Obituary of William Leonard Joyce
William L. Joyce, retired Princeton University librarian and member of the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board, dies
William L. Joyce (Bill), of West Windsor, New Jersey, a retired archivist and research libraries administrator, died on June 6, 2021, from cancer. He was 79.
The funeral service will be held on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 at 11:00 am at the Church of St. David the King in West Windsor, New Jersey. Visitation will be held at the Chapel of the Church from 4:00 to 7:00 pm on Monday June 28, 2021.
Bill was born in Rockville Centre, Long Island on March 29, 1942 and grew up in Freeport, New York. A 1960 graduate of Freeport High School, he received a bachelor’s degree in 1964 from Providence College, a master’s degree in 1966 from St. John’s University and a Ph.D. in 1974 from the University of Michigan.
Bill worked primarily as a rare books and special collections librarian, curator and administrator. He started his career as a manuscripts librarian at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. Beginning in 1972, he served as Curator of Manuscripts and later Education Officer at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. After moving back to the New York area in 1981, Bill began as the Assistant Director for Rare Books and Manuscripts at the New York Public Library. He then became the Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University in 1986. This was followed by his appointment as the Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair for Special Collections and Head, Special Collections at the Pennsylvania State University from 2000-2010.
Next to these positions, Bill taught as graduate school faculty member or visiting professor in the field of library and information sciences at Columbia University School of Library Science (1984-1992) and at the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles (1994).
In addition, Bill acted as a consulting archivist with respect to special projects for a variety of public and private organizations and institutions, including the Center for Jewish History, the Conservation Center for Art and Historical Artifacts, the University of Connecticut, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Henry Clay Frick Foundation, the Rockefeller Archives Center, the University of Minnesota, the Orthodox Church in America, the University of Wyoming, the Essex Institute (Salem, MA), the New Bedford (MA) Whaling Museum, and the Dukes County (MA) Historical Society.
Bill’s most important public contribution was his service on the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 created the Assassination Records Review Board as an independent agency to re-examine for release any assassination-related records that federal agencies continued to regard as too sensitive to open to the public. President Clinton appointed Bill to the five member Board in 1993 and he was confirmed by the Senate in April 1994. The Board finished its work in September 1998, issued a final report and transferred all of its records to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington.
Bill was also a member of many professional groups and organizations including, the Society of American Archivists (past Chairman, Fellows Steering Committee), Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries (past Chairman), The Grolier Club of New York City (past Council Member), and the American Historical Association.
Bill wrote numerous articles, reviews, papers, comments and books on topics concerning early American printing as well as issues confronted in the field of rare books, manuscripts and special collections. A few of these publications are: author, Editors and Ethnicity: A History of the Irish-American Press, 1848-1883 (New York: Arno Press, 1976), co-author, Printing and Society in Early America (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1983), and author, "The Scholarly Implications of Documentary Forgeries," in Forged Documents: Proceedings of the 1989 Houston Conference, Pat Bozeman, ed. (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Books, 1990).
During his retirement, Bill’s commitment to scholarship and public education led him to create two charitable funds to support these goals. The first, is the John Higham Research Fellowship awarded annually by the Organization of American Historians. The fellowship is named for Bill’s mentor at the University of Michigan, John Higham. It supports graduate students writing doctoral dissertations in American history, with special emphasis on researching American immigration and ethnic history as well as American historiography, and the cultural history of the nineteenth-century U.S, particular focal points of the research and writing interests of John Higham. The second charitable fund is the William L. and Carol B. Joyce Historical Collections and Labor Archives Program Endowment for the University Libraries at The Pennsylvania State University. Its purpose is to support and enhance the Historical Collections and Labor Archives of the Eberly Family Special Collections Library at Penn State University.
While retired Bill wrote and researched a manuscript about a nineteenth century New York City newspaper owner and publisher, Robert Bonner, an idea he had mused about since his graduate school days. He also supported a variety of Democratic political initiatives and indulged his life-long passion for baseball as an avid NY Mets fan.
Bill is survived by his wife of 53 years, Carol Bertani Joyce, his daughter and her husband, Susan and Oliver Köster, his son, Michael Joyce, his grandchildren, Alexander, Charlotte and Marie-Louise, his sister-in-law Jacqui Joyce, his sisters and their spouses, Rosemary and David Spencer and Kathleen and Tom Sullivan as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews.
Bill was preceded in death by his parents Mabel L. and John F. Joyce and his brother, John P. Joyce.
 Online memorial donations to the John Higham Fellowship can be made at: https://secure.oah.org/store, by checking the box “Make a donation,” completing the contact information, and selecting a donation amount. On the page where the donor inputs the donation amount, there is a drop-down box “Donation Fund Designation”, please select “Other” and indicate Higham Fund in the box immediately below. Donations are also accepted via mail to: Organization of American Historians, 112 N. Bryan Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408; or by phone at (812) 855-9836. Please indicate “Higham Fund” in the memo line.
 Memorial contributions may be made to the William and Carol Joyce Endowment at: The Pennsylvania State University, 510 Paterno Library, University Park, PA 16802. Please indicate the “William and Carol Joyce Endowment” in the memo line.
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