McDonald’s appointment was announced May 16 after he was elected by the seminary’s board of trustees. He succeeds Laird J. Stuart, who served as interim president for 18 months.
“Dr. McDonald comes to our seminary presidency with a broad background of leadership on issues of social justice throughout the world,” said Peter van Bever, chairman of the SFTS trustees. “Whether leading an institution with a global reach or a church making a difference in its neighborhood, Dr. McDonald has combined academic rigor, high-level management skills, a commitment to service and deep Christian faith throughout his distinguished career.”
McDonald expects to take over as president at the seminary’s Marin County campus July 8, shortly after the SFTS campus in Pasadena shuts down as part of an effort to cut the seminary’s operating budget by $850,000 annually for four years.
The Southern California campus, whose classes met at Pasadena Presbyterian Church near Fuller Theological Seminary, will close June 30. It graduated nearly 300 students during its 21 years of operation.
McDonald’s appointment marks the end of his 13 years with Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute in Washington, D.C., where he served as managing director and acting president. Bread for the World lobbies Congress to end hunger in the U.S. and abroad.
McDonald said he is excited to be a part of a seminary that educates and inspires religious leaders and scholars to live out the meaning of the gospel.
“I believe this creative institution is poised to meet the challenge of preparing a new generation that has been grasped by the power of the Word,” he said in a seminary news release. “Together, the SFTS community will continue to make vital contributions to a more hopeful, caring, and just world.”
McDonald is an ordained Presbyterian minister. Before joining Bread for the World in 1998, he was pastor at Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia.
A graduate of Princeton University, he earned a Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and a doctorate in international relations from American University in its School of International Service. He has been an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, and a board member and president of the Central American Resource Center in Washington, D.C.
Laird Stuart, a previous chairman of the seminary’s board of trustees, has served as interim president since the previous president, the Rev. Philip W. Butin, stepped down in January 2010 to return to pastoral ministry. Butin had been the seminary’s president since 2002.
San Francisco Theological Seminary was founded in 1871. An institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a member of the Graduate Theological Union, SFTS has an enrollment of about 350 master’s and doctoral-level students at its Marin County campus.