With love from Down Under

Harriet Harper Williams McDonald 32N

Harriet Harper Williams McDonald 32N 51N 57MN, a retired faculty member and alumni leader who split her time between two continents, died in Brisbane, Australia, on Nov. 12, 2011, at age 98.

McDonald grew up in Bogart, Ga., and enrolled in the nursing diploma program at Wesley Memorial Hospital (now Emory University Hospital) in 1929. She began her career as a private duty nurse and surgeon’s assistant at the hospital. In 1952, McDonald joined the School of Nursing faculty and taught students in the operating room, where she was known as a stickler for aseptic technique to keep patients safe.

“If there was a break in technique, I called it, no matter who was to blame,” she once said. “I couldn’t sleep at night if my nurses learned a sloppy technique.”

She also loved music—a joy she shared with her first husband, Ellis Williams. From the time she joined the faculty until years after she retired in 1967, McDonald served as an alumni leader and volunteer. She led the Nurses’ Alumni Association (NAA) as president and represented the nursing school at the university level as NAA director and vice president of Emory’s alumni association. For her efforts, she received the Award of Honor from the NAA (1979) and Emory (1981).

Before Ellis died unexpectedly in 1983, the couple agreed to use the proceeds from his life insurance policy to establish the Harriet and Ellis Williams Scholarship. McDonald asked that the scholarship be used to reward BSN and MSN students who excelled academically during their first year.

McDonald’s life took an adventurous turn following a visit to the Australian outback, where she met James McDonald, one of the continent’s top 10 cattle producers. The couple married in 1988, and Harriet joined him on a cattle station in Queensland, 100 miles from the nearest town (population 2,000) and 1,000 miles from Brisbane.

The former nurse embraced her new world, riding in a jeep with her husband to check on the cattle and the jackeroos and jilleroos who looked after them. She returned regularly to Atlanta, where she owned an apartment near Emory.

Surviving McDonald are her husband Jim, five stepchildren, 17 step grandchildren, 27 step great-grandchildren, and several cousins, including Zoe Hicks 76L of Atlanta.—Pam Auchmutey


Memorial gifts honoring McDonald may be made to the Harriet and Ellis Williams Scholarship Endowment, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, 1520 Clifton Road, Suite 442, Atlanta, Georgia 30322.


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