Ellen R. McDonald '81
2011 Alumni Award
Creating a better world requires not just a strong vision, but a strategy to get there. For decades, this alumna has helped lead and consult for nonprofit organizations, helping them reach their goals.
At Grinnell, this alumna majored in political science while keeping busy outside the classroom as a student tour guide, a player on the varsity softball team, and a founding member of the college’s women’s group, while graduating in just three years.
She went on to earn a master of international affairs from the School for International Training. She started her career working for the United Nations’ International Peace Academy, where she trained military and diplomatic officers in peacekeeping and conflict management.
After serving in a variety of management positions in the nonprofit industry for two decades, she became executive director of the Caring Program for Children, a health care assistance program for children in the Kansas City area.
In 1997, she co-founded Mershon & McDonald, a consulting business that helps improve philanthropic organizations’ management, planning, and training services. Her work has had a positive impact on organizations that focus on issues including higher education, women’s reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS.
She maintains a strong connection to Grinnell: more than 15 years as a GRASP coordinator, class committee member, a member of the Alumni Council and most recently as a guest instructor with the Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership, teaching students “How to Change the World.”
For her dedication to Grinnell and her commitment to helping nonprofit organizations achieve their missions, Grinnell is proud to honor Ellen R. McDonald ’81.