John Early McDonald Jr. (Law ’62 L/M) of Glen Allen, Virginia, died Dec. 31, 2014. He served in the U.S. Army and later in the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 30 years. Col. McDonald served as company commander in both the 80th Division Army Reserve and in the 49th Armored Division of the Texas National Guard and later served in the Judge Advocate General Corps. His last assignment before retiring from the reserves in 1987 was as commander of the 75-attorney 10th Military Law Center. While serving in the reserves, Col. McDonald also practiced law, first as a tax attorney with the IRS Regional Counsel in Dallas and later with the law firms of Christian & Barton, Hunton & Williams and McDonald & Crump, specializing in civil litigation, construction law and real estate development transactions. He then worked for more than 20 years at LandAmerica Financial Group, first as general claims counsel and later as senior litigation counsel, retiring in 2001. Col. McDonald was active in Virginia politics, serving as legal counsel to the Senate Courts of Justice Committee from 1969 to 1974. He was an active member of the Robert E. Lee (now Heart of Virginia) Council of the Boy Scouts of America for more than 40 years, volunteering with his sons’ troops and serving as chairman of the council’s shooting sports committee and on the council’s camping and property committees. Col. McDonald had a longtime interest in historic preservation: He collected Native American and folk art and was a member of the Virginia Historical Society and the Henrico Preservation Advisory Committee. A Mercedes-Benz enthusiast, he also enjoyed sailing, tennis, golf, railroad modeling and gun collecting. Survivors include his wife; two sons, including John E. McDonald III (Com ’04 L/M); two grandchildren and a sister.
Van Iden Zeiler Jr. (Com ’62 L/M) of Big Canoe, Georgia, died May 12, 2015. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. He had a long career in the insurance industry, working at Chubb & Son for many years before moving to Atlanta, where he served as vice president at Duncan Peek/Sedgwick/Marsh & McLennan. While living in Atlanta, he was very involved in the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA, serving as a scoutmaster and den leader who also trained Girl Scout leaders. He retired to Big Canoe, where he participated in real estate development and volunteered with the Big Canoe Emergency Response Team and Big Canoe Animal Rescue. For several years, he assisted low- to moderate-income households with their tax preparation through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program. As a member of Leadership Big Canoe, Mr. Zeiler led an initiative to convert all of the addresses of residents within Big Canoe to numbers that could be recognized by the local 911 system. Mr. Zeiler enjoyed playing bridge, gardening, camping, reading, golfing, woodworking, spending time with his friends and sharing his love of the outdoors with his granddaughters. Survivors include his wife; a daughter, Ashley Zeiler Hager (Law ’94); a son, Van I. Zeiler III (Col ’95); three granddaughters; a brother; and a sister.
Sandra Sherman Mackey (Grad ’66) of Atlanta died April 19, 2015. A veteran journalist and author, she was an expert on Middle Eastern culture, politics and society. Ms. Mackey began her career as an undercover reporter in the 1970s, writing under the pseudonym Michael Collins and working for U.S. newspapers from Saudi Arabia; she hid her writing from authorities and smuggled her stories out of the country to get around Saudi Arabia’s prohibition on foreign journalists. Throughout her career, her articles appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today and in many other papers throughout the country. In 1987, she published the first of her six books, The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom. Her other books include The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the Soul of a Nation (1996); The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein (2003); and Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict (2008). In addition to her individual works, Ms. Mackey contributed a chapter on 20th-century politics to the National Geographic publication Cradle & Crucible: History and Faith in the Middle East. A frequent commentator on the Middle East, she appeared on CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Nightline, ABC Evening News, National Public Radio, the BBC and various other broadcast media outlets. In researching her writing, Ms. Mackey traveled widely, often unaccompanied, to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Libya and Morocco. From 2004 to 2010, she aided in preparing upper-level officers in the U.S. Army who were rotating to Iraq. Ms. Mackey was also a teacher. She taught history at Harding High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and at St. Anne’s-Belfield School in Charlottesville, and later taught political science at Georgia State University and was a visiting scholar in U.Va.’s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics. She frequently volunteered in political campaigns and rallied for causes such as civil rights, women’s rights and gun control. Survivors include her husband, Dan Mackey (Col ’59, Res ’66); her son; a daughter-in-law; and a grandson.
Allen E. Wolven Jr. (Col ’68 L/M) of Newport News, Virginia; and Pleasant Hill, California, died April 7, 2015. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. At the University, he lived on the Lawn and was a member of the University Guides and the University Union. After earning a master of business administration degree, Mr. Wolven worked for the Commander, Training Command Atlantic, U.S. Atlantic Fleet of the U.S. Navy in Norfolk, Virginia, for 34 years. Survivors include his wife, two daughters, a son and five grandsons.
John Spencer Wright (Col ’69, Educ ’71, ’76 L/M) of Greensboro, North Carolina, died March 22, 2015. At the University, he was a member of the early marching band and the Pep Band. An educator for more than 38 years, Mr. Wright began his career as a government teacher, debate coach and cheerleading coach before joining the faculty of the Curry School of Education as an assistant professor and serving as executive director of the Virginia Association of School Executives. He later became principal of E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia, and director of business services for Lynchburg City Schools. In 1986 he moved to Greensboro and served in a variety of roles and responsibilities, including assistant superintendent, in Greensboro and Guilford County schools. Mr. Wright was a member of Kappa Delta Pi, International Honor Society in Education, and Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional association for educators. He was active in a number of organizations, including the Lions and Rotary clubs, and served on the board of directors of the Sickle Cell Association and the Presbyterian Homes of Virginia. Mr. Wright, who could frequently be heard saying, “It’s good to be a Hoo!” was a loyal Cavaliers fan, following all U.Va. sports and rejoicing in their victories and accolades. Survivors include his wife; a daughter; a brother, Douglas E. Wright (Col ’79 L/M); and many extended family members.