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Brian G. Macdonald, a former WBAL radio talk show host and Harford Day School teacher, dies

Brian G. Macdonald, a former radio talk show host and program manager who later taught at Harford Day School, died of heart failure Saturday at his Essex home. He was 67.

Born in Mount Pleasant, Pa., he was the son of Eugene Macdonald, a carpenter, and Rose Aiello Macdonald, a Westinghouse defense worker. He was a 1966 graduate of Mount Pleasant Area High School and earned a degree in communications from Pennsylvania State University and a master's degree in mass communication from Towson University.

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He worked at small Pennsylvania radio stations before moving to Baltimore to become program director and a morning host at WBJC-FM, the public radio station operated by the Baltimore City Community College on Liberty Heights Avenue. He participated in its fundraising membership drives in the early days of National Public Radio. He also did radio production work at the station.

"He was the consummate professional," said James Armstrong, Towson University academic adviser in the Department of Mass Communication. "I was a student in a broadcast classes at BCCC and he counseled me and taught me how to be a good broadcaster. He showed me how to pay attention to detail and how to handle adversity."

Frank DiVenti, who was a 17-year-old BCCC prospective student, recalled meeting Mr. Macdonald for the first time.

"He told me, 'If you are going to do this, you will have work hard at it.' He told me right off to work on my speech pattern. He sent me to a speech pathologist," said Mr. DiVenti, who went on to be a WBJC engineer.

"It was a tough station for him to program because it had a such a variation of formats, from progressive rock to classical throughout the week," said Mr. DiVenti, who is now the marketing officer for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Visitors Bureau. "He had to keep track of lot of different material. It was a different show every hour or so. It was a unique environment."

In 1975 Mr. Macdonald joined WBAL radio. He was a program director and the station's afternoon host. He later became the late night talk radio host.

"As the afternoon host he was easy to listen to and was a good ad-libber," said WBAL Radio's John Patti, who is the station's news anchor and a reporter. "Nothing seemed to rattle him. He had a velvet tone. He was smooth."

In 1985 he moved to WCBM-AM as program director and held the post for three years.

In May 1988, he went on the air to say that WCBM, which was then suffering financial difficulties and failed to pay its employees, "would be temporarily ceasing broadcast operations." He told a Baltimore Sun reporter, "I had punched up a tape I had made an hour earlier. I was hoping for a white knight to arrive with the payroll, but it just didn't happen."

Mr. Macdonald became an adjunct professor at Towson University, where he taught public speaking. He also had his own marketing business, Macdonald Creative Marketing, and did voice-over work.

"My father was always there to make people laugh. He could entertain. He was witty and could be sarcastic," said his daughter, Katherine Macdonald of Towson. "He could be goofy. He was great with children and with that booming voice of his, you couldn't miss him."

While his daughters were students at Harford Day School in Bel Air, he approached its head of school.

"He walked in one day and said, 'I have an offer you can't refuse," said Susan "Su" Harris, the former Harford Day head. "He began teaching public speaking and soon expanded it to a full drama course. He took over directing the middle school musical. When 'Glee' became popular, he introduced a show choir."

"He just had a way of getting the students to believe they could do it," she said. "He was a quite a force of nature. With that big baritone voice of his, we would coax him to lead the singing. ... He could be a taskmaster too, but he got the most out of our children. They'd be humming in the halls."

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Mr. Macdonald retired in 2015 after teaching at Harford Day School for 14 years.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Cvach Rosedale Funeral Home, 1211 Chesaco Ave.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 38 years, the former Nancy Ann Weber, a certified public accountant; and another daughter, Christine R. Macdonald of Towson. A daughter, Kimberly D. Macdonald, died in 2009.

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