McDonald: retiring, but not leaving WU

A Community of His Own Gary McDonald received the Gary McDonald Award from Student Activities and Greek Life for his dedication to the Washburn community. McDonald is retiring at the end of the semester but plans to maintain a campus presence.

Ben Fitch / Washburn Review

Gary McDonald has a familiar face. Many students get to know the Memorial Union custodial worker as he makes his rounds around the basement of the union, always stopping to chat.

At the end of the spring semester, McDonald, 62, will be retiring from his work at Washburn. He has been employed at the university since the fall of 1990.

“To me it’s probably one of the greatest places to be and to work,” he said, “and it’s certainly been a privilege and an honor to serve the students of this university. As far as I’m concerned, it’s probably just the greatest job on campus I’d say.”

McDonald’s job duties include cleaning up after students and faculty in bathrooms, offices, common and eating areas. He works throughout the day, every day of the week, and sometimes can be found in the Union in the evenings.

The Topeka native said his dedication to the job comes from his desire to also serve the community.

“Because Washburn is the community,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing Topeka has going for it.”

Monday, McDonald was honored by student activities and Greek life with the Gary McDonald award—named after McDonald for “his dedication and unselfish giving of his time and efforts to promoting the Washburn community well above what any reasonable person could ask.”

In his retirement, McDonald said he would like to do volunteer work for various factions of the community as well as possible volunteer time at Washburn.

In addition, McDonald said he simply plans to do activities that he enjoys such as watching sports and listening to music.

“Or just sitting on the balcony watching the clouds,” he said.

McDonald decided to retire so he could take care of his wife, Alice, at home. He took advantage of the voluntary early-retirement package that Washburn offered this year.

“I’m retiring, but I’m not leaving. That’s what I’ve been telling everybody because you can’t leave something that you love,” said McDonald.

He said he would be returning to campus frequently.

“Once a week to pick up the Review,” he said with a laugh.

McDonald said that throughout his career at Washburn, the students have been his favorite part.

“It certainly isn’t cleaning toilets,” he said.

McDonald, more personably known on campus as Gary, said he wanted to impart a message to all students and faculty before he departs.

“Say thank you from me,” he said.

He also said he would like to see everyone treat each other, and themselves, with respect, and to not forget to appreciate our lives.

“I hope I never get so used to the world that it no longer seems wonderful,” he said.