Marianne McDonald

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(1937-) Academic, classicist, translator, playwright and philanthropist.


She was born and grew up in Chicago, Her father was the inventor of the Zenith Hearing aid and her inheritance has made it possible for her to sponsor a number of projects over the years, including the renowned McDonald Center at Sharp Hospital in San Diego.

She has six children, nine grandchildren, a black belt in karate, and plays classical piano and harp.


She went the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Chicago and finished her secondary education at the Chicago Latin School. Trained further in classics and music, with a bachelor of arts degree in the classics and music from Bryn Mawr College in 1958 (Magna cum Laude), a master’s degree from the University of Chicago (1960) and and a doctorate from the University of California, Irvine in 1975.


She taught for many years at the University of California, Irvine, and later became Professor of Classics and Theatre at the University of California, San Diego. She is best known for her work on ancient Greek drama and mythology and her efforts at sharing, compiling and preserving Greek and Irish texts. She also worked extensively to produce modern versions of ancient classics in film, plays, and opera. Her poems, plays, and translations have also been widely published.

Two longer term projects that she founded and funded are the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG, 1972 - and the Thesaurus Linguae Hiberniae (, computerized compilations of Greek and Irish literature.

Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance

Her specific importance for South African theatre has been her association with and support for Athol Fugard and his work during his Californian period, her mentoring of a translation project for Fugard's plays at Nieu Bethesda and her 2012 book The Craft of Athol Fugard: Space, Time, and Silence, a comprehensive overview of Fugard's life and work.


Marianne McDonald, 2012.

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