Skip to main content

Donal Henahan

Donal Henahan (BSJ48), who served as a fighter pilot during World War II, graduated from Medill in 1948 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While enrolled at Northwestern, he began writing for the Chicago Daily News. In 1957, Henahan, who was an accomplished pianist and classical guitarist, became the chief music critic of the Chicago Daily News.

After the Chicago Daily News, Henahan joined The New York Times in 1967, where he wrote reviews of concerts, singers, operas and recitals for the newspaper’s daily edition. On Sundays, his cultural essays were also published for The Times, which he became chief music critic of in 1980. Henahan’s writings while at The New York Times won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

Henahan’s criticism was well-known for being provocative, but also informative. He helped bring light to the underrepresentation of black musicians in orchestras, which he labeled a “cultural apartheid.”

In the summer of 1990 Henahan, at age 70, retired from The New York Times. Throughout his career in journalism, Henahan also contributed to publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Holiday and High Fidelity. Following retirement, he continued to write occasional articles and book reviews for The Times.

Henahan passed away in 2012, at the age of 91.