SMU remembers renowned SMU alumnus Chester John “Don” Donnally, Jr. ’67, ’68
SMU mourns the loss of Chester John “Don” Donnally, Jr. ’67, ’68, who passed away at his home on May 15, 2022. Donnally is remembered as a longtime supporter of SMU, a leader in the financial services industry for more than four decades and a nationally recognized member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity, which he served through active fundraising and mentorship efforts for over 50 years. His contributions and dedication to SAE led to the construction and ongoing success of the SAE House on SMU’s campus.
“Don exemplified the kind of Mustang spirit that continues to strengthen our University,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “His lifelong support of his alma mater and fraternity have left behind a legacy of leadership and generosity. Throughout his years of dedicated service, he has impacted thousands of students, and his contributions to the organizations he served are a credit to his memory and the bonds he formed on the Hilltop.”
The son of SMU alumni Chester John Donnally, Sr. ’30 and Evelyn Lee Donnally ’34, Donnally graduated from SMU with a finance degree in 1967 and an MBA in 1968. While a student, he was a member of the Brotherhood of Cycen Fjodr, the oldest senior society of its kind at SMU.
While attending SMU, Donnally joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, forming lifelong bonds and cementing his unwavering dedication to the organization and its members. He served as chapter advisor for nearly five decades, beginning in 1973. Over the years, he became renowned across SAE for his generosity and guidance, volunteering hundreds of hours to mentor more than 2,000 students during his years of service.
Throughout his life, Donnally maintained close ties to SMU and offered his time, talent and support to his alma mater. Beginning in 1979, Donnally donated to causes and improvements across SMU’s campus, impacting countless SMU students through gifts to support Crum Basketball Center, Gerald J. Ford Stadium, the General Endowment Fund, the Mustang Athletic Fund, the Mustang Club, the Mustang Excellence Fund for Football/Basketball, the Moody Coliseum renovation and expansion, the SAE Fund and other vital areas of need at SMU.
Beyond financial support, Donnally’s service to the University included membership on the Class of 1967 Reunion Committee (2012–2015), the Mustang Club board (2007–2008) and the Dallas Committee (1992–1993). Shortly before his passing, he was nominated as a 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. In recognition of his service to the University and its students, the award ceremony on Thursday, October 20, will honor him and his memory.
“Donors like Don Donnally inspire our student-athletes, both on the court and in the classroom,” said SMU Athletics Director Rick Hart. “Don’s generosity has contributed greatly to our students’ pursuit of athletic and personal excellence. His support and his spirited dedication to our sports teams will continue to inspire and enrich our athletics programs for years to come.”
His long-established career in the finance industry began early in Donnally’s life, when he became interested in financial markets and built his own equities portfolio while still a high school student. Donnally graduated from high school at St. Mark’s School of Texas, where he played on the basketball team before going on to play for SMU as a member of the Colts men’s basketball team in 1964.
After graduating from SMU, he began his career at Smith Barney, where he formed The Donnally Greenman Group with David Greenman. He served as a senior vice president of the group, which joined UBS Financial Services in 2015, where he was a senior vice president of wealth management and a senior portfolio manager. Donnally was recognized regularly by American financial newspaper Barron’s as being among the Top Financial Advisors in the industry.
“Don was an incredible advocate for SMU and its students,” said Brad E. Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “A second-generation Mustang, he established a family legacy that has carried into the next generation in his children and in the thousands of lives he has touched as a parent, a mentor and a friend to the University and to Dallas.”
Beyond the Hilltop, Donnally was a valued member of clubs and organizations throughout Dallas, including the Brook Hollow Golf Club, Crescent Club and Spa, the Tower Club, the Garden of the Gods Club, the Maroon Creek Club, the Aspen Mountain Club, the Calyx Club, the Terpsichorean Club, the Idlewild Club and the Roaring Fork Club, among others.
Donnally was preceded in death by his father, Chester John Donnally, Sr., and his mother, Evelyn Lee Donnally. He is survived by wife Carol Grader Donnally, and children Josephine Lee Donnally; Christina Donnally Emerson (Cory); Dr. Chester John Donnally, III (Kristen Mayo); and Caroline Donnally van der Merwe (Nico). He is lovingly adored by his grandchildren: Everly Elizabeth Emerson; Isabelle Sage Emerson; Chester John “Jack” Donnally, IV; and James Hampton Donnally.
Funeral services were held on Monday, May 23, at 1 p.m. at Highland Park United Methodist Church, 3300 Mockingbird Lane in Dallas, followed by a reception in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom on the SMU campus. A recording of the service may be viewed here.
For those who would like to honor Donnally in lieu of flowers with a gift to SMU, memorials can be made to the Don Donnally Endowed Scholarship Fund at smu.edu/giving/donnally or mailed to:
Don Donnally Endowment at SMU
SMU Office of Development
PO Box 750402
Dallas, TX 75275-0402