Greg Maney was a sociology professor at Hofstra University, but his legacy spreads far beyond campus.
His research on topics such as human trafficking, day laborers’ rights and police brutality has been used in police training and by advocacy groups on Long Island. He helped establish the university’s Irish studies program, did conflict-resolution work in Ireland and Israel and helped found the Greater Uniondale Area Action Coalition, which among other things assisted residents in fighting foreclosures.
“He was really the model of the scholar, teacher and activist,” said Linda Longmire, a professor of global studies and geography at Hofstra and a friend of Maney. “It wasn’t just about ideas, or his very valuable research. It was, ‘How can this make a difference, how can this make things better?’”
Maney died Sept. 2 of brain cancer in a Melville hospice. He was 50.
Maney was co-director of the university’s Center for Civic Engagement, which involves students in communities outside Hofstra.
He was a strong believer in “students applying classroom learning in a community context . . . in the idea that you cannot have a well-rounded education if you are not engaging as a full citizen, which means in the world around you, the local community, the regional, the global,” said Aashish Kumar, who ran the center with Maney.
Mario Murillo, former co-director of the center, said Maney felt a responsibility as an academic to actively work to change the society that he studied.
“He really believed in the idea of social justice, human rights, equity,” he said. “It was ingrained in his being. It was in his soul. It wasn’t just rhetoric. It was in practice.”
Longmire said Maney “did the work of about 10 people.”
“He was just a force of nature,” she said. “He was so dynamic. He was constantly working on new projects, constantly inspiring people.”
Maney had strong opinions and “was always able to speak truth to power,” Longmire said. But he was not confrontational, so people listened to him, she said.
“He respected absolutely everyone, even those with whom he dramatically disagreed,” she said. “As a result, he always moved the dialogue forward. That is such a rare gift.”
When Maney was diagnosed with brain cancer five and a half years ago, doctors gave him only 18 months to live, his widow, Mary Coyle, said.
She’s grateful he lived four more years than expected, so he was able to spend more time with her and their 10-year-old son, Enzo.
“We really made the most of it,” she said. “We traveled the world. We did everything together as a family. It was fantastic . . . Greg actually called it a strange gift. He said, ‘Every day I’m going to live a joyful and courageous life.’ And he did that.”
Maney was born June 26, 1967, in Highland Park, Illinois, and grew up in Tulsa, where he attended high school. He received a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brown University, a master’s degree in labor studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In addition to Coyle and Enzo, Maney is survived by his parents, Betty and John Maney, of Georgetown, Texas, and a brother, George Maney, of Dallas.
Funeral services were private.
A memorial service and reception will be held at Hofstra’s Helene Fortunoff Theater from 3 to 6 p.m. Oct. 23. A reception will follow at 6 p.m. at the Lowenfeld Conference and Exhibition Center, on the 10th floor of the Axinn Library.