50 for 50

Cynthia McDonald – Making a mark on the lives of many

Cynthia McDonald

Retired professor Cynthia McDonald admits that when she was hired as a full time English instructor at Sandhills Community College in 1971 she felt a bit like a “lost child.”

“I had moved back to Southern Pines to care for my parents who were both facing major medical issues,” she remembers. “I was fairly overwhelmed with life’s changes and challenges.”

But Miss McDonald, with a master’s degree in English, found a welcoming community and a chance to make a difference.

“In the black literature classes, I always wove in history, to help students see that everyone can learn from the past,” she says. “I showed how blaming others is not the way to go. Rather, be proud of your history and move forward to new greatness.”

Miss McDonald’s skills helped those students on their way to a four-year degree as well as students in the Compensatory Education classes.

This talented professor also found a way to make sure others found a home at Sandhills. Arriving on campus at a time when the country was facing racial tensions, she started an organization called the “Black Student Movement.”

“I did this to help black students find a place, to focus on their education and to find opportunities available to them,” she says. “And it worked! Students became involved in the campus and became part of student government.”

Miss McDonald, who retired in 2003, is proud that the organization, now known as MACE (Minority Academic and Cultural Enrichment), is still part of campus life. 

She lives in the Southern Pines house she was reared in, the home where she cared for her parents. She remembers with fondness her 40-plus years at Sandhills and speaks of the students “who saved my life.”

“I enjoyed teaching so much,” Miss McDonald says with fondness. “I also enjoyed the extracurricular activities we offered, opportunities for students to grow and develop. Those were good years.”

 

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