Born in Butte, Montana in 1906, Lewis migrated with his family to Jerome, Arizona in 1915. After graduating from Jerome High School in 1926, he worked for a year in the United Verde Mine. In 1927 he enrolled in Northern Arizona State Teacher's College, from which he earned a B.A. in 1931. He then returned to Jerome to teach, eventually becoming superintendent of schools, a position he held for twenty-one years. During that time, Lewis also received his M.A. from Arizona State Teacher's College, and served as the mayor of Jerome, 1950-1951. In 1952 he returned to Flagstaff to teach at the college. Four years later he requested a leave of absence to become principal and later superintendent of the "accommodation school" at Page so called because it accommodated the children of the families working on the Glen Canyon Dam. He received an award, in 1957, for establishing the first school system in Page. In 1956, he also received his doctorate in education from the university of Southern California. Shortly thereafter, in 1958, and at the request of President Walkup he came back to NAU as executive director of college relations. Upon retiring in 1976, Dr. McDonald entered politics and was elected Arizona state senator from District Two for one term.
In 1978 Dr. McDonald accepted an honorary doctorate from NAU for academic achievements and civic involvement. McDonald Hall, on the NAU campus bears his name, as does one of the scholarships. He and his wife of 57 years, the former Irene Goldman of Tucson, eventually retired to Gallup, New Mexico, where Dr. McDonald passed away on April 29, 1995.
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