Cynthia Lee Macdonald, passed away at the age of 87 after a more than 10 year battle with Alzheimer's. Cynthia was, by trade, a poet, a psychoanalyst and an opera singer, and by heart the mother of two children and one grandchild who survive her; Jennifer Tim Macdonald of New York, NY; Scott Thurston Macdonald of Denver, Colorado; and grandchild Liam Skyler Watts of New York, NY.
Cynthia was born in New York City in 1928 to parents Dorothy Kiam and screenwriter Leonard Lee, and was raised in New York and Beverly Hills. She was educated at the Brearley School, the Mannes School of Music, Bennington and Sara Lawrence College. Her professional life began as a dramatic soprano, winning both the San Francisco Opera Auditions and singing on CBC Radio.
After marrying Shell Oil executive "Mac" Macdonald, their geographic movements tied to his career made the continued pursuit of a singing career difficult, and so with early support from poet Ann Sexton, she turned her fine intellect and talent instead to the pursuit of the voice of the pen, going on to publish 6 volumes of poetry. Cynthia taught in the early 70's at Sarah Lawrence where she served as the interim Dean of Studies, and then as tenured faculty at Johns Hopkins University. In 1979, she cofounded the University of Houston graduate creative writing program, which soon became one of the top graduate writing programs in the country. Motivated to help students solve writing blocks, she studied Freudian psychoanalysis, becoming the first non-MD student ever to be accepted in to the Houston-Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute. She later joined the faculty of the Institute and maintained a psychoanalytic practice while continuing to teach at U of H. Cynthia's last book, "I Can't Remember", uncannily foreshadowed her illness. Cynthia would have wished to - and will – be largely remembered by her many achievements, but her family will also remember her for the grace and courage she showed as she navigated the collapsing empire of her mind.
A Memorial Service, to be held this fall, will be announced. In lieu of Flowers please consider donations in Cynthia's name to INPRINT, Houston's premier literary arts nonprofit, which Cynthia named and of which she was one of the founders, or the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Aug. 23, 2015.