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RIP, Donald Heath

RIP, Donald Heath

5 Mins
March 28, 2016

don heath

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.
donald heath atlas

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

David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.

David Kelley Ph.D
About the author:
David Kelley Ph.D

David Kelley founded The Atlas Society (TAS) in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Kelley is a professional philosopher, teacher, and writer. After earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975, he joined the philosophy department of Vassar College, where he taught a wide variety of courses at all levels. He has also taught philosophy at Brandeis University and lectured frequently on other campuses.

Kelley's philosophical writings include original works in ethics, epistemology, and politics, many of them developing Objectivist ideas in new depth and new directions. He is the author of The Evidence of the Senses, a treatise in epistemology; Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, on issues in the Objectivist movement; Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence; and The Art of Reasoning, a widely used textbook for introductory logic, now in its 5th edition.

Kelley has lectured and published on a wide range of political and cultural topics. His articles on social issues and public policy have appeared in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman, On Principle, and elsewhere. During the 1980s, he wrote frequently for Barrons Financial and Business Magazine on such issues as egalitarianism, immigration, minimum wage laws, and Social Security.

His book A Life of One’s Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State is a critique of the moral premises of the welfare state and defense of private alternatives that preserve individual autonomy, responsibility, and dignity. His appearance on John Stossel’s ABC/TV special "Greed" in 1998 stirred a national debate on the ethics of capitalism.

An internationally-recognized expert on Objectivism, he has lectured widely on Ayn Rand, her ideas, and her works. He was a consultant to the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and editor of Atlas Shrugged: The Novel, the Films, the Philosophy.


Major Work (selected):

Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl),” Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Summer 2021); This review of a recent book includes a deep dive into the ontology and epistemology of concepts.

The Foundations of Knowledge. Six lectures on the Objectivist epistemology.

The Primacy of Existence” and “The Epistemology of Perception,” The Jefferson School, San Diego, July 1985

Universals and Induction,” two lectures at GKRH conferences, Dallas and Ann Arbor, March 1989

Skepticism,” York University, Toronto, 1987

The Nature of Free Will,” two lectures at The Portland Institute, October 1986

The Party of Modernity,” Cato Policy Report, May/June 2003;and Navigator, Nov 2003; A widely cited article on the cultural divisions among pre-modern, modern (Enlightenment) and postmodern views.

"I Don't Have To" (IOS Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, April 1996) and “I Can and I Will” (The New Individualist, Fall/Winter 2011); Companion pieces on making real the control we have over our lives as individuals.

Work and Achievement