In Memoriam: William L. Joyce (1942–2021)

October 18, 2021

William (Bill) L. Joyce passed away June 6, 2021, at the age of 79.

He earned a BA from Providence College, an MA from St. John’s University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He began his career there in 1968, as a manuscripts librarian at the William L. Clements Library. In 1972, he served as Curator of Manuscripts and later Education Officer at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. From there he became the Assistant Director for Rare Books and Manuscripts at the New York Public Library in 1981. He followed up with becoming the Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections at Princeton University 1986. And lastly, from 2000 – 2010, he received his appointment as the Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair for Special Collections and Head, Special Collections at the Pennsylvania State University.

As an active member of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) since 1962, he and his wife, Carol Bertani Joyce, through their generous philanthropy, were responsible for the creation of the John Higham Research Fellowship to support graduate students in their pursuits of studying American History. This in memory of John Higham, who was Joyce’s mentor while he was at the University of Michigan.

Joyce’s lifetime career as an archivists and research libraries administrator also extended to the classroom. He taught as a visiting professor in the field of library and information sciences at Columbia University School of Library Sciences from 1984 to 1992 and then at the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1994.

“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.”

On top of all his accomplishments he also authored and co-authored numerous articles, reviews, papers, comments and books. Titles include but are not limited to, Editors and Ethnicity: A History of the Irish American Press, 1848-1883 (New York: Arno Press, 1976), Printing and Society in Early America (Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1983), “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.)

Joyce was not only a member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) but also served as president from 1986 to 1987.