FRANK B. McDONALD

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McDONALD DR. FRANK B. McDONALD Dr. Frank B. McDonald, a pioneering space scientist and former NASA chief scientist died on August 31, 2012 of a cerebral hemorrhage after giving a speech at a scientific symposium in Ann Arbor, MI. At age 87, he continued to explore the solar system, and was the patriarch of a constellation of family and close friends. Frank Bethune McDonald was born in Columbus, GA., on May 28, 1925, the son of Frank Bethune McDonald and Lucy Kyle McDonald. He graduated from Duke University in 1948, and obtained a master's degree and doctorate in physics from the University of Minnesota. Joining NASA in 1959 at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and then serving as NASA chief scientist (1982-1987), he retired from Goddard in 1989. Dr. McDonald then joined the Institute for Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland where he was a Senior Research Scientist until his death. Author of more than 300 scientific articles, he was a member of the National Academy of Sciences . Survivors include his wife of 25 years, Irene Kelejian McDonald; his children Kyle Jossi, Robert McDonald (Marianne), and Douglas McDonald, from his first marriage to Virginia Ballew; three stepchildren, David Kelejian (Belinda), Douglas Kelejian (Heather), and Melinda Kelejian (Gary Ryan). He is also survived by 12 grandchildren, Kiersten Henry (Tommy), Meredith Waddington (Trevor), Sindri, Laura, Marie, and Mark McDonald, Michelle, Thel, Speed, and Ranger Kelejian, and Amy and Ellen Ryan; and four great-grandchildren, Sydney and Dylan Henry, Kerris Waddington, and Waylon Kirlkey. While Frank was well-respected in the scientific community, and had many official titles, his favorites where those bestowed on him by the youngest family members. Sydney, his oldest great-granddaughter, lovingly called him "Old McDonald". Granddaughter Amy took it one step further and called him E-I-0. Despite his immense scientific knowledge, Frank never rested on his laurels. He was constantly helping others to learn and grow, both within his family and his profession. He supported the educational efforts of many of his offspring and had a love for family gatherings, whether at his home in University Park or on the annual family trip to the Outer Banks. He was known for his skill in the kitchen, and would be seen orchestrating culinary delights with a dish towel thrown over his shoulder. In the Outer Banks, he could often be found sitting in the living room reading The Washington Post, with the youngest generations in a constant state of chaos around him. His love and patience were seemingly unending. His scientific legacy will live on, as will the lessons he taught his family and friends: "Life itself is basically not fair"; Treat your friends like your family, and love them all unconditionally; and, Shoot for the stars. When interviewed about his work on the Voyager 1 Spacecraft, he said, "Half the fun is getting there." Frank will be missed by many, but his legacy lives on through his science and the amazing family that he loved dearly. A memorial service will be held in his honor on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 11am, Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church, 3215 Powder Mill Road, Adelphi, MD. Contributions in his memory can be sent to the UMCP Foundation at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, Rm. 4115 Computer Space Science, Attn: McDonald Fund, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742-2431.

Published in The Washington Post on Nov. 4, 2012
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