The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

In Memoriam: Al Donaldson, 1926-2011

December 1, 2011

Allyn (Al) C. Donaldson
Allyn (Al) C. Donaldson

SANTA ROSA BEACH, FL – Allyn (Al) C. Donaldson Jr. passed away Nov. 20, 2011, at his home in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. He was 84. Donaldson was a 31-year employee of General Motors, retiring Jan. 1, 1987. He was first hired Jan. 1, 1956, by the then-Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors.

For many years, Donaldson served as Chevrolet’s fleet sales manager, assigned exclusively at Peterson, Howell & Heather (PHH) from 1968-1980.

“At that time, PHH was the only fleet leasing company where Chevy had an in-house guy. Al’s office was actually in the PHH headquarters,” said Jim McCallum, who worked with Donaldson and is retired from GM.

“Even though he worked for Chevrolet, if any of the fleet sales managers at the other GM divisions had a problem at PHH, Al would help solve it,” said Ernie Platfoot, who is retired from GM and worked in the Buick Division fleet department. “He and his wife Blanche were very close to George Frink and his wife Althea.”  (Frink was the long-time fleet director for Chevrolet Motor Division and later GM Fleet & Commercial Operations.)

In 1980, Donaldson was assigned to Detroit and was replaced at PHH by Kurt Donaldson (no relation).

“Al did a stellar job representing GM at PHH,” remembered Jim Rallo, retired PHH vice president.

Donaldson and Frink become friends early in Frink’s career at Chevrolet Division. “They remained good friends for the rest of their lives,” said McCallum. “Al was George (Frink’s) right-hand man in helping to grow Chevrolet fleet during the 1980s. George used to say, ‘Al just gets it. If there’s an issue with a customer, I just grunt a couple of times, and Al disappears and when he comes back the problem is solved,’ ” said McCallum.

Some of the wide variety of jobs Donaldson held during his three-decade career with GM included: district manager sales, zone business management manager, zone manager trucks, assistant manager dealer leasing, national fleet account executive, assistant manager fleet field operations, assistant manager sales finance, and executive manager sales finance.

“I had the opportunity to work for Al starting in 1986. Fleet became a very important part of GM’s business and I had the opportunity to talk about the ‘car’ business with Al and George (Frink),” said Greg Cofield, who is retired from GM. “There were two no more gifted people than Al and George in explaining what we needed to do as a team. Al could get to the gist of the problem very quickly and in a very simple way without fanfare. I remember my first week working for Al when he invited me to his house for dinner and he told me how glad he was to have me working for his team. He made you feel at home and always asked for your opinion to make sure every point was heard. He was a tremendous leader and extremely loyal person. My short time working for both he and George taught me a lot about how a person should lead when times are hardest. There were no two finer individuals than Al and George, both as a boss and a friend. I miss them both.”

Donaldson was born Dec. 4, 1926, in Glen Cove, N.Y. He was preceded in death by his wife, Blanche, and is survived by a sister, Dr. Virginia Donaldson of Cincinnati.

Donaldson graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy at Pine Beach, N.J. He served as a radarman in the U.S. Navy during World War II. During his Navy career, he served on several ships, ranging from a PT boat to a battleship. Upon discharge at the end of World War II, Donaldson received a degree from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Following graduation, he was employed by General Motors and retired as sales finance manager for the Chevrolet Motor Division.

After retiring, he and his wife moved to Santa Rosa Beach. Donaldson’s retirement was devoted to giving his time and financial assistance to many organizations. He became very involved in OWCC (now Northwest Florida State College), serving for a time as trustee and then a director of its Foundation. He served as director from 1991 to 2008. In 1996, the Allyn C. Donaldson and Blanche S. Donaldson Scholarship Endowment was established. This scholarship was to assist and support students, as well as provide a computer classroom. On Jan. 14, 2009, the Allyn C. Donaldson Entrepreneurial Institute was dedicated on the South Walton Campus of Northwest Florida State College.

The Sacred Heart Hospital of Emerald Coast was another organization that became a beneficiary of Donaldson’s charitable giving. Most recently, a large donation was made to help in the construction of a new facility to benefit cancer patients.

During his life in Santa Rosa Beach, Donaldson was involved in fundraising for the Cultural Arts Association, The Coastal Branch Library, and The Boy Scouts of America. He was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, a Mason and Shriner, member of the Sandestin Lions Club, and member and former director of the Santa Rosa Golf and Beach Club.

By Mike Antich

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