyck's publications, beyond the information contained in the publications section of this descriptive inventory, appear in his curriculum vitae (Box 1, Folder 1).

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Thomas William Heyck (1938-2014) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/16/25

The Papers of Thomas William Heyck (also known as "T.W." and "Bill") document his career as educator and administrator at Northwestern University from 1968 to 2007. A scholar of British and Irish history, he was also involved in significant campus committee work, including establishing the Residential College system and chairing the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience.

Dates: 1966-2007; Other: Date acquired: 04/02/2008