Heffes Passes Torch Through Scholarship

Harry Heffes was a beloved professor. An endowed scholarship bearing his name will continue a worthy legacy.

After a long career at the famed Bell Labs, the late Harry Heffes came to Stevens to teach. He did that and much more, including mentoring generations of students, earning admiration from his colleagues, and inspiring an endowed scholarship.

As his fellow professor Kevin Ryan remembers, Heffes entered academia with a sense of duty. “He told me he had a desire to pass on what he knew to the next generation,” Ryan said. “It’s like the torchbearer statue on our campus – Harry felt it was his turn.”

Heffes was born in 1939 and grew up in Brooklyn, and though the Dodgers ruled his borough, young Harry was ambitious and rooted for the more successful Yankees. He graduated from New York’s City College and earned a doctorate from New York University. He worked at Bell for 28 years, including to develop technology for NASA’s Apollo program. He was an expert in queuing theory and VoIP networks, and he was elected as a lifetime fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Ryan met Heffes in 1986 when he was a doctoral student and Heffes led the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. “I had asked him to be my dissertation advisor,” Ryan said. “Our relationship started as professor-student, then advisor-student, and then we became friends.”

Ryan, who now teaches at Stevens in the School of Business, watched how Heffes connected in the classroom. “Harry cared for his students, and his students cared for him. He had a lot of charisma, and he was very dedicated to teaching. He was demanding, but fair.”

Heffes, who received the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2007 and 2012, was proud of Stevens. Ryan recalls him during an academic conference describing Stevens to a colleague as a small, technology-centric school in the Northeast that is dedicated to student success. “Harry felt that Stevens was a place where, if a student came here and wanted to work, they were surrounded with the people and resources to make that happen.”

After he passed away in 2016 at age 77, Heffes’ family cemented his legacy by establishing the Professor Harry Heffes Endowed Scholarship.

“This scholarship is an enduring legacy his family is passing on,” Ryan said. “I know Harry would be deeply touched. It’s an acknowledgement of how much Stevens meant to him, and how important it was for him to pass the torch.”