Dan Huntington Fenn Jr.

March 27, 1923August 14, 2020

Dan H. Fenn Jr., founding Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and one of the last surviving senior members of President Kennedy’s White House staff, died at the age of 97 on August 14, 2020 in Cambridge, Mass.

He remained active until his death. He taught at Harvard for 56 years, recently holding his class at the Kennedy School Executive Management Program by Zoom this past June. He mentored thousands of students over his many years and was one of the most popular teachers well into his 90s. He also taught courses at Tufts, Baruch College, American University, Wharton, University of Virginia, Boston University, Brandeis, and University of Washington.

Fenn spearheaded the building of the Kennedy Library and Museum at Columbia Point and helped make it one of the most popular presidential libraries by orchestrating programs for young people and exhibits that brought government and politics alive to audiences from around the world. Fenn felt it was important that President Kennedy’s belief that “government and politics was a noble profession” be communicated through the library.

Fenn served as Staff Assistant to the President from 1961-1963 and put together what is now the modern-day Presidential Personnel office in the White House. One of the highlights of President Kennedy’s administration was to attract distinguished Americans from all walks of life to serve their country -- “to ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

After his service in the White House, Dan Fenn was appointed as Vice Chairman and member of the U.S. Tariff Commission from 1963 to 1967.

Prior to going to Washington in the early 1960s, Fenn was a faculty member of the Harvard Business School, Assistant Editor of the Harvard Busines Review, and Editor of the Harvard Business School Bulletin. He also was the Executive Director of the Boston World Affairs Council in the late 1940s and early 1950s, with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt.

After returning from World War II, where he served in the U.S. Army Air Force as a Warrant Officer in Italy, Fenn finished his studies at Harvard and became Assistant Dean of Harvard College from 1946-1949. Fenn was in the class of 1944, graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He was also President of the Harvard Crimson, the daily paper, prior to going off to war in 1943.

For his service to Harvard, Dan Fenn was awarded the Harvard Medal at commencement in 2019.

Fenn was a longtime resident of Lexington, MA where he served two terms on the School Committee and two terms on the Select Board. He has been a Town Meeting member for nearly 60 years, a proud member of the Lexington Minute Men for three decades, President of the Lexington Historical Society, founding President of the Lexington Education Foundation, as well as serving on many boards and committees in town. For his service, he received the Lion’s Club White Tricorne Hat award in 2000 and the Minuteman Cane Award in 2011, given to an active senior citizen over 80 years of age. When he passed away the flags on the Lexington Battle Green were lowered to half-staff.

Dan Fenn is survived by seven children, fourteen grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Dan H. Fenn, Jr. Lexington Minute Men Grant Award, c/o Lexington Select Board/ Trustees of Public Trusts, 1625 Mass Ave., Lexington, MA 02420.


  • Lexington Minute Men Grant Award


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Dan Huntington Fenn Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Melody Gaeta

September 18, 2020

Dan was loved by all of our staff and caregivers. It was a honor to know him and privledge to help care for him.

Our deepest condolences...

From all of us at Home Instead Senior Care


September 11, 2020

Dan Fenn was more than a client to the NS Capital staff...he was a dear friend. His quick wit and dry sense of humor were unmatched, not to mention, a surefire recipe for putting a smile on your face. We will miss so much about Dan, but mostly we will miss knowing he is only a cheerful phone call away. Rest in peace, blessed friend.

Roger Fussa

September 3, 2020

I was so sad to read of Dan's death. At the end of May, I interviewed him for a video to promote Buckingham Browne & Nichols School's Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards. For the 2020 awards, which the school unfortunately had to postpone because of the pandemic, Dan had been awarded the BB&N Medal, which recognizes lifetime achievement and service inspired by the BB&N motto of honor, scholarship, and kindness. I found Dan a marvel and an inspiration, and I feel fortunate to have spent time with him. His family and his friends have my sincere condolences. He cannot be replaced and will be dearly missed.

Wayne Busa

August 31, 2020

I considered Dan a great friend over the years that I had known him. A very special day just recently was when Dan interviewed my Dad Joseph Busa of Lexington for his service to his country during WWll. Dan you will be missed and it was an honor to have known you.

Lynn Thiem

August 25, 2020

I was a member of the HKS SEF Fall class of 2015. Dan was our teacher and such an engaging soul who shared wisdom with all of us gained from experiences in his Federal career. It was a privilege to cross paths with him. He inspired us and made the experience memorable! Dan will be missed.

Huzam Alsubaie

August 25, 2020

I would like to express my condolences on the loss of Dan Fenn. He well-loved among SEF staff and students and he will be missed.

I studied in one of his classes in the Senior Executives Program in 2014. I extend my condolences to his students, colleagues and loved ones.


Huzam AlSubaie

Chrisma Jackson

August 25, 2020

Dan’s legacy will love in through so many that he touched. He was a mentor of mine since meeting a the Kennedy School where I was a National Security Fellow in 2014. I have fond memories of mentoring luncheons at Henrietta’s Table filled with wit, wisdom, and humorous stories of his Washington DC days as well as his family. From the stories Dan’s Christmas tree with lit candles to the days of selecting a library site with Jackie O. He was a consummate story teller whose eyes lit up with every story he told.

Janis Redlich

August 24, 2020

I was so sorry to hear about Dan's passing. Dan and I worked together as board members of CMAC for several years and became good friends in the process. Considering how accomplished Dan was, he never ever lauded his achievements despite the fact that more often than not, he was the smartest guy in the room. He was humble, had a great sense of humor and ever wise. We stayed in touch after our board time together ceased, and I will always remember his kindness and general good will towards everyone. He was the wisest of councilors. I still remember during an election season how I said that I didn't like the democratic nominee and didn't want to vote for him, and he said to me, " Remember, you are not voting for the nominee, you are voting for the party". Of course, I took his wise advice then, and often appreciated how he was able to direct my heated passion with wise admonition. I will miss Dan greatly, but am so grateful that we met. My heart goes out to you, his family. May Dan rest in peace.

Eric Shapiro

August 24, 2020

Our condolences go out to the Fenn family.

I feel honored to have known Dan Fenn and received his wise counsel during the Lexington Town Meeting process for Lexington Place. Early in the process it was Dan Fenn that graciously took time to meet and provide his thoughts on the project and a short lesson on governance. Dan’s history lesson on the wisdom of our founding founders to slow down the wheels of government to allow the public ample time to weigh in and how he contrasted that with the speed of private enterprise, was a priceless lifelong lesson.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fenn family. May his memory be for a blessing.
Eric & Julie Shapiro & Family

Helen Clougherty

August 24, 2020

I met Dan at the Kennedy School, where I was deputy director of the National Security Program. One of the things I liked most about him is that he paid us staff members the honor of valuing our contributions.
Most faculty thought we were an necessary evil, at best, or totally expendable.

And I loved his sense of humor and indignation.
Of one new finance dean who was blundering into everything, he said (in full Dan Fenn tone), “Is she eeeevil….or is she stuuuupid?”
I use that all the time.

I am a better person for having known Dan and wish his family peace in his passing.

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