Dr. Donald Kenneth Stein

January 12, 1943January 11, 2021

Dr. Donald Kenneth Stein, 77, of Sudbury, passed away January 11, 2021, while holding his beloved wife’s hand.

Born January 12, 1943 in Brooklyn, New York, Don was a psychologist, university professor, and consulting firm founder who was passionate about conservation, music, the natural world, and most of all his family and his dogs.

The youngest of two children born to the former Gladys Silverstein and Dr. Louis Stein, Don spent his boyhood alongside the St. Lawrence River in the town of Canton, New York. His curious mind and diligent nature earned him early academic success, taking him first to the University of Rochester, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1964, and then to the University of Connecticut for a doctorate in psychology.


At UConn, Don was a prolific researcher, publishing and presenting widely. His work included a noted study of perceptions surrounding the competence and trustworthiness of certain occupations that caught the attention of not just academic journals but also the national consumer press (in part because it showed politicians to be trusted only slightly more than used car salesmen). Competency models, how leadership builds groups, and social learning continued to be themes in his research.

Don next accepted a role as a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. In Tampa he joined several nonprofit boards, beginning a lifelong practice of offering time, talent, and treasure to help his community.


Newbury Street soon got word of Don’s work and tried to lure him away from academia; his widely read studies caught the eye of Boston’s McBer and Company, the consultancy founded by Harvard psychologist David McClelland where both the competency movement and the “Three Need Theory” were born. It was a perfect fit for Don’s interests and expertise, so he accepted the role and made the move to Massachusetts.

Don took to New England life quickly, buying an antique ship-captain’s salt box to restore in the historic seaside town of Newburyport, and then falling in love with a fellow transplant thanks to his McBer colleague’s matchmaking skills.

Dr. Richard Mansfield and his wife, Mary, issued a dinner invitation to Don, and another invitation to their longtime friend and fellow organizational psychologist Lane Williamson. By the time Don walked Lane to her car outside the Mansfields’ Lincoln home at the end of dinner, both were smitten. The duo’s first date consisted of a dinner in downtown Newburyport, then listening to a recording of the Köln Concert. Soon, they were married, and purchasing a different Newburyport home to restore together.


They were a match in every way, from their fierce love for dogs and the outdoors to their fervent belief that all homes were happier when heated with wood. Don and Lane raised two daughters together in their new hometown, and also helped start the Newburyport Business Education Coalition.

Entrepreneurial by nature, Don next founded his own firm, Merrimack Associates. His wife later joined him as a partner, and together they spent the next decade side by side, training professionals and academics across the country and globe. Among his favorite engagements were coaching a division of the Human Genome Project, and working with a standout crew at the former Digital Equipment Corp. Don enjoyed speaking to groups and conferences about entrepreneurship.


When both girls left for college, the couple’s next conquest lay across the Merrimack River: March’s Tavern, a 1690 structure on Ring’s Island that would be their most ambitious restoration project.

In retirement, Don and Lane relocated to Peaks Island, Maine, where they discovered the pride of being Mainers, the joy of a hometown that’s accessible only by boat, and the incredible warmth of a community set three miles out to sea. The two restored an antique dairy farm, and Don helped Lane build her first standalone art studio. They spent eleven years on Peaks, during which time they threw both girls jubilant island weddings (with Don officiating one), and found lifelong friends along its shores.

While living on Peaks, Don underwent open heart surgery to replace a prolapsed mitral valve that he was likely born with; he came through it with flying colors, supported by Lane and so many amazing islanders.


Don devoted more time to woodworking, a talent he had long nurtured, and also threw himself into learning about land preservation. He went on to share the expertise he developed with a number of nonprofits; Don served as president of the Peaks Island Land Preserve, and later as the chairman of the Kittery Land Trust, a member of the Sudbury Valley Trustees’ Land Protection Committee, and an adviser to fellows at The Island Institute.

After both of their daughters relocated north of Boston, the two felt the pull of the mainland, and Don and Lane left their island for a home in Kittery Point, Maine. In Kittery Point, Don brushed up on his already stellar guitar skills in time to serenade his new granddaughter at her first birthday party with Buskin and Batteau’s “I’m One.”

By her fifth birthday, the blissful grandparents wanted to be even closer and had found a restoration project that brought them back to Massachusetts—to Sudbury, one town over from where their love story had begun.


Don bloomed at their Sudbury home, enjoying new and old neighbors and friends, exploring their five wild acres, hiking with the pups, undertaking endless woodworking projects, reading by the fire, happily spending every moment he could with his wife, and reveling in having both daughters and their families living close by. He loved bringing the family to Provincetown for vacation twice a year.

In December of 2020, Don’s mitral valve needed to be replaced again, and another valve repaired. He came through his second open-heart surgery beautifully, with his signature strength and calm, but had trouble in the week after. He died unexpectedly of multiple organ failure at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Don was surrounded by the love of his family, and will live on in every one of them. Don is remembered by those who knew him for his gentle kindness, warm heart, giant brain, sparkling blue eyes, generous smile, childlike joy, and unflappable loyalty.

In addition to his devoted wife, Dr. Stein is survived by two daughters who were so very lucky to have him, Eliza T. Williamson and her wife Heather Klish of Framingham, Kate Arcieri and her husband Anthony of Littleton; one granddaughter Sabina Barron Arcieri; one sister, Judith Turbin and her husband Stephen of North Miami, Florida; two nephews Dr. Roger Turbin and his wife Shari of Livingston, NJ and Philip Turbin and his wife Andrea of New York, NY; a grandniece and three grandnephews; countless friends, colleagues, and like-minded volunteers, and his cherished dogs Fred, Jackson, and Betty.

Donations may be made in Don’s memory for stewardship to the Clark Island Project, an effort of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust that he was delighted to support. (See link below, or visit


-When love is felt or fear is known

-When holidays and holy days and such times come

-When anniversaries arrive by calendar or consciousness

-When seasons come--as seasons do--old and known but somehow new

-When lives are born or people die

-When something sacred is sensed in soil or sky

-Mark the time

-Respond with thought or prayer or smile or grief

-Let nothing living slip between the fingers of your mind

-For all of these are holy things

By Max Alden Coots

Reverend, Canton Unitarian Universalist Church

Canton, New York


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


Dr. Donald Kenneth Stein

have a memory or condolence to add?

Susan Ennis

January 19, 2021

When I started at McBer, Don was my office mate. We worked together on a number of Navy and other projects. Tucked away in our sunny, 6th floor back office on 137 Newbury Street, we enjoyed many laughs and numerous complaint sessions while producing some great work. He was a warm, caring and generous office mate and colleague.
Susan Ennis

Alex Andrews

January 18, 2021

I will always remember the kind smile on Don's face when he prepared Alaskan King Salmon on the outdoor grill this past fall. Don remembered that I had grown up in Alaska, and said he had chosen the fish just for me -- what kindness he showed (always) and HOW DELICIOUS the salmon was. Don & Lane had prepared a lovely dinner for my husband Dave and I, which we enjoyed on their enormous deck. We sat at two tables for two, with separate everything to maintain appropriate social distance. We ate and spoke of gardens, dogs, paintings and old houses until the fireflies came out, and then Dave and I went home, feeling so very fortunate to know people like Don and Lane.