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Donal Henahan Edit Profile

Music critic

Donal Henahan, Music critic. Decorated Air Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters; recipient Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, 1986. Poynter fellow Yale University, 1983. M C. Served to First lieutenant United States Air Force, 1942-1945.


Henahan, Donal was born on February 28, 1921 in Cleveland. Son of William Anthony and Mildred (Doyle) Henahan.


Born in Cleveland, Henahan initially studied at Kent State University and Ohio University, but his education was interrupted by military service during World War II. After the war he entered Northwestern University where he graduated with bachelor's degree in 1948.


He was a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force from 1942–1945 where he held the rank of first lieutenant. In 1949 he entered the University of Chicago to pursue graduate studies, and from 1951–1958 he studied piano, singing, and classical guitar at the Chicago School of Music at Roosevelt University. He later pursued graduate studies in music at Columbia University and Yale University.

Earning a master's degree from the latter institution. While a student at Northwestern, Henahan joined the news staff of the Chicago Daily News in 1947. He remained with that paper for the next two decades, notably becoming chief music critic of the Daily News in 1957.

He concurrently contributed articles as a freelance writer to numerous periodicals. Including Esquire, Harper's Bazaar, High Fidelity, Musical Quarterly, Saturday Review, Stereo Review, and The Saturday Evening Post among others. In 1967 Henahan left the Chicago Daily News to join the music criticism staff at The New York Times.

He became chief music critic of The Times in 1980 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism in 1986. He remained chief music critic at The Times until his retirement in 1991 when he was succeeded by critic Edward Rothstein. After his retirement, he periodically contributed articles to The Times through 1997 as a freelance writer.

Henahan died, aged 91, on August 19, 2012 at his Manhattan home.


  • With the Times he won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1986. He had been a finalist in 1982. For his work in the Air Force he was awarded the Air Medal with four oak leaf clusters.


Served to First lieutenant United States Air Force, 1942-1945.


William Anthony Henahan

Mildred (Doyle) Henahan