Syracuse University Magazine

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Donald MacNaughton L'68

Syracuse Spirit

When Donald T. MacNaughton graduated from Amherst College in 1965 and prepared to enter the College of Law at Syracuse University, he assumed he would be leaving behind the pleasant esprit de corps that characterized that small New England undergraduate school. Much to his delight, he found himself similarly embraced by an appealing sense of unity and dedication at SU. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why—nearly five decades later—he remains so generously devoted to the University and those it serves. “I really didn’t expect to find that kind of thing at a large university, but I did find it at Syracuse,” says MacNaughton, an SU Trustee and member of the College of Law Board of Advisors. “There was tremendous spirit at the school. And it is still there, still very strong.”

Another compelling reason for his abiding friendship with SU rests in the family legacy that originated with his father, the late Donald S. MacNaughton ’39, L’48, H’78, who first attended Syracuse on a basketball scholarship. After serving in the Pacific in World War II, he returned to earn a law degree through the G.I. Bill, and went on to become president and CEO of Prudential Insurance Company of America. That legacy also is carried on by MacNaughton’s brother, David J. MacNaughton L’77, and the law school’s Winifred R. MacNaughton Hall, which was named for their mother. “So for us, Syracuse is a family affair,” says MacNaughton, whose most recent gift to SU supports what he considers the “long, honorable, and distinguished tradition” of the Creative Writing Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

MacNaughton recently retired as a partner with White and Case, where he practiced international law for 38 years. During his career, while raising four children with his wife, Patty, he worked in the firm’s New York, Washington, D.C., and Hong Kong offices, representing clients based in Asia and Europe. “We ultimately became a global firm with about 2,200 lawyers with offices around the world in more than 30 countries,” he says. “I literally got to see the world at White and Case, and I really did enjoy it.” Unfailingly devoted to his alma mater, MacNaughton made a point of encouraging the firm to pay attention to Syracuse law students. “We participated in interviews on campus and at Lubin House, and usually wound up with one and sometimes two Syracuse students in our incoming class over the years,” he says. “I always found they were very well-qualified and they did quite well.”

Retirement finds MacNaughton as busy as ever, enjoying the opportunity to have more time with his family—especially his five grandchildren, whose numbers are growing—and getting settled in a new home in Wyoming. He has also “renewed his love affair” with history, particularly that of 18th-century England, and has read an estimated 125,000 pages on the topic since retiring. And as always, SU plays an important part in his full and happy life. “I think Syracuse is a special place,” he says. “It’s a school that has a history and tradition of giving chances to people, and—to some degree—taking chances on people. It touches a lot of lives who might not otherwise be able to enjoy an advanced education. That’s really what motivates people like me to get involved and offer our support.”     —Amy Speach