William R. McDonell Ph.D.

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William R.
McDonell, Ph.D.
AIKEN, SC - William R. McDonell, Ph.D., passed away suddenly February 15, 2015, at Aiken Regional Medical Center, shortly before turning 90 years of age. Dr. McDonell was a long-time resident of Aiken, SC, arriving in November 1953 at the start-up of the Savannah River Plant.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Donnalee (Duncan) M. Lissaman McDonell in Aiken, son James D. McDonell, Folly Beach, SC, and daughter M. Laurie McDonell Roddick, son-in-law Brian K. Wolahan, granddaughter Maria Claire Aguilar, all of Telluride, CO, and by granddaughter Jessica McDonell Mock, Barnwell, SC. Other family members include sisters Donna L. Robeson, White Plains, NY, and Patricia I. Strohm, Minot, ND (deceased), seven related nieces and nephews, and 4 great-grandchildren.
Born to parents Arthur P. McDonell and Eva P. Williamson McDonell on March 8, 1925 in New Rockford, ND, he spent his youth in Minot, ND, where he attended grade and high school. He graduated from the University of Michigan with B.S. (1947) and M.S. (1948) degrees in chemistry, and went on to study under Nobel Prize Winner Professor G.T. Seaborg at the University of California (Berkeley) for a Ph.D. degree in nuclear chemistry in 1951.
Employed by the DuPont Company, he was initially situated at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago (1951-53) during SRP construction, and then served at the Savannah River Laboratory progressively as Research Scientist, Research Supervisor, and Research Associate until 1989, followed by Westinghouse (WSRC) employment as Advisory Scientist until retirement in 1995. Following SRS retirement, he served for several years as Environmental Consultant with Tetra Tech NUS in Aiken.
In the course of his technical career, Dr. McDonell authored and coauthored more than 150 published scientific papers and technical reports, on topics including materials behavior under nuclear irradiation, material forms for radioactive heat and radiation sources, and the technology and costs of radioactive waste disposal. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi academic honorary societies, and Alpha Sigma Phi social fraternity at the University of Michigan and California, as well as the American Chemical Society and the American Nuclear Society during his professional career. He also served on several national advisory committees devoted to advanced nuclear reactor design and materials behavior under nuclear irradiation.
With his wife, he enjoyed extensive domestic and international travel connected to his technical career. Later in life he traveled recreationally, visiting Machu Picchu in South America, the Taj Mahal in India, an African safari, and many other places including China, Indonesia, Egypt, Africa, Turkey, and much of Europe. A final excursion was to join his wife, daughter and granddaughter on Galliano Island and throughout Alaska. He was a long-time and enthusiastic participant in snow skiing activities since young adulthood, and later by membership in a group called the "Over The Hill Gang". Following retirement, he continued to pursue educational interests provided by the Academy for Lifelong Learning at USCA. His post- retirement interests included studies of the brain and other scientific topics.
He was a loving and generous father, and protective of his family, and he remained in close contact with his early friends. Plans for a memorial service will be announced in the spring. Dr. McDonell was sympathetic towards the Aiken SPCA and the American Red Cross, to which memorial contributions may be directed as desired.
Expressions sympathy for the McDonell family may be left online at www.georgefuneralhomes.com
Funeral Home
George Funeral Home & Cremation Center
211 Park Avenue, SW
Aiken, SC 29801
(803) 220-0728
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Published in The Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star from Feb. 16 to Feb. 19, 2015
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