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Ronald Russell Macdonald

Died: March 8, 2002

Ronald R. Macdonald came to Yale from Darien, CT and Choate. Freshman year he roomed in McClellan with Don Liberman, a classmate from Choate. He later roomed in Silliman with John Carney. He was an English major who was a Ranking Scholar almost every semester and graduated summa cum laude. He won a Book Prize from Konsulat der Bundesrepublik Deutchland.

Ron was widely recognized as one of the true scholars in our class, and his professional life fulfilled the promise that his classmates saw in him. He served as a Carnegie Teaching Fellow in English from 1966 to 1967 and received his Ph.D. in English from Yale in 1973 . Ron became a professor of English language and literature at Smith College and was a member of the department from 1971. In 1989 he was a visiting associate professor at Williams College in Williamstown.

He taught a wide range of courses, from Chaucer and Shakespeare to seminars on Faulkner. He had published two books: The Burial Places of Memory: Epic Underworlds in Vergil, Dante, and Milton (1987) and William Shakespeare: The Comedies (1992), as well as many articles on Shakespeare’s plays. Ron was also passionate about the history of words, authentic barbecue, trains, New Orleans jazz, plants and growing things.

“This is a shocking loss and a deep one for Smith,” said John Connolly, acting president of the college. “Ron was a pillar of this community in so many ways — first and foremost through his amazing intellect and deep engagement in intellectual matters. And he was a wonderful conversation partner about any number of topics.”

Susan Bourque, provost and dean of the faculty at Smith, said, “You could always depend on him for an honest answer, and therefore he was the most trusted of friends and colleagues… He was one of the key people to bring [incoming Smith College president] Carol Christ to our attention. He really cared about the well-being of the institution. Ron’s loss is a tremendous blow to our community.”

Ron died at home on March 8, 2002, after a short illness. Ron left four children and four grandchildren. His widow Marian V. H. Macdonald was the director of the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching, and Learning at Smith College. She passed away April 17, 2015. Her obituary noted: “She and her husband Ron, her greatest love, shared a joyous life together until he died in 2002. Married in 1981, they were true soul mates, lovers of books and language, train travel, bicycling through the hills of western Massachusetts, and were dedicated eaters of Maryland crabs during their annual pilgrimage to the Eastern shore. Their train trips were somewhat epic. She understood her husband’s fear of flying, so they happily rode the Empire Builder to Seattle and The City of New Orleans to New Orleans to see the kids. “