Remembering Judy McDonald
She was my colleague. She was my mentor. She was my friend.
I had a special relationship with Judy McDonald. That’s why, of all the pictures we have taken together over the past 35 years, this is one of my favorites. It was a tender moment of celebration and a moment that held all we had been to each other and would continue to be to each other. And when I look at Judy’s face, I just know that face and I can hear her words. Maybe you do too?
I am guessing, you had a special relationship with Judy McDonald as well. Or at least a special moment; a time she inspired you, believed in you, your idea or your project. She was philanthropy’s First Lady in San Diego and you better believe she would hate me saying that. But that doesn’t make it not true.
People flocked to Judy McDonald. She was the first person or one of the first, community leaders went to to vet their idea and to get her input. If she believed in what you were doing, you were more than half-way to success. If she didn’t, she would advise you and help you get where you needed to be. In rare instances, she would kindly and honestly re-direct your efforts.
People trusted Judy. She was honest. She would tell tales of grantmaking mistakes, like the time a grant she supported was used to purchase a van that was then used to traffic unlawful goods across the border! It takes guts to tell that story, but she did. And often too! And she did so to advocate for transparency and to help people understand that grantmaking, even with the best of intentions, didn’t always accomplish hoped-for outcomes. She did it to be part of the effort to solve problems, not to be thought of as the sole solution or the smart one with all of the answers. Judy was a learner and she was always asking questions. She was always asking “why?”
Before my Dad died, I regularly told people that I had a special relationship with my him and that my younger sister had one with our Mom. One day I over heard my sister tell someone that she had a special relationship with our Dad. I almost cut into the conversation to tell her she really didn’t, that I did! But then I realized, she really did too. That was the gift our father gave us – to not only have us believe, but to actually have a rich and wonderful relationship with both of us- one that made us feel special and unique. And that is the same gift Judy gave each of us. She gave us her attention, her wisdom, her good efforts, and her laugh. And she always gave us her presumptions of good intentions. She made us feel included and necessary to the work of solving the world’s challenges. And that is why we all loved and respected Judy.
It’s impossible to go through San Diego and not see all that Judy has touched in her work as a board member of the Parker Foundation, Catalyst (formerly San Diego Grantmakers), The Nonprofit Institute’s Advisory Board, with the Junior League, LEAD San Diego, RISE or the Arts Commission (to name only a few). San Diego won’t be the same without our First Lady. But we can honor Judy and continue to do the work she loved by participating with the same sense of hospitality and wonder that she did. We can build special relationships that get to the heart of all she cared about – community taking care of each other.
Judy McDonald was my colleague, my mentor and my friend.
We had a special relationship.
And because of that, I know you did too.
Rest in Peace, my dear, dear friend. And thank you for absolutely everything.
A Celebration of Life will be held on June 19, 2023 at 4 pm,in Building 177 at Liberty Station,
2875 Dewey Road, San Diego, CA 92106.
All are welcome.