USC School of Architecture alumnus, beloved university benefactor dies

School News

USC School of Architecture alumnus, beloved university benefactor dies

June 03, 2013

Architect Harry T. MacDonald established the Della and Harry MacDonald Dean's Chair in the School of Architecture. His expertise was in designing public school buildings and establishing charitable trusts to support university programs.


Harry Thomas MacDonald ’44, architect and longtime friend of the USC School of Architecture, died on May 23. He was 93.


MacDonald was a designer of government and industry buildings who specialized in public school building design until his retirement in 1986 as head of the Harry T. MacDonald & Associates architecture firm.


In 1997, he and his wife, Della, established the Della and Harry MacDonald Dean’s Chair in Architecture. The endowed chair was the school’s first, helping to ensure that a highly qualified dean stands at the school’s helm in perpetuity.


Almost two decades later, the chair continues to stand as an enduring tribute to the MacDonalds’ leadership and commitment to the university’s goals.


“Harry and Della are an extremely warm-hearted couple who embraced me immediately when I took the deanship, not only by their namesake chair and their open mind,” said Dean Qingyun Ma. “Harry’s business success and deep care for the built environment has given me much inspiration.”


MacDonald’s involvement in architecture began during his high school days, when he sold his first set of house plans to a builder for $15. His drafting teacher and mentor at the time was a graduate of USC, where MacDonald would eventually cultivate his passion for design and architecture.


When he graduated in 1944, MacDonald was already working for a major Los Angeles architecture firm. He spent two years designing public schools before being offered a partnership in a firm renamed Denman & MacDonald. In 1957, he became head of the firm and five years later incorporated it under the name of Harry T. MacDonald & Associates.


MacDonald credited USC with giving him the education and training he needed to become successful in his craft.


As a token of thanks, the MacDonalds contributed nearly $7.2 million to the School of Architecture and other university programs, including the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, the University Libraries and the USC Peace and Conflict Studies Program in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.


“We think education is the most important issue confronting the country today,” MacDonald said in a 1997 interview. “We’re in a global environment now, which is increasingly competitive.”


MacDonald previously served on the School of Architecture’s Board of Councilors for 10 years and was a founding member of the school’s Alumni Heritage Fund, a program that encourages graduates to support the school.


He was also a charter member of the Architectural Guild, a support organization that benefits the school’s architecture students and programs.


In establishing his legacy, MacDonald, one of the university’s most beloved benefactors, at the time said that it was important for other Trojans who are successful because of their education to do the right thing.


“Anyone who went to USC is indebted,” MacDonald said. “All of us should give something back.”


MacDonald is survived by his wife.


By Juliette Funes 




Harry T. MacDonald