Born in Brooklyn in 1930, he was raised during the Great Depression and WWII. He developed a life-long love of learning, the English language, literature (especially Shakespeare) and art from his mother and graduated from Yale University with an MA in Art History. During the Korean War he was stationed in Germany working for Air Force intelligence, returning to civilian life in 1957. By 1959, he took employment as an English teacher at Manhasset Public Schools, where he rose through the administrative ranks retiring as Superintendent of Schools.
“Donald Harkness served the students of Manhasset for more than 30 years, first as a teacher and later as Superintendent,” Manhasset Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera said. “Regardless of his role or responsibilities here, he always put the children first. He was always available to parents, staff and the greater community and continually strived to make Manhasset schools the best they can be.”
In his retirement Harkness founded Educorps, a pro bono group of retired teachers and educators dedicated to giving assistance to NYS schools in need of help and coauthored A WWI Adventure, the Life and Times of Captain Donald E. Harkness, RNAS, RAF.
He loved people, teaching and literature, so he decided to combine the three and taught several courses of Shakespeare at Hofstra University to other teachers. He was a master wordsmith, always quick with a Shakespearian quote, a famous and timely poem, or an apropos Latin phrase.
Widowed one year, he is survived by his five children: Bruce, Jeffrey, Timothy, Christopher and Victoria as well as his three grandchildren: Carl, Daniel and Theodore. Much loved by family, friends and colleagues, he will be missed.
Visitation was held Friday, Nov. 22 at M.A. Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave., Huntington Station. Service was held at Woodbury United Methodist Church, Woodbury on Saturday, Nov. 23. Interment was at Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, NY on Nov. 24.