Love of Hastings College leads to largest gift

Although Enola H. McDonald and her husband, Dr. Neil A. McDonald, a political science professor at Rutgers University, lived in New Jersey for most of their adult lives, they never forgot their central Nebraska roots and Dr. McDonald’s experience at Hastings College. A 1934 HC alum, he had cultivated habits of life-long learning and civic engagement while a student.  

When Mrs. McDonald returned to Wood River, Neb., following her husband’s death, she sought a meaningful way to provide the same Hastings College experience for future students. Upon her death in 2009, she donated her 600 acre family farm to Hastings College.  Through this spirit of generosity and act of love for her husband, she forever linked the McDonald family name to scholarship and leadership at Hastings College.  

The farmland, currently valued at roughly $5 million, and approximately $800,000 in other assets, form the single largest gift in the history of the College. Income from these gifts will fund for scholarships to central Nebraska students and an endowed chair for the Hastings College Department of Political Science.

“Through their generosity, the McDonalds have left a remarkable and lasting legacy to Hastings College,” said Dennis Trotter, President of Hastings College. “The McDonalds appreciated how Hastings College had invested in Dr. McDonald and fostered his leadership potential. In turn, the McDonalds chose to express their gratitude by investing in future generations at HC.”

The McDonalds previously had established the Dr. Neil and Enola McDonald Endowed Scholarship which benefits HC students from central Nebraska, with preference given to residents of Hall County.  

About the McDonalds
Neil A. McDonald was born in Pauline, Neb., in 1910 and graduated from Doniphan (Neb.) High School in 1927. Months after earning a degree in history from Hastings College in 1934, he was elected to the Nebraska State Legislature’s House of Representatives, putting to the test lessons he had explored in HC’s classrooms. In October 1935, he married Enola H. Haessler, a Thayer County (Neb.) native.

After fulfilling his year-long legislative term, Dr. McDonald worked for the Nebraska Works Progress Administration (WPA) until he entered Harvard University to study political science. He completed his Ph.D. in 1943 and taught at Harvard for four years before accepting a position with Douglass College within the Rutgers State University system in 1945. For the next 29 years, he built the political science department at Douglass, published several books and remained active politics at the local, state and national levels in New Jersey. He retired from teaching in 1974, and the McDonalds moved to California. On May 31, 1976, he died at age 65.  

After Mrs. McDonald returned to Wood River, Neb., where her family owned farmland, she continued to pursue her interests in politics and the arts, particularly oil painting. A devoted wife, she decided several decades ago to bequeath the farm to Hastings College in memory of her husband. 

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