Donald Rappaport


Donald Rappaport, 84, an avid sailor who summered on the Vineyard since 1977, died Friday, August 12, of cancer at his Washington, D.C., home, surrounded by family.

Mr. Rappaport was a former chief financial officer and chief information officer of the U.S. Department of Education for three years under President Bill Clinton. He was a partner at the accounting firm Price Waterhouse & Co.

Don sailed the Cape and Islands waters for nearly 20 years on his J-35C cruising boat, Jullani. He competed in many Holmes Hole races, participated every year in the Moffett Race, and frequently in the Vineyard Cup. In 2008, he and his crew won the Vineyard Cup in their class. He was also a member of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.

Don sailed Jullani (named after his three daughters) many times up and down the East Coast and to the Caribbean Islands. And even after GPS became the norm on cruising sailboats, Don always navigated by hand, plotting each waypoint on a chart, just to be sure.

Before the Jullani, Don owned three other sailboats: a Shannon 28, a day-sailer named Dawn Treader, and the Vineyard 15 Mockingbird, with his friend Tom Payette. Not to mention a fleet of Sunfish, kayaks, and dinghies.

He and Susan, his wife of 53 years, hosted fabulous July 4th family clam bakes on the beach in front of their Vineyard Haven home. He and his chefs impeccably timed each addition of clams, chicken, corn, lobster, and potatoes to the saltwater and seaweed pot (a specially dedicated metal garbage can). Don was a decent golfer and tennis player who appreciated Hemingway, Gaughin, and lively political conversation. He always carried around a small notebook in order to write down quotes or sayings that held meaning for him.

In the 1980s and ’90s, you never knew when the name Rappaport might turn up in an Art Buchwald column as a vacationing character ruminating about important matters like real estate, the stock market, or the price of local lobster.

Don was also a runner, who ran the Chilmark Road Race more than a dozen times, as well the Murdick Fudge Round the Chop race. He also ran four times in the Washington Cherry Blossom 10-miler, and at 80, was the oldest competitor in 2007.

He was a man of utmost integrity, had a zest for life, and was an avid reader, traveler, and intellectual. He leaves scores of true friends in Washington, Philadelphia, and on Martha’s Vineyard.

His summers on the Vineyard were a magical time filled with family, friends, jaunts to Black Point Beach and warm southwest breezes. Don was able to spend ten days on the Vineyard earlier this summer before his condition took him back to Washington.

After Don retired from Price Waterhouse, he was appointed by President Clinton to the Education post in 1997, and served through 1999.

He rose to the federal position after a career dedicated to the fields of accountancy, public education finance, and politics in Philadelphia and Washington. He served as chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education from 1974 to 1979, having been appointed to that board in 1972.

Most recently, Don was a founding member of the board of FOCUS, Friends Of Change in Urban Schools, a board member of the Meridian Public Charter School, and treasurer of the Committee for the Republic, a discussion forum on foreign and economic issues, all in Washington.

Don always believed in the value of smaller businesses as the engine of the economy, and in 1979 he became the first National Director of the Price Waterhouse group serving middle market and growth companies. He transferred to the firm’s national office in Washington in 1983.

Don joined Price Waterhouse (now Price Waterhouse Coopers or PWC) in 1949, and became the firm’s 100th partner in 1963.

It was in Philadelphia that Don made his mark in public service, particularly education finance reform. He introduced the idea of “program budgeting” to the Philadelphia school district and co-authored a book, “Planned Change in Education.” In addition to the Pennsylvania Board of Education, he was chairman of the National Committee for Citizens in Education.

Don was appointed assistant superintendent of schools for finance by Philadelphia School Board president Richardson Dilworth, who commented that he liked the idea of a “liberal accountant” for the post. In the 1960s, Mr. Rappaport also served as chairman of a task force of civic leaders advising the incoming school board president on matters ranging from finance to school integration.

In 1983, Don received a Mayor’s Citation from Philadelphia Mayor William J. Green for his work to help improve the city’s small business climate.

Don coauthored or edited several books on education finance, business, and accounting. He was a lecturer at the business schools of the University of Pennsylvania, MIT, Yale, and Georgetown.

A longtime Democrat, Mr. Rappaport worked on many local, state, and national political campaigns. In the 1980s, he was budget director for the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. He also worked on the John Kerry presidential campaign and was a member of the Democratic National Committee’s small business council. He served on many civic and cultural boards and on the finance committee of Germantown Friends School, where his daughters attended school.

Mr. Rappaport graduated from Yale University in 1947, attending on the Navy’s V-12 program. He completed two graduate degrees at University of Pennsylvania, an MA in economics in 1948, and an MBA from the Wharton School in 1949. Mr. Rappaport served his country during the Korean War as a Lt. (Jg) line officer aboard the Destroyer Henderson in Korean waters from 1950 to 1952. He was a dedicated member of the Yale alumni committee, serving as chairman of the class of ’47 and heading its upcoming 65th reunion.

Donald Rappaport was born on November 21, 1926, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Percy and Regina (Youle) Rappaport. He grew up in Upper Montclair, N. J., graduating from Montclair Academy in 1944.

In 1957, he married the former Susan Shaffer in Philadelphia, who survives. His other survivors include his three daughters, Nina, Laura, and Julie Rappaport; two sons-in-law, Christopher Hall and Scott Blaha; and five grandchildren: Alexandra, Adam, Madeline, Andrew, and Chloe.

A family funeral was held Monday, August 15, in Washington. A Vineyard memorial celebration will take place at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to the Meridian Public Charter School, 1328 Florida Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20009, or Sail Martha’s Vineyard, 110 Main St., Vineyard Haven, MA, 02568 (