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Corporation member D.J. Atwood dies at 69

Donald J. Atwood, an MIT graduate, member of the MIT Corporation, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and former General Motors executive, died April 24 at the age of 69.

Mr. Atwood, who lived in Franklin, MI, died at the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, following surgery for a bleeding ulcer, a family member said.

Funeral services will be held Friday, April 29, at 11am in the First Congregational Church in Haverhill, Mr. Atwood's hometown. Burial will be in Walnut Cemetery, Haverhill. A memorial service will be held in Franklin, MI, at the Community Church on Monday, May 2, at 2pm.

Mr. Atwood began serving his second five-year term on the MIT Corporation last July. He also had been a Corporation member from 1984 to 1989, resigning a few months before the end of his term when he was named by President George Bush to the Defense Department post. He returned to private life in the spring of 1993.

Mr. Atwood served in the US Army during World War II, from 1943 to 1946, before receiving the SB in electrical engineering from MIT in 1948 and the SM in 1950.

In 1950 he joined the technical staff of the Instrumentation Laboratory and participated in the MIT Inertial Guidance Development Program. In 1952 he became treasurer and chief engineer of the Dynatrol Corporation and remained with the company until 1959, when it was acquired by General Motors.

At General Motors, Mr. Atwood served in several management positions of increasing responsibility, and in 1984 he was appointed to the board of directors and named executive vice president. He was elected vice chairman of the board and served in that position until going to the Defense Department.

Defense Secretary William Perry paid tribute to Mr. Atwood, noting that he had served as deputy during a period of dramatic change.

"His tenure saw the collapse of Soviet communism and the triumph of liberty in Eastern Europe, the victory of US and allied forces in Desert Storm, and the first years of the downsizing of America's defense establishment," Secretary Perry said in a statement.

"In tackling the tough tasks facing him," he continued, "Don impressed everyone with his patience, good humor and commitment to maintaining a strong, ready US military."

Mr. Atwood, active in many civic and industry-related organizations, was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Academy of Engineering and the Society of Automotive Engineers. He was a member of the board of directors of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc.

His MIT activities included membership on the Development Committee from 1980 to 1989, the mathematics visiting committee from 1984 to 1989 and the electrical engineering visiting committee from 1986 to 1989. He had been a Sustaining Fellow Life Member since 1987. He received the Corporate Leadership Award in 1987 and the Bronze Beaver award in 1988.

Mr. Atwood is survived by his wife, Susan (Harian) Atwood of Franklin; a daughter, Susan Lavoie of Ortonville, MI; a son, Jesse Atwood of Washington, DC, and two grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 30).

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