Donor M. Lion, a distinguished Career Minister in the Senior Foreign Service at the United States Agency for International Development, died peacefully in McLean, VA, with his wife by his side, on April 22, 2017, eleven days shy of his 93rd birthday.
Donor will be remembered for his trademark bowtie and pipe, fierce intellect, dry sense of humor, and his kind, gentle, and loving ways. He was admired and respected by his colleagues, especially those whom he mentored over the years. However, the love of his family and their accomplishments were his greatest source of satisfaction, pride, and joy.
Donor was born on May 3, 1924 in New York City, the eldest of three sons. His parents gave him his unusual name because they wanted him to be a giver. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Erasmus Hall High School, as President of the Senior Class. He earned his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and his M.A. from the University of Buffalo, all in economics. Donor’s first foray into the U.S. government’s foreign assistance program began in Oslo, Norway in 1952 where he helped to implement the Marshall Plan. Two years later, he joined the private sector as an economic consultant, spending three years at Robert R. Nathan Associates in Washington, DC and five years at Booz Allen Hamilton in Chicago. A former Marshall Plan colleague recruited him in 1962 to join the United States Agency for International Development. His parents’ hopes and dreams would be fulfilled.
Donor began his USAID career in Brazil in support of the Alliance for Progress, starting out in Rio de Janeiro for two years and then serving five years in Recife. He was the first person to hold dual roles as Director of USAID’s Northeast Brazil Mission and the U.S. Embassy’s Consul General. His mandate was to help develop Brazil’s most impoverished region by providing assistance in education, agriculture, health, and infrastructure. He returned to Washington, DC in 1971 to attend the year-long Senior Seminar, a coveted Department of State program whose participants were chosen because of their demonstrated potential for executive leadership positions in the government. Donor spent the next five years in several senior positions in Washington in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, ultimately rising to the top position of Acting Assistant Administrator. In 1977, he moved to Jamaica, again serving in a unique dual capacity as USAID Mission Director and the U.S. Embassy’s Economic Counselor. Here he concentrated on economic policy, health, family planning, education, and agriculture. Over the next ten years (1979 – 1989), he was the USAID Mission Director in Guyana, Pakistan, and Peru, with a year (1985 – 1986) in Washington as USAID’s Chief Economist. He retired from USAID in July 1989 after a distinguished career and numerous awards and accolades.
For the next five years, Donor did development consulting work both domestically and abroad with, for example, the Ministry of Finance in Hungary and the Ministry of Agriculture in the Dominican Republic. He was an adjunct professor in the Economics Department at American University in Washington DC where he taught a popular seminar on Development Assistance. In 1994, Donor and the family moved to Bangkok where his wife, Linda, served as USAID Mission Director to Thailand. He enjoyed his numerous assignments with the United Nations Development Program, Thailand’s National Institute for Development Administration, and Thommasat University. He also contributed articles on development as a guest writer for the local newspaper.
Donor fully retired in 1996 and actively pursued his passions – vegetable gardening, tournament bridge, ping pong, golf, and gourmet cooking. He finally succeeded in getting his wife to retire from USAID in 2002 so that they could enjoy life together, spend time with their girls and their families, and take long trips to countries including Turkey, Vietnam, Russia, Eastern Europe, Ireland, Egypt, Jordan, and Canada.
Donor is survived by his wife and best friend of 39 years, Linda N. Lion nee Kranetz; daughters, Ann Lion (Marc Luoma), Kristin Lion Torres (Juan Pablo), and Karin Lion (Bonnie Levin); granddaughters, Sara Coleman Hernandez (Phil), Ali Coleman, and Mia Lion Torres; sisters-in-law, Barbara Kranetz Green and Jo Lechay Lion; nieces, Jaime Green Roberts (Jeff), Jenny Lion (Steven Matheson), and Angel Lion; and nephew, Jason Green (Tovah). He was preceded in death by his parents, David and Anna Holstein Lion; daughter, Amy Lion; brothers, Paul and Eugene Lion; and former wife, Elizabeth Kennedy Lion.
A private family burial will be held at King David Memorial Gardens in Falls Church, VA on May 3, 2017, Donor’s birthday. The burial will be followed by a Celebration of Life service at 11:00 am at National Funeral Home in Falls Church, VA, and a feijoada lunch to honor, remember, and celebrate Donor’s seven very gratifying years of service in Rio de Janiero and Recife, Brazil.
For those who have asked, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Donor’s name to the Louis August Jonas Foundation in New York. In 1930, the Foundation established and still operates Camp Rising Sun, an international leadership program for young adults where Donor spent four very meaningful summers.