Ethics Hero Emeritus: Jack McDonald (1915-2013)

Jack McDonald

Before today, I had never heard of Jack McDonald, and outside of his co-workers , family and friends, not many had. That was the way he wanted it, for he was an unassuming man with a conventional career, including three decades as an attorney for the Veterans Administration. He clipped coupons, dressed humbly and allowed himself few luxuries. He got around his home town of Seattle using public transportation. Most who knew him thought he was struggling.

When Jack McDonald died this past September, his death received little notice in the local news, and none nationally—until about a week ago, when it was revealed that his will provided for the creation of a $187.6 million charitable trust for the benefit of Seattle Children’s Research Institute, the University of Washington School of Law and the Salvation Army.

It turns out that Jack was an amateur stock market handicapper extraordinaire, parlaying an inheritance from his parents and all the money he saved over his long life of frugality into a fortune that was always intended to benefit those less fortunate than himself. Over the years he had supported hundreds of causes with smaller, often anonymous donations, but few knew that he was amassing a treasure for post mortem philanthropy.

Seattle Children’s Research Institute announced  that McDonald’s bequest was largest charitable gift in its 106-year history, and also the largest known gift to any U.S. children’s hospital for pediatric research. In a statement acknowledging the gift, Doug Picha, President of Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation and a McDonald’s friend or many years, said…

“It is transformational not only in what it will do to help us find more cures and better treatments, but also by forcing each of us personally to reflect on the legacy we would like to leave.”


Let’s hope people are listening…like Robinson Cano. The former New York Yankees’ star second baseman today signed a 10 year, 240 million dollar contract to play baseball for the Mariners in Jack McDonald’s city. I think Mr. Cano should pledge to be able to match Jack’s bequest when his road comes to an end; he should be able to do that easily too, without clipping coupons or wearing sweaters with holes in them.  If Cano turns in a Hall of Fame career, as many expect, he can then stand above most of his fellow baseball immortals by having emulated emulating Jack McDonald.

He’ll be waiting for Robinson in the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor.


Pointer: Tim LeVier

Facts: Seattle Times, FCPA

8 thoughts on “Ethics Hero Emeritus: Jack McDonald (1915-2013)

  1. It’s got to be all fiction, Jack, this Old McDonald story. Remember? Two of your posts/threads ago? What blakeart said? George Carlin gave geometric proof that this kind of hero does not exist, and so this guy McDonald clearly never existed:

    But wait…now we have evidence that “…there are stories like this everywhere.” BWAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!

    • Eeyoure, according to Captain Compliance, Jack McDonald wasn’t a captain of history, sitting on multiple boards of companies, making decisions on how these companies exploit and bend the rules, lobbying, etc.

      But Nice try tho – way to stretch that analogy to prove your Ayn Randian Dreams. These stories ARE everywhere – Educated, well-rounded humans are almost always kind and generous… unless they are propagandized and whipped into a frenzy like they have throughout history, including up to the present day.

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