GCN Founder Donald McGilchrist (1937-2019)


Donald McGilchrist—known as a theologian, eloquent communicator, gifted administrator, caring friend and devoted family man—passed away on July 2 at the age of 81.

A British citizen and graduate of Oxford University, Donald was a GCN founder, board member, and lead author of eight GCN books.

Some of Donald’s closest friends and colleagues had this to say about him: “His life and work reflected a servant who often had greater abilities than those he served,” said GCN board member Jerry White. Jim Petersen, also a GCN board member, said, “There was a lot about him that could have made him proud, but he was a humble man.”

Donald married his wife, Jeanie, on May 18, 1963. His daughters, Lindsey and Alison, said their parents had a profound love for each other. Prior to her death in 2013, Jeanie struggled with a long-term illness. Donald cared for her daily, including putting on her makeup each day after she was stricken with blindness.

Donald rarely missed the school and sporting events of his three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Every day (except Wednesdays) he would pick up his great-granddaughter, Eleese (11), at school and take her back to his house to do her homework. That dedication forged a beautiful friendship between them. Near the end of his life, while in pain and in a wheelchair, he was determined to attend the first football game of his five-year-old great-grandson, McKeon. His two grandsons, Andrew and Ian, considered Donald to be their father as he helped Lindsey raise the boys after she became a single mother.

Donald was born in England in 1937, just as the terrors of World War II were beginning to unfold. His father moved the McGilchrist family to Scotland to take refuge from the worst fighting of the war. As a young adult, Donald was accepted at Oxford University where he completed a triple major in politics, philosophy and economics—the equivalent of a master’s degree—while playing high-level rugby.

After college, Donald went on to work for British Rail. During his tenure, he successfully reorganized the nation’s train scheduling system. This monumental accomplishment positioned him as the youngest regional manager British Rail ever had. Many in the company saw him as the top candidate to lead British Rail in its entirety. To the surprise of everyone, he made it clear he did not want the job, citing his desire to preserve his time with family.

Donald is survived by his two daughters, Alison McGilchrist and Lindsey Deason; his grandchildren, Andrew McGilchrist, Ian Deason, and Holleigh Deason; and five great-grandchildren, Ian (who died at age nine months), Eleese (11), Danicka (10), McKeon (5) and Lachlan (1).