Thomas F. Donaldson

Thomas F. Donaldson

Died February 21, 1993

Tom Donaldson died of a heart attack on February 21,1993, when he was just 49 years old; but he left his widow Ainsley (Smith ’65) a rich life of song. At Yale, he sang in the Glee Club, the St. Thomas More Choir, the Apollo Glee Club and the Alley Cats. They were married in June of 1965 in the week between her graduation and his. After Tom’s death, Ainsley was invited to join the Yale Alumni Chorus, which since its founding in 1997, has performed all over the world. “Yale is very good to its widows,” she says.

Even before he graduated, Tom was working for John Hancock, trying to sell life insurance to Yale students. But “he wasn’t a very good salesman,” Ainsley says – as if anybody could convince a college student he needed life insurance.

They moved to Boston where, instead of selling insurance, he eventually became director of Group Insurance Systems for John Hancock, earning an M.B.A. from Boston University on the side. After four years on Beacon Hill, they and their two children, Elizabeth and Charles, moved into a Victorian fixer-upper in Melrose, a suburb north of Boston. Although he had flunked out of electrical engineering at Yale, he was a gifted, although unlicensed, electrician at home.

Tom kept up his singing with the Polymnia Choral Society, which performs everything from hymns to classical to pop, St. Mary’s Choir (hymns only) and the Saengerfest Men’s Chorus of Greater Boston. “He loved Yale,” Ainsley says, “and he loved the singing part of it.” She had one of the Alley Cats signature songs inscribed on his tombstone.

Dreams never grow old,
They shine through the years,
Shine bright as the stars
Through our joys and our tears.

Fond memories of home,
Friends we used to know,
Rise out of the past
Ever fair, ever young.

Love too sweet to last,
Songs that we have sung,
Rise out of the past
Ever fair, ever young.

Dreams never grow old
And strange as it seems,
We’re only as old
As our golden dreams.