town of 4,500 souls where she grew up. “I
did it pro bono on the side,” she says. Her
design helped transform the library into
a multifunctional community space. “I
thought I could provide a public service.”
McDonald is evidence of the truth
behind the old saw: If you want something
done, ask a busy person to do it. That’s
what the American Society of Interior
Designers (ASID) New England did in
2008 when it asked her to serve as president. “It was a busy time,” says McDonald.
“I had a 1½-year-old, I was working for
Stibler, and my husband and I were building houses. But it all turned out great for
me. I did leadership training through
ASID and I brought my 2-week-old baby
to my first board meeting.” Her impressive
career, work ethic, commitment to community, and service to the organization led to
her receiving its 2016 Excellence in Design
Award in March.
“I knew when I met Genella 15 years ago
that she was one in a million,” says Stibler.
“Under her quiet, professional demeanor
is an astonishing designer and outstanding
leader. She is that star who keeps on shining
more brightly every year.”
As a student in the first class of the
master of art in interior design program at
the New England School of Art & Design
(NESAD)/Suffolk University, an earnest
McDonald also made an impression on
director Karen Clarke. “She asked ques-
tions,” says Clarke, “and made some sug-
gestions, which we implemented. Some of
them are what make our program unique,
and they definitely made it better.”
McDonald was introduced to her
field in a high-school class about architec-
ture and design. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is
so cool,’” she recalls. That course and her
experience working at her father’s busi-
ness, Barton Lumber Co. in Barnstead, New
Hampshire (“I learned the lingo there,” she
says), whetted her appetite to learn more.
However, when it came time for college,
“Design school scared me,” she says. “The
programs are very focused, and I didn’t
think I fit the mold of an ‘art’ student.” She
opted for a liberal arts track at Hamilton
College in Clinton, New York.
Design, however, always seemed to
find her. As an art history major, she spent
time studying in Paris. The beauty, art, and
design of the city left a lasting impression.
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