Release Date: 
Thursday, January 6, 2022

John McDonald remembrances, by the HFC community

It is with great sadness that I share news of the passing of our teammate John McDonald, on December 30. John was a long-time HFC English faculty member and President of AFT Local 1650, the HFC full-time faculty union, which he joined in 1969 and led since 1978. He served as an AFT Michigan Vice President since 1979. In 2012, John was elected as a national Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Our entire community will miss President McDonald. I learned much from him, and I was able to spend a lot of time working with him since I joined the College in 2018. I am grateful for his knowledge, expertise, and leadership. President McDonald and I worked together to advance the College, and we respected each other when we disagreed. He had a rare ability to cut tense moments with a precisely placed bit of humor, which helped us both. Outside of our professional roles, John and I enjoyed a friendship. More than once, he worked to help me, which I endeavored to repay.

President McDonald’s advocacy for the College and community has been invaluable for decades. He cared deeply about this College, and he devoted his entire career to its success. He always worked hard on behalf of students and faculty. He was a student at the College from 1964-1966 before transferring to the University of Michigan. After earning his master’s degree in English, he taught classes for more than 40 years.

He was a centerpiece at community events, including College gala events, commencements, convocations, and many other activities. He and the AFT Local 1650 union advocated for the College through millage elections, ballot proposals, and community events. He also supported College initiatives and priorities through many relationships stretching from Dearborn to the state and national levels of government to the American Federation of Teachers. I was honored to have President McDonald emcee my investiture.

President McDonald was a fixture for our teammates in the American Federation of Teachers. I have communicated with the AFT-Michigan President and AFT-1650 Vice Presidents. I related the College’s commitment to support the Federation in this difficult loss.

President McDonald’s wife, Denise, is the Chair of the HFC Foundation Board and is a valued member of our community.

John was a good man. I am better for having known and worked with him. May God bless his soul.

Russ Kavalhuna
President

His devotion to service was endlessly inspiring

by Sarah Soebbing, HFC faculty member/instructor

It was such an honor and privilege to work with John McDonald on the 1650 Executive Board. Words cannot express how much of a loss his passing is to our entire HFC community and beyond. I learned so much from his leadership, compassion, knowledge, and wisdom. He was a true activist, and his devotion to service was endlessly inspiring. I have never had the pleasure of meeting a person who worked as hard to support the right causes and make positive change as the incredible John McDonald, and I will miss him very much.

A true and loyal friend (and UM fan)

by Dr. Nancy Owen Nelson, HFC faculty member/instructor

John McDonald was one of the first members of the English department whom I met in Fall 1981, when I began my tenure at HFCC. He was, throughout my career, after retirement, and to the present day, a true and loyal friend, always ready for a humorous comment but serious when the need arose. John was also a committed U of M fan, and in 1984, when they played my Alma mater Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, he sneaked into my office and taped my file cabinets with U of M bumper stickers. He did not leave my car untouched either, placing bumper stickers under my windshield. (I, in return, left an Auburn football from my three-year-old son in his office!)

I have a unique memory of fast-dancing with John at a 1650 dinner dance. At the time, I had a cast and was on crutches, but that didn't stop either one of us. There is a photo somewhere in the archives to prove it.

John was, above all else, fair. He would bring objectivity to a conflict. He was calm. He was kind, and he was loyal.

As with many of us, I have lost a dear friend, one who cannot be replaced.

He found his passion early on, stuck with it, and worked his magic

by Cassandra Fluker, Director of Student Activities and 1650 member

John McDonald was a champion of Henry Ford College, the Dearborn community, and his colleagues. A day did not go by when he did not think about HFC and its wellbeing. He found his passion early on, stuck with it, and worked his magic. I appreciated John’s authenticity and his impactful and admirable leadership. John McDonald will be dearly missed.

I have never met an educational leader like him

Suresh Ailawadi, HFC faculty member/instructor

I worked at HFCC for 35 years as a full-time Math Instructor. I enjoyed every moment of working at HfCC. When I first met John in 1981, I was very much impressed by his leadership qualities. I will be very honest in saying that I have never met an educational leader like him in my entire life. He accomplished so many difficult things with great ease. He was always very helpful to others. It will be very difficult to replace him. May his soul rest in peace. Om shanti.

A brilliant mission

by Cynthia Parrelly, retired administrator

I had the pleasure of knowing John through my affiliation with the president's office at HFC. John always came with a smile. He taught me many things while we chatted as he waited to meet with the president. I will always cherish those times along with the times spent with John and Denise at several social events. We became good friends. You had a mission, John, and you saw it through brilliantly. Maybe you rest in peace.

John was a great and caring man

by Zanib Janet Hazamy, HFC alumnus and local community member

What a great loss! John was a great and caring man who has made a difference in many of our lives. He will forever be remembered for his great work at HFC and in the Dearborn community. Rest In Peace my friend 🙏❤️ My sincere and heartfelt condolences to his wife, Denise, his children, and family🙏❤️

John and HFC were synonymous to me

by Gary McIlroy, HFC faculty member / instructor, retired

This news comes fast and hard, especially for those of us who did not know that John was ill. John and HFC were synonymous to me. When I arrived on campus in September of 1985, he was already a well established leader, a living artifact, nearly an institution. Not to disrespect or shortchange past or current administrators, but we always felt the college was in good shape as long as John was overseeing its operation. Yet despite his prodigious leadership and his customary don't-mess-with-me demeanor, he was foremost to me and many others a a friend, a comrade, and an re-assuring and stabilizing presence. That presence remains. I paraphrase another writer's lament at the loss of his formidable friend: "When the idea of death and the idea of [John] thus met in my head, it was the idea of death that was changed."

Integrity, wit, wisdom, and grace under pressure

by Peter Kearly Kim, HFC faculty member / instructor

I am deeply saddened by the news of John's passing. I remember fondly so many conversations, jokes, speeches, and his reassuring presence. One of my favorite memories was when I had the good fortune to be selected to join John and a contingent of fellow 1650 members to Washington, D.C., for a national meeting of the AFT. I was a newbie then, but John (and Denise) welcomed me so warmly and kindly on that trip that I felt like I belonged, and I will always be grateful for that. John was so adept at anticipating challenges to the union and unionism, so giving to any one of us who asked for help, so inspiring with his leadership. I know few with the integrity, wit, wisdom, grace under pressure, or trove of self-deprecating jokes as John. Thank you, John, for all that you have done for so many of us. If I could hold a tune, I'd sing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" in your honor.

His kindness and work ethic will be greatly missed

by Sophia Beydoun, HFC faculty member / instructor

John McDonald taught me a lot about leadership. He went above and beyond the call of duty for his 1650 AFT members. He worked hard to ensure we have fair working conditions. He will be greatly missed by 1650 AFT members, college, and community. John has always been good to me and I had the privilege and honor of being on his executive board as an area representative. His kindness and work ethic will be greatly missed. May he Rest In Peace.

Fierce but calm leadership

by Gwendolyn Pringle, HFC faculty member / instructor

John McDonald provided outstanding leadership as president of Local 1650 at Henry Ford (Community) College for more than 43 years, and I have been honored to be a part of the 1650 membership to witness his superior leadership. He has advocated for the rights of teachers as well as students. His fierce but calm leadership made Henry Ford (Community) College an educational institution that I am proud to work at as a faculty member. When I came to Henry Ford (Community) in 1979, the theme of the College was "Nationally Known for Excellence." John McDonald's leadership ability evolved to the national level when he served as Vice President for Higher Education of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan. John made it possible for the membership to hear a professional presentation from Randi Weingarten, who is President of the American Federation of Teachers on the campus of HFC. John was very supportive of my decision to take a sabbatical to complete my Ph.D. from Michigan State University. His leadership and superior negotiation skills managed many years of outstanding contracts, good wages, community service activities, participation in shared governance and professional development opportunities for the faculty. In essence, John McDonald accomplishments over his 53 years are too lengthy to list here but the positive imprint of his character as our union president will live on forever.

He will be greatly missed!

Ability to balance extremes

by Daniel Harrison, HFC faculty member / instructor

John had an extraordinary ability to balance extremes, something that stood him in good stead in his chosen role. At once passionate and reasoned, he was capable of righteous anger and devastating wit, all in the same moment. In good times and not-so-good, he was a steadying and reassuring presence. John McDonald was the consummate teacher, whose classroom was his world.

Ethos of education for all

by Andrew Whitman, Henry Ford College Foundation

John McDonald embodied the ethos of education for all. He saw education as the solution to most (if not all) of the challenges, needs, hopes, and aspirations of society. He refused to compromise in any way, if comprising meant limiting access to education or diminishing the importance and worth of every person employed in any way to higher education. Countless lives have benefited from John’s unwavering work. Now peace eternal is his reward.

A born American and an immigrant rejoiced in the same poem

by Cristina Bailey, Director of Academic Services and HFC faculty member / instructor

I met John McDonald in 2019, a few months after starting my tenure at HFC. We were both in the Sisson room, waiting for a meeting whose time had changed and we did not notice the announcement. As we sat in the room, we introduced ourselves and somehow, our conversation turned from general academics to poetry and to our favorite American poet; we agreed on the greatness of Walt Whitman. Moreover, we both loved his poems on Lincoln's death. Amazingly, a born American and an immigrant rejoiced in the sad but glorious lines of "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd". We even discussed Paul Lawrence Dunbar's "Lincoln" poem. I felt his welcoming tone in the extended time he spent with me, even if the words were not said. It was a pure academic moment that I will treasure forever.

A gentleness that made everyone feel welcome

by Michael Palaski, HFC faculty member / instructor

Hello HFC,
I am beyond saddened. I was slow in my efforts getting to know John McDonald, beyond our initial introduction when I arrived at HFC. I regret not taking the opportunities to interact with John more often. John’s compassion and care for “his” faculty were not lost on me and not surprisingly, over the past 16 years, he was incredibly gracious and generous with his time and energy, any time and every time I needed his guidance. John was that rare combination of a towering figure with an eloquent tongue and a gentleness that made everyone feel equal, appreciated and welcome. I can say nothing more, that isn’t already known (among our faculty) about this irreplaceable man, but that he will be greatly missed and never forgotten.

Thank you, John, for everything.

Encouraging words of wisdom

by Shai James Boyd, Henry Ford College Foundation

I will miss you. Thank you for your encouraging words of wisdom.

Caring is a pre-requisite to doing any good in the world

by Diane Mancinelli, HFC faculty member / instructor

I am retired faculty from Henry Ford College, a member of the Local 1650 Union and a friend of John’s honoring this giant to so many, and this most gentle, wonderful human being.

Caring is a pre-requisite to doing any good in the world. This is certainly true in education. Without it, we would not be able to fulfill our mission of helping students learn and care about their own learning. John lived this in his career and beyond.

John also lived the quote that we have displayed in our foyer. It states, “Everything we do is a vote for the world we want to live in.” John knew this very well, and continued to care, all of the way through his illness, about his faculty members. In every way, he supported a feeling of pride and importance in themselves and in their work. He always cultivated and modeled professionalism, a sense of responsibility, and leadership so that we as faculty could feel confident in making a difference in the lives of our students. In other words, he set the environment in which we could do our jobs well because that is obviously the world he wanted to live in.

One of the truly greatest moments of my career was when John presented me with a “Citation for Service” AFT plaque for my retirement. More importantly, it was the words with which he honored me, in front of the entire membership, citing just about every single service and event in which I participated for the local. He always had an attitude of gratitude for those under his leadership who gave service in any capacity. He thanked us over and over again, when in truth he is the one who put so much heart and soul into his service to us.

He got to know our faculty and our families, as well as our struggles both within and outside of the college. I personally felt he was always there when I needed some guidance.

The life my family and I enjoy is because of his leadership and insistence that our profession as college faculty should be treated with respect. He was a master at negotiation. What a brilliance he had!

I have the deepest gratitude for his allowing all of us to earn his trust; for his many years of service to faculty, the entire College community, and beyond; and most of all for his care, warmth and friendship with my husband Dave and me. We became good friends with John and Denise over the years and we so enjoyed dining together, our great conversations, and the good humor and fun he brought.

It is also important to state here how he was a man of integrity, second to none. Two examples of this that will forever be fixed in my memory. The time that he teased my husband, and later called us after we left his house apologizing, just in case Dave was offended. Another time, he thought he was out of line when he felt he insulted Denise in front of us, which he didn’t, and then later called us after we left again to apologize. He had a keen awareness for others’ sensibilities. Dave and I will always be honored to have called him a friend.

Denise, please accept my deepest sympathy for your profound loss. I will forever cherish our friendship and value the time we had together. Sending many blessings and much love, Diane Mancinelli

“Brother Professor”

by Jamal Koussan, HFC alumnus

Mr. McDonald taught me English in the 1980s. He was such an inspiration to me so much that I became an English major and earned four degrees from Wayne State. I’ll never forget the day he showed us “Dead Poets Society” in class. Also, I used to affectionately call him, to the dismay of my classmates: brother professor. He was so much more than a teacher to me.

You’ll always live forever in my heart. Your fight is over, you may now rest in eternal peace.

He seemed larger than life

by Molly McCord, HFC faculty member

I'll never forget meeting John for the first time when I was hired as a full-time faculty member in 2009. He seemed larger than life, and I remember feeling immensely proud to be associated with a union that had such a strong leader at the helm. John made a lasting first impression, and I'm forever grateful for his leadership.

For the Good of All

by Geraldine Grunow, retired instructor

I’m indebted to John in many ways. While I was still an adjunct and attending a Professional Issues Conference--one of the many initiatives John was instrumental in creating—he spoke humbly and eloquently about the need to bring about diversity in the college. This was a wonderful introduction to the self-examination that the college encouraged and that I appreciated very much. Later, John was on my hiring committee, so I owe my 27 years of happy employment, with wonderful benefits, at the college (at least in part) to him! At the beginning of our first semester, John welcomed all of us new hires as members of Local 1650 and reviewed its proud history.

Union membership under John’s leadership was a great privilege for me. I relished the opportunity offered by Local 1615 to participate in shared governance, in local politics, and in solidarity actions with other unions. John was a fine teacher, in and out of the classroom: he encouraged new members to feel that they had a stake in the union and to take leadership roles whenever possible. He himself was a master at networking and socializing, generously including everyone in his orbit of friends and associates.

Moreover, John understood the importance of celebrations. St. Patrick’s Day at Park Place won’t be the same without his generous and expert planning skills. Who else could organize such a wonderful feast, with the best local Irish band, raffles and prizes—all to benefit the Dearborn Rotary Club. Every Labor Day, John organized a Local 1650 members to take part in the official Labor Day Parade down Michigan Avenue in Detroit—but only up to a certain point! When John gave the word, usually when we reached Washington Boulevard, our contingent broke away from the parade and headed for American Coney Island, where we enjoyed--some of us more than others--the “sumptuous repast” that John had promised us! His purpose, of course, was not to provide us with nutritious fare but to bring us together and enjoy each other’s company, maybe even to come up with good ideas “for the good of all.”

Finally, John was a most generous host and a loyal friend. He and Denise hosted wonderful parties, where they were unfailingly gracious to guests and solicitous about their families.

What a terrible loss his passing is for everyone: for Denise and the rest of John’s family; for the College; for the AFT; and for union members all over the world. Love and sympathy to everyone in these sad, difficult days ahead.

Trust bonded us together to resolve issues

by John Satkowski, Vice President for Finance, Facilities, IT, and Auxiliary Services

I am deeply saddened by the passing of my colleague and more importantly, my friend, John McDonald. John was on the hiring committee that brought me to Henry Ford in 2013 and ever since that day, we developed a relationship that focused on providing what is best for the students and staff at HFC. We developed an understanding that "trust" is the trait that bonded us together to resolve issues. I always believed and trusted his position on an issue, and I believe the feeling from him regarding my position was mutual.

We may (and did) disagree on issues, but we would always resolved the differences in a courteous and professional manner. It will be difficult to no longer have John available to discuss the historical perspective behind many issues at HFC and to work with him on issues that are beneficial to all parties. I will miss him immensely and always considered him a dear friend. I hope that the feelings were mutual. Rest in peace, my friend.

A sense of humor and sly grin

by Susan Shunkwiler, (retired) HFC Dean of Health and Human Services and faculty member

I appreciated John’s sense of humor and sly grin. John was an eloquent speaker and writer. I often joked with him that I enjoyed reading his memos, even if I was the target of his displeasure. John was a shrewd negotiator who served his constituents well. I had the utmost respect for him and his work. Rest in peace, John McDonald.

Deepest condolences to Denise and the McDonald family.

A giant in my life, and a legend in the community

by Betsy Cohn, HFC faculty member

I've been struggling to write this tribute because John was a giant (literally — as he wouldn't miss a chance to tell you — and figuratively) in my life and a legend in the community. He was a constant at the College even as it went through many serious upheavals. How to find words to capture what he's meant to me and done for me? I can't, but I can say how much I loved and respected him and how much I will miss him. John was one of the first people I met when I was hired way back in 1995 and quickly became first a mentor and then a friend. He brought me into the fold of Local 1650 by welcoming me to help with the small stuff — labeling mailings, distributing voting information — and then brought me in deep.

John had a way of offering what he called "opportunities" (which really meant a lot of work!) that were slippery slopes into more responsibility, and I am thankful for that. His invitation to attend an AFT National Leadership Conference and then to be on the contract negotiating teams led to my becoming Internal Vice President for 13 years. John showed me leadership potential that I didn't know I had, and insightfully, he did so step by step, giving me time (but not too much time) to acclimate.

While I credit his guidance for much of my professional development, it is his friendship that I most treasure. Denise, his wife, was generous in giving me time to spend with him in his final months, and I got the chance to tell him how much he'd meant to me. We got to exchange "I love you's." I got to hold his hand. I got to hear his stories. I got to see him smile and laugh. I got to talk to him about the difficult transition he was making and to try to give some comfort. Those moments were blessings and are proof that there is still grace in this world. In 1996, we had an anniversary gala for the Local, which unbeknownst to John turned into a celebration of him.

I began my tribute as follows: "If we were to create a word cloud over John McDonald, it would be a mix of extraordinary characteristics: loyal, compassionate, generous, enduring, determined, strategic, indefatigable, analytical, extremely smart, and… tall! I add the last one to pay homage to all the short jokes he’s thrown my way over the years, which makes me think of another character trait that some of you may not be aware of. John can be very, very funny."

I am so glad that he was able to hear that and others' tributes well before he had to leave us.

Photo courtesy Eric Rader: L to R, Eric Rader, John McDonald, and Denise McDonald in San Gimignano, Italy, in June 2018
Photo courtesy Eric Rader: L to R, Eric Rader, John McDonald, and Denise McDonald in San Gimignano, Italy, in June 2018

A most influential mentor and dear friend

by Eric Rader, HFC faculty member

John McDonald was my most influential mentor and dearest friend. Within a few weeks of my first semester at HF(C)C and as a new Local 1650 member, John recruited me to become involved in our Local's political action efforts. It was the beginning of one of the most significant professional and personal associations I've ever had or ever will have. I had the privilege of serving on 1650 negotiating teams under John's leadership beginning in 2007, and as a member of his Executive Board since 2010. Over those years, I learned great lessons about being prepared, how to treat others with respect, and the value of loyalty.

John exhibited all of those qualities always — he was the quintessential gentleman. He was also the best storyteller I ever knew, living up always to the Irish heritage of which he was so proud. My favorite memories of John will always be the personal moments with him and his phenomenal wife, Denise.

Beginning in 2015, I accompanied them on three trips to Europe, including visits to Italy, Greece, and Ireland. While John was one of the great labor leaders of our time, I am convinced he could have had a successful career as a travel agent. He scoped out the best accommodations at great prices, planned interesting itineraries, and found the best restaurants. Those trips enlarged my own horizons and allowed me to see places of which I'd only dreamed. I will always treasure those trips, as well as my frequent visits to their beautiful home. They always made me feel like family. Like so many others, my life was made immeasurably better by John McDonald's presence in it. I will miss him deeply. We are all better people for having loved (and been loved by) John McDonald. Godspeed, my dear friend.

He was our shield and spearhead

by Hal Friedman, HFC faculty member

No words or deeds by Local 1650 members can even begin to repay John for all that he has done for us. For two generations, he was our shield, and he protected us so that we could do our jobs effectively. Far from just that vital defensive role, however, John was also the spearhead of a campus progressiveness that not only benefited 1650 members but non-1650 staff, students, the College in general, and the larger community. He is irreplaceable given what he did for us, including for future 1650 members who don't even know yet who he was.

A larger-than-life history, a legend

by Patricia Lanzon, Ph.D., former HFC faculty member

How does a man or woman become a legend? They become a legend because their lives resemble folktales in content; their actions are those of a supernatural being, and their life requires mythological strength. But mostly legends are associated with a particular place and are embedded into the history of a community. The person becomes a legend because the history and success of the community was made better through their unwavering love and commitment. I was blessed to have known a legend like this.

I will be forever grateful to John McDonald and his legendary commitment to faculty for what he did for me as a brand new, untenured faculty at HFC. I had only worked at HFC for two weeks when I contracted transverse myelitis. This disease took me from a very athletic young woman to being paralyzed from the chest down. As soon as my sister contacted the College to tell them what happened, a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived on the scene from John, telling me not to worry because I was a part of the Henry Ford Community College family. John made sure I had absolutely nothing to worry about, and as a single mom with a two-year-old daughter I can never thank him enough. As John told the faculty about my condition, the senior faculty stepped up and offered me their sick days. John worked with Human Resources to make sure I did not lose my job, retained my health and other benefits, had my salary, and would return to work the following January. The knowledge that I had a stable career to return to with new colleagues visiting me frequently helped me to recover from the virus that would forever change my life.

Over the years John and I would talk about his health struggles. Even with them, he remained gracious, always committed to HFC faculty's livelihoods and always involved in the success of the Dearborn community. His passion for faculty advocacy took primacy over his own needs. His love for the Dearborn community, his love for HFC faculty, and his historical contributions to unionization are unsurpassed. And because of this man's character and larger than life history, John will always be a LEGEND.

A true support in challenging times

by Amy Barry, HFC faculty member

John McDonald was an exceptional man. I am so thankful for his leadership and guidance. He personally supported me through a very challenging time in my life and was genuinely caring and extremely professional and thorough. He made himself available to assist me in ways in which I will be forever grateful. He will truly be missed by me as well as all the 1650 members he represented.

“I always had faith you would close the enrollment gap”

by Holly Diamond, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs

When my employment at the College began in 2009, I was told, "You have to get to know John McDonald." I heard this over and over. Being the new "kid on the block" and anxious to learn, I quickly reached out to John and left him a voicemail as he was unavailable. I didn't hear back. I tried again and didn't hear back. I took this to mean that he really was busy and important, just as others had shared with me.

Several weeks later, there was an event in the 5101 Restaurant. I approached John and said, "Hello, I'm Holly Diamond." He looked at me quizzically and said with his grin that he was known for, "Boy, you are persistent. I like that!" We shared a good laugh and through the years, we shared the love of the University of Michigan. When I was appointed to the Interim Vice President of Student Affairs role, John was kind enough to reach out to me and make some inquiries about enrollment. I was happy to share the requested information with him because as many colleagues know, students and their retention and enrollment with the College are a great passion of mine.

Just after the Fall 2021 semester started, I received an email message from John. His words to me were, "Hello Holly, Great leadership and great work by your team. I always had faith that you would close the enrollment gap." I will save this email for the remainder of my career. I thank him for all of the support through the years, both to me and the College.

Rest easy now, John. My deepest condolences to the McDonald family, the 1650 membership and the HFC community.

He worked on behalf of the entire membership

by John Carroll, former HFC faculty member

The entire HFC community has lost a giant whose legacy will be with us for a long, long time. I was lucky enough to have known John for 44 years and saw how his leadership, guidance, vision, and negotiating skills allowed the HFC faculty to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. I remember meeting up with colleagues from other colleges in Michigan and they would often ask: "How come HFC got such a good contract?" The answer was simple: John McDonald.

He always put together a crafty negotiating team that worked on behalf of the entire membership. John fought for us and was able to deliver benefits and salaries that enhanced us all professionally and personally. For this, I am greatly indebted to what he provided for the 1650 membership. John worked endlessly to promote the college, unionism, and higher education throughout Dearborn, Metro Detroit, Michigan, and this nation.

He will be missed for sure, and never forgotten.

Insatiable quest for truth and logic

by Linda Kay Brandt, retired HFC faculty member

One time I mustered up the courage to disagree with John. After our extended discussion, he concluded that what really mattered was our friendship. Along with John’s insatiable quest for truth and logic, he was a kind and caring person. John and I first met during my late husband Steve’s first year as a faculty member at HFC: 1977. I have always remembered that encounter because way back then, John left Steve and me both with a warm and supported feeling, that never left us.

John liked to tease — but always in a warm way — pointing out my enthusiasm for frogs and toads! He also liked to razz me a bit about the fact that I always had a question or two or more at every meeting. But he always made me feel that my questions were valuable. Now that I am a recent retiree, I am even more aware of what John and 1650 have done to set us up with absolutely outstanding retirement benefits. Thank you John!

A brilliant star, sweet and humble

by Susan McGraw, HFC faculty member and alumnus

In addition to short conversations in meetings and at our beloved 1650 holiday parties, I had the pleasure of interviewing John at least a couple of times on our campus and community radio station, WHFR. Having him to myself for a half-hour or more in conversation talking about his work, his passions, his love of this community, and his leadership in our Local 1650, ranks at the top of the list of highlights of my career.

I'll always remember his expression every time I told him (which was just about every time I saw him) that he is the most brilliant person I've ever known. He would look at me, blush a bit, smile and laugh, and then shake his head and say something in his sweet and humble way like, "Then you must not know a lot of people." John, you are and will always be the most brilliant person I've ever known. Thank you for sharing that brilliance with our union, our community, our college, and with me. To know you, work with you, and call you my friend has and will always be the privilege of a lifetime.

He was a beacon of light

by Janice Caie-Lawrence, retired HFC faculty member

An icon of servant leadership — I met John when I started in nursing at HFC in 1999. Serving at the helm of 1650, he was a consistent beacon of light for us all. He epitomized a fierce (and sometimes gentle too) love for the College and would do everything and anything to make it a better place.

Part of how he did this was by focusing on the needs and development of individuals. After all, it is we who make up the "organization." One sliver of my personal favorite memories was when he readily answered the call to come to CTEI faculty orientations and spend an hour plus (well, always plus, never lacking a story to tell) with newly hired 1650 faculty every semester. Over and over. Developing faculty from the start. He never missed a beat. He used his gifts well!

I echo my colleagues as we celebrate the life of an extraordinary man who ran a great race.

He made our walks possible

by Michael Hill, HFC faculty member

We have had many people who have walked on this campus and affected what we do here. Our campus has been blessed by eager students, great academics, amazing teachers, visionary leaders, efficient administrators, and a supportive community.

John McDonald, more than any other figure I can think of, made our walks possible.

His wisdom, leadership, and vision continually made and remade this College into a welcoming, safe, and supportive space for our city, our students, our faculty, our staff and our administrations. John was a man of ethics, passion, and drive. His work made our labor possible. On a personal note, John taught me more about how to be a professional and how to love my workplace more than my career than any other person. I will miss him daily as I continue to work in the offices that he made possible.

I reminded him of a younger him, “a firecracker”

by Leslie Windless, President, HFC Support Staff Association

I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the President McDonald. I’ll be the first to admit that I knew about John McDonald before I ever had the pleasure of meeting him in person. His legacy is something you hear about from the time you are hired at Henry Ford College.

His dedication to union leadership and to education were unmatched. When I decided that I wanted to run for union president of the SSA, I reached out to John, and he was more than happy to walk me through the process. After that he routinely reached out to me to offer guidance and support in my new role once I was elected. In our last conversation, he told me I reminded him of a younger him, “a firecracker”.

I will always remember that he told me to never lose that part of myself. John will truly be missed as a friend, mentor, and leader on campus, but I take solace in knowing his legacy will live on for countless years to come.

Because of his influence, I am able to have a great life

by Randall Knight, HFC faculty member

Because of John McDonald and all of the many people he worked with and influenced, I'm able to live a great life. He was a good man and I will always be grateful for having been fortunate enough to have worked with him and learned from him.

Generous in sharing his knowledge and giving excellent advice

by Roberta Elins, external colleague to John McDonald

John McDonald was an outstanding union leader and a wonderful colleague. He was always so generous in sharing his knowledge and always giving excellent advice to anyone who reached out to him. I will always remember him for his love of his family, HFC and his passion for Irish music.

R.I.P. John. You will be so missed.


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