MIT Professor Emeritus Donald A. Schon of West Newton, MA, educator, organizational consultant, philosopher, former government administrator and director of a non-profit social research organization, died Saturday (Sept. 13) at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, after a seven month illness. He was 66.
Although Professor Schon was a philosopher, at the heart of his life's work was the constant notion of being effective in practice and of helping educators to teach professionals how to be effective in practice. He published numerous articles and books, most importantly Beyond the Stable State, The Reflective Practitioner, and Educating the Reflective Practitioner.
Professor Schon was born in Boston and raised in Brookline and Worcester. He graduated from Brookline High School in 1947, and Yale, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1951, where he studied philosophy. During that period, he also studied in Paris at the Sorbonne and Conservatoire Nationale de Music where he studied clarinet and was awarded the Premier Prix. After graduating, he received the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and continued at Harvard where he earned his Masters and Doctorate in Philosophy in 1955.
Professor Schon taught Philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1953, followed by two years of service in the U.S. Army. Concurrently, he lectured at University of Kansas City as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. He worked from 1957 - 1963 as senior staff member in the industrial research firm, Arthur D. Little, Inc., where he formed the New Product Group in the Research and Development Division. Under the Kennedy administration, he was appointed Director of the Institute for Applied Technology in the National Bureau of Standards, Department of Commerce, where he continued through 1966.
He then co-founded and directed OSTI (Organization for Social and Technological Innovation), a non-profit social research and development firm in the Boston area, through 1973. While at OSTI, in 1970, Professor Schon was invited by the British Broadcasting Corporation to deliver the prestigious Reith Lectures, on industrial technology and social change. He was the youngest invitee ever to give the Reith Lectures.
In 1972, he was appointed Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Education at MIT. From 1990 to 1992, he served as Chair of MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. At the time of his death, he was Ford Professor Emeritus and Senior Lecturer in MIT's School of Architecture and Planning.
He is an honored member of, and has numerous affiliations with, many institutions throughout the U.S. and worldwide including Harvard Business School, The Kennedy School, the Jerusalem Institute of Management, the Royal Institute of British Architects, and many others.
Professor Schon had many extra-curricular activities such as reading, languages, tennis, and music. He was an accomplished pianist and clarinetist, and enjoyed playing in jazz and chamber groups.
He leaves his wife, Nancy Quint Schon; mother, Ann Mason Schon; four children, Ellen Schon and husband Steve Marcus, Andrew Schon and wife Jill, Elizabeth Schon Vainer and husband Gadi, and Susan Schon and fiance Damon Guterman; and eight grandchildren: David Marcus, Jacqueline Schon, Sivan Vainer, Claire Marcus, Mia Schon, Ben Vainer, Hannah Schon, and Zeke Vainer.
A memorial service to honor his life and work will be held at a later date to be announced.