Amherst Magazine
Donald L. Bigelow '39

Don Bigelow died on June 8, 2007, at the home of friends in Southampton, NY, after a heart attack.  His wife of forty-four years, Louise Fernel, predeceased him in 2002.  Survivors include a son, Pierre N. Bigelow, of Prescott, AZ, and two granddaughters.

Don’s entire working life was devoted to the subject of education.  After graduating from Amherst, he obtained a masters degree in history and returned to teach that subject at Amherst.  A doctorate in history from Columbia was his next step.  This was followed by a teaching stint at Columbia, where he moderated a critically acclaimed ABC television program called “Seminar” which broadcast a college program on American civilization to the public.  Later activities included campaigns to improve the quality of grade school teachers, to train better guidance counselors, and to establish closer partnerships between universities and public schools.

Don was a Fulbright professor in India, teaching history from 1954 to 1955.  He then moved to a teaching job at Brandeis Univ. in the States.  In 1961, he joined the US Department of Education, and within a few years, he was directing a program designed to improve instruction and research in the sciences, math, and foreign languages, which were considered vital for national security after the success of the Russian Sputnik.  Before his retirement, he had become an educational consultant to the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.  In a conversation with Don shortly before his death, he informed me that he was in the process of writing a critical analysis of the current “No Child Left Behind” education program.  Don truly spent his entire career trying to improve education.

—Henry W. Seeley ’39  

 

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