We note in sorrow that Donald Heath died Friday, March 25, of a heart attack. He was 56.
Don worked for our organization as our first director of operations, 1992-98, leaving a successful position in sales at IBM in Canada. Over the years since, he attended many of our annual Summer Seminars and Summits and was a generous friend and advisor.
Don earned his BA in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Canada, in 1983, and his Masters in Management Sciences three years later. At IBM (1985-1992) he led teams of specialists in marketing and information technology to provide solutions for customers, winning sales awards every year.
After leaving us in 1998, he moved to Los Angeles to work for the Reason Foundation through 2007 in fund-raising and finance. Since then he specialized in finance and accounting, most recently for New York Live Arts in Manhattan.
I first met Don in the late 1980s, when I gave a number of talks in Toronto, Waterloo, and elsewhere in Canada. At the time, Don was a key player in one of the most active and effective networks of Objectivist students, including Susan Dawn Wake, Stephen Hicks, and many others who have gone on to successful careers and engagement with TAS. Don was especially active in that network. He debated the moral basis of capitalism, appeared on radio and TV, and engaged hundreds of young people on Objectivist topics, recruiting them for campus clubs and other activism.
Don was a bright light in our universe.
In 1989, he organized a weekend event—a panel with me and two other speakers—that we offered in multiple cities. I learned from that experience how skilled he was in managing operations. So when he wrote me in 1992, two years after I founded what was then called the Institute for Objectivist Studies, to propose that he join the staff, I jumped at the chance. Easy for me, but incredibly gutsy for Don: He was leaving a promising future at IBM for a small nonprofit with an uncertain future, leaving Canada for the US, and leaving his active life in Toronto for the backwater of Poughkeepsie, New York, where we were based at the time.
During his time on the staff, Don put our business affairs on a professional basis. He designed the program format for the Summer Seminar that we still use to this day, and we worked together to build attendance from 40 to over 200. He trained the administrative staff, managed fund-raising campaigns that built our revenues, worked with me on strategic issues, and prepared reports to our board, among the myriad tasks involved in any organization.
Don was a man of tremendous energy and enthusiasm. He had the quickest wit of anyone I have known. He made me laugh, he made me proud to know and work with him, sometimes he made me mad, as friends and colleagues do, and now it makes me sad that I will never have his company again.
My heart goes out to his family and many friends, and especially to his beloved Rebecca Reale, with whom he attended the 2015 Atlas Summit, where his enthusiasm, charm, wit, and insight helped make the event special.
Don was a bright light in our universe. It’s a great loss to know that his light is gone.
From the archives:
Read Don's 1995 review of The Letters of Ayn Rand: Correspondence to Reality