At New Trier (Ill.) High School he was active in student government, football, and notably as captain of the Illinois championship wrestling team. At Princeton he majored in politics, joined Cap and Gown, and was captain and three-time place winner in the Eastern Wrestling Intercollegiates (which may account for his being nominated “Best Body” in the senior class poll).
After service in the Navy, working for several congressmen, and a brief time in investment banking, Don served four terms in Congress. Presidents Nixon and Ford assigned him important roles in their administrations, the latter appointing him secretary of defense in 1975. He then held high positions in the private sector before receiving his second appointment as secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, overseeing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Whether assessing him as a wrestler, as a student, or in his roles in government and the private sector, admirers and critics alike tended to agree about Don’s personal characteristics: his discipline, determination, self-assurance, and joie de vivre. In our 50th-reunion yearbook he wrote “I remain deeply appreciative for … my great, good fortune to be able to serve.”
He is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 67 years, Joyce; their three children; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.