Donald B. Cole, proud Lawrencian and author of "Immigrant City: Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1845-1922" has passed

Donald B. Cole, last lecture, 2010.jpg
Donald B. Cole at his last lecture in 2010 at Phillips Exeter Academy

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Donald B. Cole with his family in September, 2012.

With great sadness, we learned this morning from his son that Donald B. Cole, author of "Immigrant City: Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1845-1922," passed away on October 5, 2013.

His son, Robert Cole, wrote that his father, "... was very proud of his roots in Lawrence and Andover.... and loved the immigrant story...." He was a friend of the Lawrence History Center and his research has and will continue to inform generations of researchers. He will be missed, but he has left his home city with a wonderful contribution to its history, its identity, and its future. May he rest in peace.


Exeter NH—Donald Barnard Cole, 91, died peacefully at home, Saturday, October 5, 2013

Don Cole was a school man, a Jackson man, a family man. He dedicated his life to the education and service of others—through his teaching and leadership over 42 years at Phillips Exeter Academy; through his research and writing as a historian, specializing in Jacksonian Democracy; and through his devotion to his family.

He is survived by his wife Susan “Tootie” Wilson Cole and their children: Douglas and Carolyn Cole of Woodville WA, Robert Cole of Concord NH, Daniel and Jennifer Cole of Exeter NH, and Susan and Jeff Ross of Windsor CT. He cherished his ten grandchildren—Nathan, Andy and Vanessa; Madeline, Sam and Becky; Derek and Sydney; and Matt and Tim—and his two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, Arthur and Marion Barnard Cole, as well as his dear sister Constance W. Cole, a fellow educator.

He was born March 31, 1922 in Lawrence Massachusetts and grew up during the Depression, surrounded by Barnard cousins on High Street in Andover. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, before heading to Harvard (Class of ‘44). His education was foreshortened by enlistment in the Navy where he served as a lieutenant and led landing craft missions in Pacific Theater, including the invasions of Okinawa and Guam. Friendships developed on board the USS Lamar stretched throughout his lifetime.

While at Harvard, he began his lifelong participation in the Grant Study, a longitudinal research project on human adaptation, and later earned his Masters and Ph.D, culminating in his work with Oscar Handlin on immigration in Lawrence, published as Immigrant City, the first of his ten books. Others included Martin Van Buren and the American Political System, Witness to the Young Republic, and Vindicating Andrew Jackson, published in his 87th year.

In 1947 Professor Cole (Honorary ’49, ’51) joined the history department at Phillips Exeter Academy teaching side-by-side with his father-in-law Phillips E. Wilson, coaching football and lacrosse, and advising the competitive Debate Club. He served as History Department Chair and enjoyed mentoring decades of young history teachers. Later, he was named Robert Shaw White Professor of History, as well as serving as Dean of Faculty under two principals. He retired in 1988 and was recognized with The Founder’s Day Award in 1992.

He earned numerous grants and awards, including the Yale University Secondary School Teaching Award and New England History Teachers’ Kidger Award. He was an active leader in a number of local and national historical organizations and shared his passion for the Jackson Era in innumerable lectures, debates, articles and book reviews. He also wrote and delivered thoughtful eulogies and memorials, honoring many of his lifelong friends and colleagues. His lectures, books and eulogies were energized by crisp evidence and precise language. He was committed to the strong thesis. He loved the short sentence.

He valued nothing more than his marriage to Tootie spanning 65 years together, raising children, sharing educational conversations, talking politics, savoring summers at Lake Wentworth, and enjoying their life at the Congregational Church, where Don served as Chair of the Religious Education Committee and a Deacon. However, they shared nothing more passionately than the Red Sox, first meeting over Tootie’s 1946 Red Sox scrapbook.

Don was directed by his unwavering belief in thoughtful reason and the democratic process; in the value of historical research and discussion; in always giving oneself to a good cause that improved one’s community and country, and especially the lives of those less fortunate. He inspired those around him to pursue excellence and to do the right thing—defined by Christian values of kindness and service.

Family and friends will gather at the Exeter Congregational Church, November 9th at 2 PM to celebrate his life.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Exeter Congregational Church, 21 Front Street, Exeter NH 03833 or Rockingham VNA & Hospice, 137 Epping Road, Exeter NH 03833.


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Founded in 1978 as the Immigrant City Archives, the mission of the Lawrence History Center is to collect, preserve, share, and animate the history and heritage of Lawrence and its people.