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Lee '48 and Claire '47 Kingman McDonald Awarded the 2009 Alumni Distinguished Service Award

Lee ’48 and Claire ’47 Kingman McDonald

Lee ’48 and Claire ’47 Kingman McDonald are the 2009 recipients of the Alumni Distinguished Service Award. But there might be another award in order—in honor of their humility. When asked about their service to Pomona College and the recognition, the couple seems genuinely bewildered, responding with I-don’t-know-ask-them.

The couple’s self-effacement is hard-wired.

“Lee and Claire McDonald have been in service to Pomona for 60 years. That's so obvious to anyone around them—but when I called them to notify them of the award, they humbly asked why they would get it,” said Tom Minar ’85, president of the Alumni Association.

The couple have a long history with the College. Both attended Pomona, as did their daughters Mary Alexander ‘71, Alison McDonald ’74 and Julia McDonald ’74. Lee, an emeritus professor of government, taught here for 38 years, served as Dean of the College for five years, and received an honorary degree in 1998.

Lee and Claire’s continued involvement at the College makes for a long list of contributions of every kind. Both are former members of the Alumni Council, and faithfully support the Annual Fund. They’re active volunteers at reunions: Claire has chaired and co-chaired Class of '47 reunion activities committees, and Lee co-chaired the last two Class of '48 reunion fund committees. They’ve picked up receivers and jumped in to help fundraise via phone-a-thons, and given their time and energy to events planning. Claire wrote an article on World War experiences of the Class of '47 for Pomona College Magazine on the occasion of the class's 40th reunion, and the couple has chaired various committees, such as the one on social life on campus, which Lee led in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, they’re also regular attendees at lectures and concerts on campus.

The McDonalds’ generous spirit extends even further, to their church, the Claremont community at large and even abroad. In the 1960s, Lee was the advisor to students for the Crossroads Africa program at the College, an organization similar to the Peace Corps, sending volunteers to Africa to work with counterparts in building programs.

“They have always quietly flown under the radar,” said Carlos Garcia ’73, past president of the Alumni Association and member of the award selection committee.

“By and large, we have done what people asked us to do.” From Lee and Claire’s modest perspective their service is instinctual not exceptional, and no more remarkable than what other alumni have done.

Claire and Lee will be recognized at the “Through the Gates” program on Saturday, May 2 at 3:30 p.m. in Bridges Auditorium. There will be a reception following that program in the upstairs lobby in Bridges.

The Alumni Distinguished Service Award is bestowed annually to an alumnus, alumna, or alumni in recognition of that person's selfless commitment and ongoing volunteer service to Pomona College. Inaugurated in 1991, the award has been presented to many dedicated alumni volunteers. After careful deliberation of nominations, the Committee of Past Presidents of the Alumni Association selects the recipient(s).

If you would like to nominate a alumnus or alumna for an Alumni Distinguished Service Award, please e-mail alumni@pomona.edu.