The college has learned of the passing of Mary Jane McDonald ’59, Emerita Vice President for University Resources and Public Affairs, today’s Institutional Advancement Division. To many alumni and community members, she was the face of Denison. She was known for her intelligence, work ethic, sense of humor, and ability to bring out the best in others.
McDonald was the first woman to serve on the Ohio Rhodes Scholar Selection Committee, the first woman and non-lawyer chosen as chair of the Ohio Elections Commission, the first woman to be elected to the Granville Rotary, and Denison’s first female vice president.
Over the course of her 26 years with Denison, McDonald served five presidents and led pivotal fundraising efforts that literally changed the landscape of the campus, with the addition of cutting-edge facilities for students and faculty in new academic buildings, including Olin, Burton D. Morgan, Samson Talbot, and the Reese~Shackelford Common. Her work also funded the construction of the Pratt, Brown, Myers, and Good residence halls, which give Denison seniors access to apartment-style living.
Her work and leadership exponentially increased the endowment, which stood at $17 million at the start of her time at Denison, and crossed the $500 million mark before her retirement in 2000. The endowment helps to fund Denison’s educational mission, which includes academic innovation, financial aid, career exploration and global learning.
The Licking County community will remember her as an indefatigable and ardent volunteer. Among such work, McDonald was a member of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court Judge Nominating Commission (for which she was appointed by President Carter), Licking County Memorial Health Systems Board, and the Licking County Port Authority Board of Directors. In 1996, she was recognized as a Licking County Woman of Achievement, and in 2001, she was honored with the Licking Memorial Hospital Lifetime Achievement Award.
The university flag will fly at half staff for a period of two days in Mary Jane’s memory. A public memorial service is being planned sometime in the late fall. Details will be shared when they become available.