Skip to main content

Remembering Alonzo L. McDonald 1928 - 2019

Sunday, 8 December 2019 - 9:15pm

We are very sad to report the death of Al McDonald on 21 November 2019. Without his vision and generosity there would be no McDonald Centre. We lament his passing and remain enormously grateful for his support.

The photograph displayed shows Al McDonald standing in the centre of the middle row of McDonald Distinguished Scholars for Christ at the McDonald Centre's 2012 conference, 'The Flourishing of Universities'.


Alonzo L. McDonald died November 21, 2019 in Naples, Florida. He was 91 years old. Mr. McDonald was born August 5, 1928 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Mr. McDonald was an American businessman and philanthropist. Born on the cusp of the Great Depression as the oldest child and first son in a family that valued hard work and self-sufficiency, Al McDonald rose from his roots in a small Georgia town named for the Greek “lithos” in tribute to the granite vein beneath it to the pinnacle of international business and its intersection with world politics, global academia, and impactful philanthropy. 

It was sometimes mentioned that Al climbed up enough rungs of the ladders of business, government and academia to see over the proverbial walls these three ladders leaned against.  He didn’t like what he saw on the other side of any of them.  In his later decades the questions of God and the vocation of philanthropy were among his foci and passion. 

Mr. McDonald graduated from Emory University in 1948 and went on to serve in the United States Marine Corps from 1950 to 1952. He then attended Harvard Business School where he received his M.B.A. in 1956. Mr. McDonald married Suzanne Moffitt and together they raised four children.

Mr. McDonald had an impressive career.  He started as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal from 1948 to 1950 and then worked for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation from 1956 to 1960. He worked for McKinsey & Company till 1977, first becoming a partner and later being elected as the company’s sixth Global Managing Partner and Worldwide CEO in a career that spanned roles in New York, London, Zurich, Milan, and Paris.  In 1977 he was appointed to Deputy United States Special Trade Representative and Ambassador.  In that role he led the U.S. Delegation to a successful completion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Geneva.  In 1979, he was appointed Assistant to the President of the United States and White House Staff Director under President Jimmy Carter. 

Mr. McDonald served as President and Vice Chairman of the Bendix Corporation from 1981 to 1983. In 1981, he also became a faculty member of the Harvard Business School and served as Senior Counselor to the Dean until 1987. In 1983, he founded the Avenir Group, a private investment company.

Mr. McDonald devoted his later decades to questions of faith and Christian philanthropy with the same zeal, strategic focus and drive for excellence exhibited throughout his life.  He co-founded the The Trinity Forum and then became the founder and chairman of The McDonald Agape Foundation.  Both are focused on how the life and teachings of Jesus Christ marked a turning point in human history. The former focuses on the questions among leaders and thinkers.  The latter among and across academia by Encouraging Distinguished Scholars for Christ at distinguished global universities across the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.  This work intersects the questions of theology, faith and religion with the topics of ethics, law, medicine, policy, the arts and more.  In these later decades he also became Catholic, accepting full communion in the Catholic church at the age of 78.

Mr. McDonald is survived by his wife, Suzanne; children Alex McDonald, Denise McDonald Dampierre, Jennifer McDonald Peters, and Peter McDonald; 12 grandchildren, and two brothers.  

A Memorial Service will be held at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, on Wednesday 12 February at 2pm.