Paul and Gail McDonald, who have been longtime members of the Isenberg community, recently gave $1 million to fund an endowed fellowship that works to attract and retain the very best faculty in the business community, as well as an endowed student scholarship that will work to support first generation Isenberg students for many years to come. With state matching funds, the full gift grew to $1.5 million.
Paul McDonald has been heavily involved with the business school even before it was dubbed the Isenberg School of Management. While studying for his economics degree at UMass, he took electives at Isenberg and maintained his relationship with the school after graduating. He spent time on the accounting advisory council, served as a guest lecturer, chaired the dean’s business council for 12 years under former Dean Tom O’Brien, and participated in the recruiting team for former Dean Mark Fuller. Paul later received his MBA from Rutgers; Gail graduated from Hiram College in Ohio, studying education.
The couple decided to establish the Paul J. and Gail M. McDonald Endowed Scholarship to help first generation students pursue business degrees at Isenberg without having to worry about a heavy financial burden. Being a first-generation student himself, Paul noted what it felt like to work hard on academics and work hard to pay tuition, entirely on his own. He knows firsthand what it's like to balance work, academics, and extracurriculars, and is hoping to lend a hand to students in a similar position. Paul and Gail also helped to establish an endowed faculty fellowship to help attract and retain exceptional business faculty in a growing area where business degrees are becoming increasingly popular. They are hoping to balance out the ratio of esteemed faculty to students in this ever-growing ecosystem.
When asked what advice they’d like to leave behind for students, Paul said: “If they’ve gotten into Isenberg, they’ve already formed good study habits and commitments to academic achievement, and I think that’s the key. Whatever you’re moving on to, whether it's grad school or a job, how you’ve performed here is going to be a major factor in getting a door open for your future.”
Paul thought back to his days working to recruit students to professional services firm Arthur Andersen, as well as when he was the CFO of Friendly’s, recruiting Isenberg students for full-time positions. He explained that the students he recruited were truly remarkable: “The way the students got to the front of the line is that they were achievers. Simple as that.”
Paul emphasized that students need to choose a place to work at where they fit with the culture, and ultimately enjoy working there. “Enjoy the place you’re working,” he said. “Life is too short to come home stressed and upset every day. If you put in good effort, and you aren’t moving and advancing, you’re in the wrong place.”
Finally, Paul said he never had any sort of big end goal of wanting to be an executive of a company for a certain number of years, but noted instead that, “Things just moved along. I worked hard and met with success and things just fell together.” The McDonalds’ continued support will allow Isenberg and its students to flourish for generations to come.