Sam McDonald retires after 33 years

February 21st, 2024

Sam McDonald

Security Chief Sam McDonald is retiring Feb. 28 after 33 years with Texas A&M School of Dentistry. He has been a staple of the school, admired by faculty, staff and students alike as someone who could always be counted on for a smile and a job well done.

McDonald joined the school as a contracted security guard in 1991 and went full-time around 1995. Prior to that, he served as a deputy with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and a patrol officer with the Mesquite Police Department. It’s common for police officers to have second, or third, jobs in private security, he said, and he had plenty of security experience when he joined the school.

“I started with the sheriff’s office in 1970, and I left Mesquite around the end of 1986,” he said. “I had a friend that headed up a regional office for a major security firm, and he wanted somebody that he could put out here. He asked me if I’d be interested in helping him out for a while, and I thought that I would help for a few months. Now, here I am 33 years later.”

McDonald has seen a lot of changes to the school over the years, and he said he’s made a lot of fond memories. He stuck around because he liked the people and the school’s atmosphere. Some of his favorite memories were the school Halloween parties, he said, and getting to know the students in the new dental and dental hygiene classes every year.

“I’m 76 now,” he said. “One of the things that’s helped me survive is being around young people. Most of them give off a certain aura of hope and working to achieve something, if that makes sense.”

Security Captain Sidney Whitley said it’s been a privilege to work with McDonald for close to three decades. McDonald has always been professional, worked hard to build a good security team for the school and was always there to lend a helping hand, Whitley said.

“I’ve learned a lot from him, over the years,” he continued. “When I first started, I hadn’t been in this type of security before. We were in a little closet half the size of [the current security office]. We survived in there for 20 years, in that little closet together. I’ve never seen him upset; he was always mild-mannered.”

McDonald is at the heart of the school and is a reassuring presence to many of the students. Second-year dental student Kason Kienzle said he was introduced to him through one of his mentors, who is a graduate of the school and knew McDonald. His mentor had not been on campus in years, but when he returned to the school for a function last spring, McDonald remembered him and called him by his name.

“Mr. Sam was standing outside and still remembered his name; that stood out to him,” Kienzle said. “He told me that story, and it stuck out to me, so I introduced myself to Mr. Sam. I told him who I was and asked if he remembered my mentor. Basically, since then we kind of hit it off.

“I think Mr. Sam’s awesome,” he continued. “You’re either going to see him when you’re walking in in the morning or walking out in the evening. He’s always going to be standing there, and he’s always going to give you a smile. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, but it’s really been nice to have a familiar face and someone to talk to.”

It’s not just the student body who will miss McDonald. Dean Lily T. García highlighted the security supervisor for his dedication to the school and genuine kindness to those around him. He is an example that everyone at the school should try to follow, she said.

“He’s one of the kindest gentlemen and feels incredible ownership to the success of our students and safety of everyone who works here,” she said. “He genuinely cares for the people he works with, and he shows it. He really likes it here, and we want everyone to feel that committed to what we do here.”

McDonald says his retirement plans involve moving to his family farm in Emory, Texas. He said he looks forward to relaxing, spending more time with family and not having to fight Dallas traffic anymore.

“The school has evolved in a number of different ways over the years, but it takes care of itself,” he said. “I’m proud to have been part of the process of educating these young people, even if it wasn’t a direct part. We can still feel like we’re part of the profession.”

A retirement celebration will be held for McDonald at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 28, in the 6th floor lobby of the Administration and Education Building.

— Caleb Vierkant

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