Richard D. Heffner
University Professor of Communications and Public Policy
Dowling Professor of Communications and Public Policy
Journalism and Media Studies
Contact Info
Office Hours:
By appointment.

The School of Communication and Information mourns the loss of Richard Heffner, who died on December 17. Heffner was an influential teacher and mentor at the school for 50 years, and the producer and moderator of public television's "The Open Mind." Rutgers' statement about his death can be found at Rutgers Today. Below is the biography that appeared on Heffner's SC&I Web page.

Richard D. Heffner has been University Professor of communications and public policy at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, since 1964. He commutes there from New York City, where he produces and moderates "The Open Mind," his more than five decade-old, prize-winning television program seen each week on public broadcasting stations around the country. For 20 years, Heffner commuted even further — to Hollywood — where, from 1974 to 1994, he served as chairman of the board and administrator of the motion picture industry's voluntary film classification and rating system. He recently completed a lengthy narrative of his Hollywood years for Columbia University's distinguished Oral History Project, and his "As They Saw It: A Conversational History of Modern America," a book derived from his broadcast interviews over the past half-century, was published by Carroll & Graf late in 2003.

Trained as an American historian, Heffner also is the author of "A Documentary History of the United States," which has appeared in a Fiftieth Anniversary expanded and revised Seventh Edition, and the editor of Alexis de Tocqueville's classic "Democracy In America," both published by Penguin Putnam and widely available in America's key bookstores. Additionally, Heffner's collaboration titled "Conversations With Elie Wiesel," was published in 2001 by Random House's Schocken Books.

A Phi Beta Kappa honors graduate of Columbia (A.B., 1946; M.A., 1947), Heffner has taught history and political science at the University of California at Berkeley, Rutgers, Columbia, Sarah Lawrence and the New School for Social Research. He holds honorary doctorates from the State University of New York and from Long Island University.

In 1964, after a parallel career in the media, Heffner moved his academic focus from Americana to communications and public policy, continuing to write in both fields, with articles, book reviews and other commentary in such publications as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Saturday Review, the American Historical Review, etc. His lectures and seminars — particularly overseas for the State Department in such countries as the former USSR, Israel, Germany, Greece, Japan, and Italy — also range from historical to media matters.

Heffner began his broadcasting career in radio (1953) with "History In The News" on WMCA, New York, and as a radio news reporter at ABC, moving to NBC (1954-59) as producer-writer-moderator of such television series as "Man Of The Year," "Princeton '56," "All About Men -- All About Women" and "The Open Mind." He also served as director of public affairs programs at WNBC-TV. In 1959 he went to CBS, first as editorial consultant to the CBS, Inc. Editorial Board, then as director of special projects for the CBS Television Network.

In 1961, on leave from CBS, Heffner played a leading role in the acquisition and activation of Channel 13 as New York's first public broadcasting station: WNET. He was Channel 13's founding general manager until 1963, when he established Richard Heffner Associates, Inc., a broadly-based communications consulting firm that has served such clients as IBM, TIME, Inc., The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, AT&T, American Airlines, Pfizer, Inc., and Sears, Roebuck & Company.

He has also directed such foundation projects as the Twentieth Century Fund's Commission on Campaign Costs in the Electronic Era (1968-69), and the Ford Foundation's study of American television's environmental content (1970-72). He was for many years vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees of the New York City Police Foundation. In 1986, he served as chairman of Liberty Conference during America's Statue of Liberty Centennial.

Heffner was born in New York City on Aug. 5, 1925. His wife, Dr. Elaine Heffner, serves as senior lecturer of education in psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College, and was for many years program pupervisor of the Nursery School Treatment Center at the Payne-Whitney Clinic of New York Hospital. She is also in private practice as a psychotherapist. The Heffners have two sons: Daniel, a film producer in California, and Andrew, an assistant  New York State Attorney General. The have four grandchildren. The Heffners have homes in New York City, Putnam Valley, New York, and Palm Springs, Calif.