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Donald Barr (1921-2004) Biography

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born August 2, 1921, in Manhattan, NY; died of heart failure, February 5, 2004, in Langhorne, PA. Educator and author. Barr was well known for his work as headmaster of the Dalton School and Hackley School in New York state, but he was also the author of nonfiction books for children, as well as the lighthearted space opera Space Relations: A Slightly Gothic Interplanetary Tale (1973). After completing his undergraduate work in anthropology and mathematics at Columbia University in 1941, he joined the U.S. Army as part of the Office of Strategic Services. When World War II ended, he returned to Columbia, earning a master's in 1951 and completing the coursework, sans dissertation, for his Ph.D. By this time, he had already been teaching at Columbia, and he served as assistant to the dean of the School of Engineering from 1956 to 1959. For the next five years he was assistant dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and also directed the Science Honors Program, which gained the support of the National Science Foundation. Barr was a no-nonsense educator who believed in academic excellence and did not tolerate students who disrupted the academic process. When he became head of the Dalton School in New York City in 1964, his strict disciplinarian approach brought him into conflict with the board of trustees. This and budget disputes caused him to leave in 1974, but he was soon hired by the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, where he received stronger support from parents and was able to boost programs in academic subjects and the arts. He wrote about his approach to teaching and his views on parents' roles in his Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?: Dilemmas in American Education (1971). Barr also wrote a number of nonfiction titles for children, such as The How and Why Wonder Book of Atomic Energy (1961) and The How and Why Wonder Book of Building (1964). In addition to Space Relations, he completed the science-fiction novel A Planet in Arms (1981).



New York Times, February 10, 2004, p. A25.

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