Miller Center

Robert A. McDonald (2014-2017) - Secretary of Veterans Affairs

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Robert Alan McDonald was born on June 20, 1953, in Gary, Indiana, and grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He earned a degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978. McDonald has maintained close ties to West Point, and he and his wife, Diane, founded the biennial McDonald Cadet Leadership Conference held at West Point. The conference pairs students with global leaders to develop leadership and critical thinking skills and apply them to world problems.

McDonald served five years in the Army and attained the rank of Captain. He served with the 82nd Airborne Division; completed Jungle, Arctic, and Desert Warfare training; and earned the Ranger tab, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and Senior Parachutist wings. McDonald spent much of his career at The Procter and Gamble Company, joining it in 1980. He served as chief operating officer, chief executive officer, and president of the company, before retiring in 2013. 

Secretary McDonald was sworn in as the eighth Secretary of Veterans Affairs on July 30, 2014. He took over the Department of Veterans Affairs during a rocky period in its history after veterans had suffered from long wait times for treatment and inadequate services. President Obama pointed to McDonald’s management experience to help reform the department.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael Nelson

Professor Nelson is the Fulmer Professor Political Science at Rhodes College, a senior fellow of the Miller Center, and the senior contributing editor and book editor of the Cook Political Report. He is the author of multiple books on American politics and government, including:

Resilient America: Electing Nixon in 1968, Channeling Dissent, and Dividing Government (University Press of Kansas), which won the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Award for Best Book on the Presidency published in 2014

How the South Joined the Gambling Nation: The Politics of State Policy Innovation (LSU Press), which won the Southern Political Science Association’s V.O. Key Award for Outstanding Book on Southern Politics published in 2006