She influenced business and politics on a global scale over a decades-long career with her longtime business partner and husband Alvin Toffler.
ARLINGTON, VA (February 8, 2019)
Heidi Toffler, wife and longtime business partner of renowned futurist Alvin Toffler, died late Wednesday, February 6. She was 89 years old. Heidi was predeceased by her husband in 2016 and their only child, a daughter, Karen, who died in 2000 at age 46 from Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Heidi and Alvin authored the groundbreaking book, Future Shock, which launched five decades of influence among political leaders, executives and innovators around the globe.
Born Adelaide Elizabeth Farrell on August 1, 1929, “Heidi” was most influenced by her mother growing up in the Bronx, New York. Her mother was a smart, strong figure who worked outside the home when it was rare for women to do so. From a young age, she impressed upon Heidi the value of continual learning – something that would later become a key theme in her work with Alvin. Her influence significantly shaped Heidi’s strong feminist presence.
Heidi met Alvin while studying at New York University. They shared an interest in contemporary social and political issues. They married and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where for several years they pursued work that provided first-hand insight into industrial mass production, unions and modern management. Heidi’s work in the aluminum foundry led her to become a shop steward for the United Auto Workers union. The experience became the foundation for their work together as noted futurists and earned them audiences with global leaders.
By the mid-1960s, Heidi and Alvin began work on Future Shock, the global bestseller that led to their career as authors and global lecturers. Heidi was Alvin’s professional partner, co-researcher, and quite possibly the toughest editor he ever knew.
“In Heidi, Alvin had an intellectual equal who encouraged and challenged him almost daily. She was full of energy and never afraid to speak her mind. That, perhaps, was what Alvin loved most about her,” said Deborah Westphal, chairman of Toffler Associates, the strategic consulting firm Heidi co-founded. “At a time when few women were even allowed in the room, Heidi had a seat at the table with some of the world’s most influential leaders. She truly was a woman before her time, and someone who made an indelible mark on equality and history.”
Heidi and Alvin co-authored several books. The most notable comprise the acclaimed “Toffler trilogy” of Future Shock, The Third Wave, and Powershift. All are international bestsellers widely read and studied by contemporary business and political leaders.
Future Shock, which vividly described an emerging global civilization, was published in more than 50 countries and introduced a phrase into our language that is still used today. The Third Wave offered a portrait of a new civilization emerging around the globe and revealed the hidden connections among changes in business, family life, technology and politics. Powershift examined the roles conflict, wealth and knowledge play in our lives as it charted new paths to power opened by a world in upheaval.
In their writing, the Tofflers forecast many of the realities of contemporary society and politics, including the acceleration of daily life, the decline of the nuclear family, cloning, virtual reality, information overload, the threat of terrorism and many other features of contemporary society and politics. Many of these predictions have come to bear. The central thesis of their work has proven true—that a knowledge-based new economy would replace the Industrial Age.
While best known for her authorial collaborations with her husband, Heidi had quite an impact of her own on the international political and social landscape:
In Russia, she was part of a small group gathered in 1986 by then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to create the Issyk-kul Forum, the first non-governmental, non-Communist party organization in the Soviet Union since the 1917 Communist revolution.
In China, she led discussions at the Chinese Society for Future Studies, Suchow University, and the Shanghai Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. Heidi was instrumental in bringing the prize-winning documentary, The Third Wave, to international television. Like the book on which it was based, it had a significant effect in China.
In Italy, she was a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Pio Manzu Research Center and was awarded the Medal of the President of the Italian Republic for her work as a futurist and social analyst.
From Washington to Wall Street, Heidi was a sought-after speaker who regularly shared insights with audiences ranging from the Education Commission of the United States and the U.S. Military Intelligence Board to Lehman Brothers and GTE.
Heidi also served as a co-chair for the U.S. Committee for UNIFEM, the United Nations Fund for Women.
In 1996, Heidi, Alvin and business consultant Tom Johnson co-founded their namesake advisory firm, Toffler Associates, to expand their ability to guide governments and businesses working to transform their organizations for the future.
“Heidi’s important role in the work she and Alvin created wasn’t known publicly for a long time. It wasn’t until their later books that Alvin insisted his publishers give her the co-author credit she so richly deserved,” said Maria Bothwell, CEO of Toffler Associates. “We are grateful for her contributions and are reminded daily of the relevance of her work as we navigate an increasingly complex societal and political landscape.”
A private burial will be held in Los Angeles next week. The family would like to acknowledge the Tofflers’ dear friend and longtime personal assistant, Rebecca Bartoli, for her incomparable love and support.