Jerry Heiss, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, died on Saturday, December 26, 2020, at his Rhode Island home, Tockwotton on the Waterfront. He was 90 years old.
Dr. Heiss was born in Brooklyn on March 4, 1930, the son of Sam and Rose (Herman) Heiss. He attended Tilden High School and New York University and received his doctorate from Indiana University. In 1956, he joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut, specializing in social psychology and the sociology of the family. His 40-year career included a year of study in Perth, Australia and a visiting professorship at the College of the Virgin Islands.
Jerry's rich professional life involved research as well as teaching and he authored many articles and several books, most notably, The Social Psychology of Interaction, published by Prentice-Hall in 1981. He held editorial positions at several journals, was a member of the University Senate, and served on numerous university and departmental committees. He took pride in his activism and was regarded as an advocate for fairness, diversity, equal opportunity, and the maintenance of academic standards.
Outside his professional life, Jerry pursued a succession of cultural and horticultural interests that included opera, the wildflowers of western Australia, bonsai and orchid-cultivation, the marine life of Caribbean reefs, Chinese cooking, Art Deco design, and photography.
He always enjoyed exploring new subjects and took pleasure in sharing his discoveries. After moving to Tockwotton in 2018, he began creating monthly presentations for the other residents in which internet-sourced video clips were combined with his explanations and commentary.
He is survived by his daughters, Linda Heiss (Fred Szymanski) and Elizabeth Heiss (Steve Karlin), two grandchildren, Sam Karlin and Amelia Karlin, and a sister, Maxine Hein. He also leaves behind two nieces, Beth Belisle and Vanessa Ahlgren, their families, and a large extended Israeli step-family. His much-loved wife of 30 years, Naomi, predeceased him in 2018. His first marriage, to Betty, ended in divorce.
The family wishes to thank the Tockwotton staff for their expert and caring attention to Jerry throughout the months of his final illness. They brought enormous comfort to him and to his family.
A memorial service will be held after pandemic restrictions are lifted.
Donations in Jerry's honor may be made to the Rhode Island Food Bank, rifoodbank.org.
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