Dr. Roderick Macdonald Jr., who guided the University of South Carolina School of Medicine through its tumultuous first seven years, died on Nov. 24. He was 88.
A memorial service for Macdonald is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
Macdonald was appointed dean in September 1976, nearly a year before the school’s first class of future doctors enrolled. A South Carolina native and then chairman of the ophthalmology department at the Medical College of Virginia, Macdonald took a chance on a new school that many in the South Carolina establishment still were trying to kill.
During the battle to establish a second medical school in the state, the Columbia effort went through one dean, one acting dean and one interim dean before Macdonald arrived. The first class of 24 students enrolled in 1977 and graduated before Macdonald’s seven-year stint as dean ended.
Macdonald’s “period of leadership provided much needed stability,” wrote Dr. Donald Saunders Jr. in his history of the school entitled “To Improve the Health of the People.”
Some of the state’s leaders in the field of medicine didn’t want a second school. “That was a difficult thing for him, but he worked past that and made it a success,” said Macdonald’s daughter, Betsy Beal.
Macdonald left in 1983 after a disagreement with USC President Jim Holderman, and he returned to Virginia to practice ophthalmology. He and his wife, Helen, came back to Columbia in 1992 to be closer to family members. In recognition of his important role in the birth of the medical school, Macdonald was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Dean Emeritus in 2001.
Macdonald graduated from Davidson College and the Medical University of South Carolina, did his internship at Baltimore City Hospital in Maryland and his residency at Tulane School of Medicine in New Orleans. He also did a tour in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Macdonald is survived by his wife, son Roderick Macdonald III of Springfield, Va., daughters Anne Sumwalt, Alexandra Hazelton and Beal, all of Columbia, and Margaret Fant of St. Matthews, and nine grandchildren.