Elizabeth S. ‘Betsy’ McDonald, longtime Gilman School educator who taught generations of first graders, dies

Elizabeth S. “Betsy” McDonald, a longtime Gilman School educator who taught generations of first graders and was active in several social organizations, died Tuesday of complications from dementia at The Maples of Towson. The Lutherville resident was 90.

The former Elizabeth Seiler, daughter of Lewis Pintard Seiler, chairman and CEO of Associated Dry Goods Corporation, and Elizabeth Englehard Seiler, a homemaker and volunteer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky. The family moved to Orchard Park, New York, because of Mr. Seiler’s work, then to Ruxton in 1944.


Mrs. McDonald was a 1950 graduate of The Bryn Mawr School and attended Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in 1957.

In 1954, she married John Etchison McDonald.


Mrs. McDonald, who was known as “Mrs. D,” began teaching at Gilman School in 1970 and taught first graders for 24 years until retiring in 1994.

“Betsy was simply the best,” said John E. Schmick, who had been an administrator and teacher at the North Baltimore private school for nearly 40 years and headmaster from 2007 until 2013, when he retired.

“As a first grade teacher, she was so positive and caring. She loved each and every student and did all she could to teach them about manners, about being a gentleman and how to be a good person,” he said.

Mr. Schmick added: “She loved Gilman, and even late in retirement, she would come back and substitute teach whenever she could. Betsy touched many lives, including mine as a friend and colleague. She enriched the entire school community.”

“Her students were her ‘other children,’ and with love and kindness, she instilled values for living a more purposeful life,” wrote her daughter, Elizabeth M. “Libby” Peard, of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in a biographical profile of her mother.

In retirement, Mrs. McDonald volunteered at Govans Elementary School and in several other Baltimore City public schools. “Even in retirement, she made a difference as a volunteer in classrooms across the city,” Ms. Peard wrote.

For her volunteerism and serving as a trustee and as president of the alumnae association, Mrs. McDonald was presented the Anne Edmunds Croker Alumnae Service Award by The Bryn Mawr School, and in 2006, Gilman School awarded her the May Holmes Service Award.

Ms. Peard wrote that the two educational institutions were most “important to her.”


Mrs. McDonald was an active member and a former president of the Junior League of Baltimore, and had been a member of the National Society of the Colonial Dames in the State of Maryland as well as the Woodland Garden Club.

Mrs. McDonald was an active communicant at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, where she had been an usher and worked at Paul’s Place Camp, a summer church program for children.

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“Family and children were the center of her life. She loved children and loved doing anything with them,” her daughter said in a telephone interview. “She was a greeter at Paul’s Place, and every morning, she’d shake each child’s hand. It was her way of connecting with them.”

Mrs. McDonald, who earlier had lived in Baltimore County’s Charlesbrooke neighborhood before moving to the Brightwood Retirement Community in Lutherville nearly a decade ago, was an accomplished baker.

”She loved making brownies, which she’d share on visits to friends’ homes and even with the guard in the guardhouse,” Ms. Peard said.

She was also a lover of Labrador retrievers, her daughter said.


“Mainly, Betsy is remembered for her tireless commitment to helping others and for making each day brighter,” her daughter wrote. “Whether working with children, visiting friends in need, or simply in chance encounters throughout each day, Betsy had a profound effect on those whose lives she touched. Her generosity, inclusiveness, kindness, and love made this world a better place.”

A celebration of life gathering for Mrs. McDonald will be held at 11 a.m. April 29 at her church, at 5603 N. Charles St.

In addition to her daughter, she is survived by her husband of 67 years, who is a retired vice president of Burns & Russell Co., manufacturer of glazed masonry; two sons, John E. McDonald Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, and David G. McDonald of Palm Beach, Florida; two brothers, John C. Seiler and Lewis P. Seiler Jr., both of Louisville; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.