Former Senator J. Michael Lenihan, 71, passed away peacefully at home on Feb. 28, after a short illness. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Patricia Kennedy Lenihan, his daughter Meghan and son-in-law Todd, his granddaughters Victoria and Bryanna, and his sister Martha Lenihan-Lavieri and her husband Jon.
Mr. Lenihan was born in Providence on Aug. 30, 1943, to Joseph B. and Muriel S. Lenihan. He grew up in Warwick and Scituate, graduating from Scituate High School. He received a BA in History at Rhode Island College and an MAT in American Studies from Brown University where he studied under a Danforth Fellowship. He and his wife married in 1968 and he lived until his death in East Greenwich.
For 29 years he taught English, American Studies, Early Enrollment, and Advanced Placement classes at Scituate before retiring. He also chaired the English Department, won a Federal Grant which allowed his students to produce and publish a book on the historic villages of Scituate. In addition, he has been an Adjunct Professor at Rhode Island College and a coach for various school varsity and junior varsity sports teams. Mike Lenihan spent over 40 years in service to the communities of East Greenwich, North Kingstown, Warwick and Exeter, 20 of those years as a state senator.
He served on the East Greenwich Town Council, part of that time as its president. Michael Lenihan has contributed his time and talents to countless civic and charitable endeavors and has always given of himself unstintingly. As a strong and respected voice in the chamber, Senator Lenihan had served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, chair of the Senate Committee on Government Oversight, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Rules, and was a member of the Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture.
A visionary advocate, Michael Lenihan championed public access to online legislation, and legislation on separation of powers, open meetings, vendor disclosure, public access to public records, and improvements in the governance of quasi-public commissions, public officials accountability, state contracts with employee leasing companies, as well as issues affecting Narragansett Bay, to name just a few.
Michael Lenihan has also been a member and held leadership positions with a panoply of organizations including: the National Council of State Legislatures; the Council on State Government, Executive Committee-Eastern Regional; vice-chair of the South County Caucus; member of the Quonset-Davisville Management Corporation; president, vice-president, and member of the East Greenwich Town Council; member of the Nature Conservancy, Save the Bay, and the Sierra Club; and the Founder of the East Greenwich Land Trust.
Contributing his time and talents to countless civic and charitable endeavors, Michael Lenihan was the proud recipient of countless awards and accolades some of which include, the “Margaret Langdon Kelly Award” from Meeting Street School, the “Golden Broom” from Operation Clean Government, three-time recipient of the “Public Service Achievement Award” by Common Cause, twice selected as “Legislator of the Year” by the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District, and named “Legislator of the Year” by the Rhode Island Rivers Council. It would surprise no one that Mike was an Eagle Scout and, throughout his tenure as a senator, he enthusiastically participated in countless Eagle Scout ceremonies inspiring other young men to service.
His calm demeanor, laser-focus on issues, and an incredible command of the English language inspired respect from both sides of the Senate aisle. Anyone witnessing his fight for reform legislation over his 2 decades in the Senate could never deny his passionate devotion and dedication to the interests of his constituents and the people of Rhode Island.
Senator Lenihan will be laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cemetery on Sixth Avenue in East Greenwich following a Funeral Mass at St. Francis de Sales Church on School Street in North Kingstown, Thursday at 11 a.m. Calling hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4, at Hill Funeral Home, 822 Main St., in East Greenwich. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Home & Hospice Care of Rhode Island, 1085 North Main St., Providence, RI 02904.