Cover photo for Dr. John Kennely McDonald's Obituary
Dr. John Kennely McDonald Profile Photo

Dr. John Kennely McDonald

October 4, 1930 — August 20, 2023

Mt. Pleasant

Dr. John Kennely McDonald


Dr. John Kennely McDonald, Ph.D. - MUSC Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, died August 20, 2023, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. He was 92.

Ken was born October 4, 1930, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Captain Leonard Woodbury McDonald and Manettie Louise Ranson McDonald. Ken is predeceased by his loving wife of 68 years, Ellenor Renee Bullock McDonald, their daughter, Kathryn Elizabeth Hanold (wife of CDR Gregg T. Hanold, Ph.D., USN Ret.), and Ken's brother James Woodbury McDonald (husband of Deirdre Murphy Dugan McDonald).

Ken is survived by his two sons, Dr. Alexander Kennely McDonald, Pharm.D. (Lorie Riley McDonald) of Moore, SC, and Dr. John Woodbury McDonald, MD, FACP (Melanie Lewis McDonald) of Mount Pleasant, SC.  He leaves behind nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

While in high school, Ken met his lifelong love, Ellenor, in a movie theater in Vancouver where Ellenor worked as an usherette. They enjoyed a 68-year romance until Ellenor's death in July of 2022. In 1953, Ken received his bachelor's degree in microbiology from the University of British Columbia while working as a longshoreman on train barges along the west coast of British Columbia. After earning his bachelor's degree, he became a bacteriologist with the Canadian Defense Research Board at the Suffield Experiment Station in Alberta, Canada. He was involved with the Allies' efforts in developing germ warfare weapons during the early Cold War era. He then pursued his master's degree in Bacteriology from Purdue University and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Oregon State University.

After completing his education, Ken worked briefly at Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California, studying mechanisms of blood clotting, the results of which are applied to direct patient care today. In 1962, Ken was recruited by NASA's life sciences division at Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. He was engaged in basic science, mission-oriented, and mission-critical research involving astronaut's exposure to prolonged weightlessness during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. One of his discoveries led to a new class of diabetes drugs commonly used today.

In 1974, Ken was recruited to MUSC during the expansion of their basic science faculty and research efforts. For over 20 years as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, he taught medical, dental, and graduate students and hosted visiting professors from universities around the globe. His research interests included endocrine and protein biochemistry. He wrote 24 books and book chapters and published over 300 original research papers. He made presentations in over 36 countries, including the Federation of European Biochemical Society held in East Berlin before the end of the Cold War.

Ken enjoyed a wonderful and adventurous life, including playing football and rugby, sailing, backcountry skiing, fishing, Judo, horticulture, and playing drums in the Seaforth Cadet Pipe Band, the San Jose (California) Pipe Band, and The Royal Canadian Legion Bagpipe Band. Ken loved traveling with Ellenor, especially to the family seaside cottage on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.

The Family wishes to thank Franke at Seaside for their many years of dedication and caring for Ken and Ellenor and Lutheran Hospice for their compassionate care of Ken.
The Family also thanks Rev. Harry Wright for his spiritual guidance, support, and empathy during this difficult time.

Donations can be made to Franke at Seaside or The MUSC Foundation.

There will be a graveside interment at Holy Cross Cemetery on James Island on September 2, 2023, at 11:00 AM, 604 Ft. Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412. Arrangements by J. Henry Stuhr, Inc., Mt. Pleasant Chapel.

A memorial message may be sent to the family on our website at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Dr. John Kennely McDonald, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Graveside Service

Saturday, September 2, 2023

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)

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