William Lawrence Heisey, a generous supporter of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and a member of York’s Board of Governors from 1985 to 1997 when he was made an honorary governor, died May 28 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 78.
The W. Lawrence Heisey Graduate Awards in Fine Arts were launched in 2000 following Mr. Heisey’s $200,000 donation to the Faculty, matched by the provincial government, to provide a sustaining fund for five graduate awards. He was also a supporter of the Art Gallery of York University.
A strong patron of the arts and community organizations, Mr. Heisey sat on the boards of the Toronto French School, The Banff Centre, the Canadian Opera Company and the Chamber Players of Toronto. In addition, he served as chairman of the commercial division of the United Way in Toronto.
Mr. Heisey worked for 13 years at Proctor & Gamble, rising to the position of manager of the advertising production division, joined Standard Broadcasting Ltd. as executive vice-president of sales in 1967 and in 1971 took on the role of president at Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., where he saw an opportunity to sell the company’s romance novels at grocery stores and drugstores. It was a decision that led to great success – Harlequin became one of the largest paperback publishers in the world.
In 1990, Mr. Heisey became chairman emeritus of Harlequin, and four years later he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
He is survived by his three children, Janet, Mark and Brenda.