Heaney’s philanthropy recognizes family, friends who shaped his upbringing

Bill Heaney could be described as a conversationalist and a thoughtful academic, whose mind is an encyclopedic treasure of historical nuggets.

Heaney is an anthropologist who has traveled the world for his research and taught at universities in the United States and abroad. As a member of a three-generation Oshkosh newspaper family, he has never lost touch with his hometown.

He credits his upbringing with influencing his worldly curiosity and desire to help others. Heaney is an advisor to the Heaney Family Fund, the foundation's first Donor Advised Fund, created in 1995. Recently, he has created funds to honor individuals who influenced his youth.

"Where I benefited most was from the city itself – be it the teachers or police or neighbors or schoolmates… I remember it fondly. Wherever I've been, and I've been overseas and traveled a bit, I've always felt that way."

His roots in the community, and with the Foundation, are intertwined with their histories. Heaney's grandfather, Oscar J. Hardy, was a long-time publisher of the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, the city's daily newspaper, founded in 1860. Hardy, a paperboy who caught the attention of owner Col. John Hicks, moved up through the ranks and took over the paper after Hicks' death in 1917. Hardy was one of 10 forward-minded community leaders who created the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation in 1928.

"I feel very proud and thankful for what my mom taught us so long ago about the importance of giving back and for my father's contribution as a board member to several organizations." – Bill Heaney

Heaney's father, Samuel, was in medical school when Hardy, his father-in-law, asked him to join the newspaper business. Samuel moved to Oshkosh in 1948 with his wife, Susan, and Bill, then a toddler (a second child, Curtis, came shortly after), to run the Northwestern with A. Thomas Schwalm until it was sold in 1998.

Memories of life in Oshkosh have inspired Heaney's philanthropy. He has created funds to honor:

Oscar and Gertrude Hardy – Heaney's grandparents. "(Oscar) built the Oshkosh Northwestern building in the midst of the Depression to show his support for and his belief in the local economy. I am very proud of him for what he accomplished," says Heaney.

Ruth Kossel – a practical nurse who watched after Bill and Curtis, and became a lifelong family friend "who taught us both to respect every persons' individual character and to show respect for their personal dignity," he says.

Norbert and Hope Vette – the Heaneys' neighbors on Hazel Street and owners of Vette's Sportshop. "Having a sporting goods store virtually next door, was a dream-come-true for a young man aged 5 to 12," says Heaney.

Heaney says that through his philanthropy, he is "saying thank you for the lifelong skills, interests and awareness that family friends have given me, not only pride and a sense of belonging…but also the foundation for the kind of persons we've all become."

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