Ambassador William vanden Heuvel
Posted on June 16, 2021 · Posted in Featured News Story, Roosevelt House General News

Remembering Ambassador William vanden Heuvel (1930-2021)

The Board and staff of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, one of its “founding fathers” and longest-serving and most inspiring Advisors.

For nearly 80 years an admirer of both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt—he attended FDR’s Hyde Park funeral as a teenager, granted access to the ceremony by Eleanor herself—he built his lifelong interest into decades-long leadership at a variety of institutions devoted to the Roosevelt legacy: the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library at Hyde Park; the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island; and of course, at Roosevelt House.

Here, he encouraged the transformation of the deteriorating building into a thriving public policy institute. And he became a wise and inexhaustible member of our Advisory Board, encouraging its leaders to focus on both the Roosevelt House legacy—and on the issues the House was created to explore: public policy, in acknowledgment of FDR’s leadership in domestic and global affairs; and on human rights, in acknowledgment of Eleanor’s leadership in the field, in the U.S. and at the United Nations.

At Roosevelt House, we will honor our beloved Bill’s special connection to the Roosevelt family—and our landmark home—by naming in his honor the west elevator, which FDR used, after his bout with polio, to navigate the six-story dwelling as he recovered his health and mobility and recommitted himself to public service. We are so delighted that we were able to announce this plan to the Ambassador and his family at the book launch for his aptly titled 2019 memoir, Hope and History.

We will sorely miss Bill vanden Heuvel’s wisdom, his eternal, “Happy Days are Here Again” optimism (his favorite song—which he often sang in public), and his inspiring presence at so many Roosevelt House public programs. At these, Bill sat in his usual first-row seat, audience right, laser focused, and by tradition asking the often-challenging first question of our guest speakers. He brought us history—and brought us hope.

Roosevelt House was blessed by his presence—and its staff and audiences will miss him enormously. Our sympathies go to the entire vanden Heuvel family.

Jennifer J. Raab
Hunter College President

Harold Holzer
Jonathan Fanton Director of Roosevelt House