Obituary: David Varnum Abbott, 61

by | Dec 18, 2020

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David Varnum Abbott, 61, was born in Manchester, Conn., on July 9, 1959, and lived there until he graduated from Manchester High School. He attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs and graduated cum laude from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in environmental conservation and a minor in education, each of which would become a focus of his future work life.

He began his career as a special education teacher in an alternative high school in Hampton, N.H., and moved from there to the Hurricane Outward Bound School, where he was a course director at their Florida and Maine campuses, and specialized in programs for rehabilitating youthful offenders.

This led him to his lifelong interest in the law, and a passion for improving the quality and effectiveness of public education. He graduated from Vermont Law School in 1990, and it was there that he met his future wife, Lynn Coccoli. After graduation he joined the firm of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy in Hartford, Conn. He subsequently moved on to become a partner at the firm of Asquith, Mahoney & Robinson in Providence, where he focused on education law.

After returning to graduate school for an M.Ed. in educational policy & administration, he decided to move to a position where he could more directly influence public education policy and joined the staff of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), where he rose to the position of deputy commissioner and general counsel in a distinguished 15-year career. This was a period of broad-based and intense change initiatives in the Rhode Island education framework, and David was at its center – leading the state’s implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, among other lasting achievements. Upon his retirement from RIDE, David joined the firm of Whelan, Corrente & Flanders as a partner, and continued his work in education law.

David was also an enthusiastic musician, a writer of numerous scholarly and policy-directed articles, and a proud Eagle Scout.

David is predeceased by his parents, Varnum J. Abbott, Jr., born in Burlington, Vt., and Joan (Lundberg) Abbott, born in Framingham, Mass. He is survived by his daughters, Hannah and Emily, in whom he inspired a love of nature and the outdoors, as well a thirst for exploring new vistas, both here and abroad. Also mourning his loss is his former wife Lynn Martineau, sister Nancy E. Abbott, brother John V. Abbott, sister-in-law Nancy S. Abbott, Aunt Helga Lundberg of Sommerhausen, Germany, and many cousins.

Due to current health and safety concerns, a celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Kindly visit for information and online condolences.

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Mathias Wilkinson
Mathias Wilkinson
December 19, 2020 3:20 pm

A wonderful man. RIP


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