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1932 Eugene 2020

Eugene John Mcdonald

July 14, 1932 — August 28, 2020

To view the live funeral service, please copy and paste the link below into a new browser on Thursday, Sept 3, at 11 AM:


“How does it feel to be the man of the house when you’re only 10 years old?”

- Dale McDonald, in a letter to his little brother, Gene, upon Dale’s joining the Army in 1943

Platoon # 91, Marine Corps Base, San Diego, CA

Eugene John McDonald (“Gene”) of Chapel Hill, North Carolina died Friday, August 28, 2020, at the age of 88. Following a brief spell of declining health, Gene died peacefully in his Chapel Hill home surrounded by his family.

Gene married Barbara, the true love of his life, in 1958, and they enjoyed 55 wonderful years together. Gene is survived by sons Michael (Wei), Mark (Mary), Matthew (Gigi) and Martin (Sara), daughters Zara and Molly, and five remarkable and loving grandchildren, Tucker (Gina), Tyler, Matthew, Morgan and Keera. Gene was predeceased by his parents, Raymond Joseph McDonald and Mabel Gertrude Gessner, his brother Dale, and beloved wife Barbara.

Gene was a devoted and loving father, husband, grandfather, and loyal friend. He was an accomplished fly fisherman, golfer, and an oenophile. He loved learning, books, traveling, sports (especially Duke Basketball), fine cuisine and, above all, his family. He was a wise counselor to numerous colleagues over many years and was cherished for his objective and thoughtful advice.

Gene was born on July 14, 1932 in Hector, Minnesota. The youngest of two sons, Gene endured painful loss at a young age, losing his father at the age of eight and his older brother Dale at the age of twelve in World War ll. When his mother Mabel became the sole provider and parent at a tender age, Gene took on a role with greater responsibility than normally expected for someone his age — the man of the house. Born into a family of very modest means during unprecedented economic strife, Gene took his first job at age 10, working for the King Oscar Sardine Company in Minneapolis, and remained fully engaged in work activities until his final retirement at the age of 86.

While short on financial opportunities as a young man, he was blessed with intellectual firepower, internal drive and a strong work ethic. His intellectual curiosity and desire to achieve led him to pursue several challenging yet ultimately rewarding paths. Gene excelled academically, landing a scholarship to the University of San Francisco, where he graduated at the top of his class with a bachelor's degree in 1954. He earned his Juris Doctor with graduation honors from the University of San Francisco Law School in 1957, and a Master of Laws degree in international law and trade from Georgetown University Law Center, where he served on the law faculty for three years before joining the San Francisco firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison. He also attended the Advanced Management program at Harvard Graduate School of Business.

In the summer of 1970, Gene and Barbara embarked on a grand life adventure by moving the family and Gene’s mother to London where he took up the role of President of the International Division of Intext Inc., an international publishing, education, and training firm. In this role, he literally ‘saw the world’ while also exposing Barbara and his young children to many meaningful and formative travel and life experiences during their six years abroad.

Gene moved to Chapel Hill, NC and joined Duke University in 1977 as University Counsel and Vice President for Government Relations while also teaching at Duke Law School from 1978 to 1986. Gene continued as Duke's top legal officer while additionally being named Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration in 1985. During his 23-year tenure, Gene was an adviser to three Duke presidents and in 1990, he was selected as Founding President and CEO of the newly formed Duke Management Company (DUMAC) to manage and grow the university endowment and investments.

After his retirement from Duke, Gene was named Principal and Chief Investment Officer at the newly formed Quellos Private Capital in 2001. He continued to lead the Quellos private equity fund-of-funds team following its acquisition by BlackRock in 2007.

A special thank you to Joe, Terrida, and Isabella, and the people at Duke Home Health and Hospice Care for their loving care and support during his final days.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m on Thursday, September 3, 2020, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church with Father Hugh Macsherry, O.F.M., presiding. Interment will be in St. Matthew’s Catholic Cemetery in Durham, NC on a date yet to be established. A memorial honoring Gene’s life and legacy will also be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Gene's memory may be made to:
Duke Cancer Institute
300 W. Morgan St., Suite 1200, Durham, NC 27701
Phone (919) 385-3129

The McDonald Family is under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Service, Durham, NC.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Eugene John Mcdonald, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Thursday, September 3, 2020

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

810 West Chapel Hill Street, Durham, NC 27701


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St. Matthew Catholic Cemetery

1113 W Main St, Durham, NC 27701

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