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Education A National Roundup

Obituary: Reagan-Era Department Official Dies

By Ann Bradley — November 02, 2004 1 min read

Donald J. Senese, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, died on Oct. 16. He was 62 and suffered a heart attack while driving in Northern Virginia.

Mr. Senese was the assistant secretary for educational research and improvement from 1981 to 1985. He was educated as a historian and held a doctorate in the discipline from the University of South Carolina.

During his tenure, Mr. Senese called for a more academic focus in schools, deploring what he called their “social permissiveness” and the decline of the teaching of values. His decision to discontinue funding for 13 school improvement programs disseminated under the now-defunct National Diffusion Network prompted a lawsuit and political battle over whether they promoted “secular humanism.”

Mr. Senese went on to work on political campaigns, hold another government position, and to teach. At the time of his death, he was a history teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy, a K-12 college-preparatory school in Alexandria, Va.

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