Remembering Bill Hanna (1931-2015)

May 23, 2019 / Updated May 1, 2020

Remembering Bill Hanna

On September 18, 2015, the MAPP community lost a wonderful and valued colleague, mentor and friend, William “Bill” Hanna. Bill, who retired last year, was a 35-year veteran of UMD’s Urban Studies and Planning Program and a lively, sharp presence within the school and community. He is remembered for his fierce dedication to his students and his tireless activism for vulnerable and immigrant populations in Maryland communities.

William John Hanna was born in Cleveland and later lived in Los Angeles, earning a Ph.D. at UCLA in political science. He taught for a total of 54 years at various schools including Michigan State University, the City University of New York, University of Texas at Dallas (where he was also a dean) and the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught Urban Studies from 1978 to 2013. At UMD, Bill focused on the challenges of planning and policy-making when crossing cultures. He was devoted to his students, some of whom have remained family friends over the years.

A field research project in the nearby community of Langley Park led to Bill’s long-term involvement and activism for affordable housing, neighborhood preservation and justice for Central American, African and Asian immigrants. He was known to venture out in the middle of the night to help a student or immigrant in distress. Against bureaucracies and gentrification, Bill supported preserving neighborhood schools, affordable housing, food trucks, health and small businesses. He took up the cause of neighborhood Salvadoran women street vendors, who sold fruit and soft drinks and provided social settings and home-country cultural continuity.


Read a tribute to Bill by Assistant Professor Willow Lung-Amam, here


Bill founded the neighborhood non-profit Action Langley Park in 1998, and organized annual health and job fairs and folklorico performances. He wrote the biweekly newsletter, Barrio de Langley Park. He gave many lectures on Latino health at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission gave him awards for distinguished community service.

Bill was also the editor of the Faculty Voice, a quarterly publication distributed to the 10,000+ faculty members on Maryland’s 13 campuses. He solicited and wrote articles, including occasional restaurant reviews, doing page layout and copyediting.

Bill loved to travel, meet new people, enjoy different cultures and food. He traveled to nearly 20 countries in his lifetime, often taking students along. He loved music and theatre, particularly folk music. He wrote poetry and created Photoshop art, work that appeared in his self-published booklets. As a young man, Bill was a world competition bridge player and, throughout his life, was a big sports enthusiast, played tennis and followed basketball, soccer, tennis and golf. He coached his sons’ soccer teams and—when they went off to college—a girl’s team. His sense of humor and optimism carried him through life.

Bill is survived by his wife of almost 54 years, Judith Lynne Hanna, their two sons and daughters-in-law and four grandchildren.