Administrators, board members, faculty, staff and loved ones gathered in McDonald Hall Atrium May 5, 2016, to remember a family legacy of commitment to Fresno Pacific University.
The location was fitting since the honoree was in large part responsible for McDonald Hall’s existence. The building, the university’s signature structure containing offices for administration, faculty and staff as well as classroom and performance space, opened in 1992 and was named for Arthur and Barbara McDonald, who gave the major gift and encouraged others to give as well.
Both Arthur and Barbara graduated from Fresno Pacific. Arthur earned a degree in behavioral science with a minor in Bible in 1972, and went on to found 17 halfway houses for adults and juveniles as well as Eclectic Communications and International Self-Help Services. Barbara finished the first bachelor’s degree completion cohort in 1992, with a major in management/human resources. She was a member of the university board, and he served on the foundation board. When Arthur died in 2001, he was honored with a bronze plaque on the east end of the building. This latest ceremony was to add a plaque for Barbara, now Barbara McDonald McMurchie.
From the beginning, McDonald Hall was meant to be more than brick and mortar. “This building and the conversations that started it changed the course of the university,” said President Richard Kriegbaum, Ph.D., who worked closely with the McDonalds in his first administration. Walking to the donor wall, he read the quote on the square honoring Bernard Wall: “This building must make everyone sense that something very important is happening here.” Turning back to the audience, he added: “And it does.”
At the time McDonald Hall was by far the largest fundraising effort undertaken by Fresno Pacific. “We kept envisioning Rich pushing a big ball uphill by himself. We wanted to help Rich push that ball,” Barbara McDonald McMurchie said.
Barbara described gathering trumpet-playing students to burst in on a Fresno Pacific Board of Trustees meeting playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” to encourage members to give again. She also recalled the response from a lady in her 90s when asked to make a last-minute telephone pledge. “I don’t even buy green bananas anymore,” she said. “No pledge; I’ll send a check.”
The family connections extend beyond Arthur and Barbara to the class of 2016. Their son, John McDonald, got a B.A. in Social Work in 1993, and their daughter, Deborah Palmer (who also serves on the university board) earned an Associate Degree in liberal arts in 1986, a B.A. in Social Work in 1988 and an M.A. in Leadership and Organizational Studies in 2004. John’s daughter, Kinsey McDonald, attended in 2010-2011 and Deborah’s daughter, Brenna Elrich, graduated the day after the ceremony with a B.A.in Communications with an emphasis in media and film studies.
Events such as this honor those who have been faithful their Christian walk and their commitment to the university, said Don Griffith, FPU board chair, but there is a bigger reason. “We all need to be reminded what is important, and what a life of faithfulness looks like. We need, on occasion, to celebrate those who are faithful so we have examples to follow lest we forget what a life well-lived looks like,” he said.