Donald McCarty
1921 - 2021
July 17, 1921
February 1, 2021

McCarty, Donald James

MADISON - Donald James McCarty, age 99, passed away on Feb. 1, 2021, on the 125th anniversary of his father's birth. He was born July 17, 1921, to James and Louise Golden McCarty in Sheshequin, Pa. Sheshequin was an idyllic place to grow up, according to Don, along the Susquehanna River and surrounded by hills. He attended the two-room Ulster School through the eighth grade. His mother was his teacher in the upper grades. During high school he enjoyed participating in sports, plays, and acting as master of ceremonies for school events. He was one of the last surviving members of the Towanda High School Class of 1938.

Don joined the U.S. Army at age 18, and remained in military service for seven years, due to American entry into World War II. After initial training, he was sent to London, where he became Chief Clerk for the Military Air Attaché at the American Embassy. He took shorthand, drafted letters, and acted as a courier between embassies, becoming privy to many secrets of wartime. In 1942, he attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Washington, Md., and afterwards was assigned the position of Instructor of Military Science at South Dakota State University in Brookings. Subsequently, he became Assistant Adjutant General at San Bernardino Army Air Field in California, and lastly, was Commanding Officer for the 1429th American Air Force Base in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He was honorably discharged as a Major in 1946.

Don attended Columbia University in New York City on the GI Bill. He received a B.S. in history in 1949, and an M.A. in teaching of social studies from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1950. He received a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Chicago in 1959.

Don fell in love with Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Donahue while both were teachers in Brookings, S.D. They were married at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Wakonda, S.D., on Aug. 23, 1951, and celebrated their 55th anniversary just before Betty's death in 2007. Four children were born to them: Mary Louise, Donald James Jr. ("Jim"), Kevin, and Maureen. Don shared his zest for travel with the whole family, toting them across the country in the station wagon, often on working vacations. He desired that his kids learn to be open to the world, and to recognize the commonalities with people from diverse places.

Don served in the field of education in numerous capacities for more than fifty years, from his 30s well into his 80s. In the 1950s he taught junior high and high school history in Brookings and Tom's River, N.J., and was Superintendent of Schools in Colman, S.D. While in Tom's River he was football and basketball coach. Don remained particularly proud of his high school debate teams from Brookings and Colman, who triumphed at the South Dakota State Debate Competitions. In the early 1960s he was Professor and Chair of Educational Administration at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. During the turbulent years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Don served as Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, after which he returned to his role of Professor of Educational Administration. After his retirement from UW-Madison in the 1990s, he became Director of Doctoral Studies at Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee into the mid-2000s.

Don was a member of the Board of Trustees of two Wisconsin Catholic colleges (Viterbo University and Edgewood College), and a school board member (for Immaculate Conception School in Ithaca). During his career Don worked for North Central Association accrediting universities with the aim to improve teaching and learning throughout the U.S. He became Executive Director of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration, and was involved in several overseas educational projects: in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Caracas, Venezuela, among others. He ran the "Nigerian Project" with his friend and colleague, Peter Mikelson, an initiative developed by the UW Education Department, funded by federal and corporate funds, that supported teacher training programs in northern Nigeria, with great success.

Don wrote numerous articles for educational journals, and wrote/co-wrote books about education, including "The School Managers: Power and Conflict in American Public Education," on the topic of a class he enjoyed teaching, Politics of Education. He served on numerous university committees, and state and national commissions and boards. He was instrumental in establishing the first Committee on Equity at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As dean he promoted gender equality by working to bring existing female professors' salaries in line with their male counterparts, and hiring fairly.

Don was a lifelong learner and a lifelong teacher. He was an avid reader, attentive to current events, and subscribed to as many as five daily newspapers once he retired. He also took numerous correspondence courses in literature through UW-Extension. Don and Betty attended over 50 Elderhostels together in the U.S. and abroad. As an octogenarian, Don taught his own Elderhostel classes at Edgewood College: one on English literature, and the other on Machiavelli.

Don McCarty loved living in the city of Madison, Wis., where he resided for well over half a century. He felt that this mid-sized city offered the best of both worlds, after having lived in larger metropolises and small rural communities in his earlier days. While he was content at home, Don also loved to go places. As a young soldier in 1941, he first traveled by air on a ferry bomber, via Newfoundland to England, dodging German planes; his last airplane trip was the Badger Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., in 2012. Both were great adventures from Don's perspective, and bookended his experiences in World War II in a very poignant way.

Don was proud of his Irish heritage, and it was recently learned that he descends from Medieval Irish Kings of Cashel, straight through his McCarty line. Although there are no known Irish bards in the genealogy, Don had a significant gift for language, both written and oral. He amassed quite a collection of sayings and adages, some that he created himself, which he would pull out to color any given situation. They served him well when his memory began to falter. He loved to laugh. He took great delight in attending live theatre, including plays at the Madison Repertory Theatre, American Players Theatre, and Forward Theater. Don traveled numerous times to the Stratford Festival in Canada (including a stint of eight yearly pilgrimages with his daughter and grandson) and fit in theatre visits while on business trips whenever possible. He liked to recount his own acting experience with the San Bernardino Players while stationed in California.

Another passion of Don's was University of Wisconsin football, and UW Women's and Men's basketball. He was a faithful follower of the Badgers through thick and thin. Once winning seasons of UW football took hold, Don and his sons traveled to various bowl games, including the Rose Bowls of the 1990s.

Among several other activities, Don was a member of the Rotary Club of Madison West, and the Toastmasters Club. He served as president of the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras. With Betty he took part in various bridge clubs and the Shorehawks Recreational Square Dance Club. He loved tending his "instant garden" at the Shorewood Hills Community Gardens while Betty tended a plot at home, and for many years, he and Betty kept up an affectionate competition on the flavors of their produce.

As the vicissitudes of age took hold Don demonstrated great patience, acceptance and gratitude. He would often say that he had been lucky all his life. For the last 14 years, since Betty's death, he was ably assisted by numerous caregivers, nurses and chaplains at BrightStar, Heritage Monona, and Heartland Hospice. He was a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament Parish since his arrival in Madison in 1966. He has also been supported in recent years by Father Chad of Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Monona.

Don McCarty is survived by his four children, Mary Louise (Reed) Hinton of Green Bay, Wis., Jim McCarty (Kim Rollins) of Mansfield Center, Conn., Kevin McCarty (Veronica) of Madison, Wis., and Niteroi, Brazil, and Maureen McCarty of Monona, Wis.; his six grandchildren, Emma Rollins (Anthony Luong), Molly DeBord (Solomon), Patrick Normand McCarty, Liam McCarty-Dick, Patrick Santos McCarty, and Thomas Francis Santos McCarty; and his great-grandson, Declan DeBord. He was preceded in death by his wife, Betty; and his parents. He will be buried next to Betty at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison at a private ceremony. Due to COVID-19, there will be no public funeral at this time. Preparations for a memorial service will be made post-pandemic.

Memorials in Don's honor may be directed to the Donald J. McCarty Fund and made out to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, 1848 University Ave., Madison, WI 53726. Memorial donations may also be made to Blessed Sacrament Parish, Heartland Hospice, or American Players Theatre.

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Published by on Feb. 7, 2021.
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Our condolences to your family. Such fond memories of Don. As a major professor, he was focused, demanding and professional always sharing his wisdom from life experiences. As a friend, we shared his humor, fondness for life incuding music. His laugh was contagious. A life well-lived.
Jim and MJ Latimer
February 7, 2021
Offering our deepest condolences during this difficult time.
The Staff of Cress Funeral & Cremation Service
February 7, 2021