Brian  McDonald

Obituary of Brian McDonald

Brian Coppes McDonald was born on September 16, 1948 to Walter and Catherine (née Coppes) McDonald of Nappanee, Indiana. Brian passed on April 7, 2017, surrounded at his death by the love and companionship of his family and friends who had accompanied him through life. He is survived by his beloved wife Susan (née Ernsberger) McDonald; his five loving children, Paul (Anna), Rachel (Isaac), Jeremy, Elena (Saajan), and Patrick; two wonderful grandchildren, Jane and Peter McDonald; his dear brother, Malcolm (Juanetta); his dear friend and brother-in-law Dan (Marylyn) Ernsberger; and his niece and nephew Emily and Jacob.

Brian was devoted to his faith, his work, and his family, and ensured that his values and experiences from each walk of life shaped and informed the others. Brian nurtured his attraction to the spiritual by attaining a bachelor’s degree in Religion from the College of Wooster. Afterward, feeling a call to serve the Lord more directly, he obtained his Master of Divinity from the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and subsequently served as the pastor for Sanborn Presbyterian Church in Sanborn, Iowa for three and a half years. Brian, as a man of conviction, struggled to honestly reconcile himself to various Presbyterian teachings, and found himself more and more drawn to the Orthodox Faith. Despite the impassioned pleas of his parishioners, the power of his faith compelled him to step down as pastor in Sanborn and move the family back to Indianapolis, where he began attending the Evangelical Orthodox Church.

It soon became apparent that the EOC was just a stepping stone on his spiritual search, and what he sought was found at last in the security and established tradition of the canonical Orthodox Church. Encouraged by Dr. Charles Ashanin, who ultimately became his godfather, Brian subsequently led the family to Ss. Constantine and Elena Orthodox Church, where he found his spiritual home. Friends of the family recalled their catechism classes with Brian as among their fondest memories of him, as his curiosity and love of debate brightened each session, a circumstance that would be mirrored in his classes at IUPUI. While grounded in his Orthodox faith, the intellectual in Brian never lost his yearning to know about the other various Christian traditions, a fact demonstrated by the numerous theological tracts populating the bookshelves of the family home. It was this extensive knowledge that often allowed Brian to seamlessly steer inquisitive people from a Christian background to the fullness of the truth of Orthodoxy.

Brian’s passionate devotion to his work produced many fine works and lasting collegial relationships. For the past several years, he served as a Senior Lecturer of English at IUPUI. During his tenure at the university, he published a number of scholarly articles, both by himself and in collaboration with his colleagues. In addition, in September of 2016, just before his cancer diagnosis, he finished his longest-running project, the revision and publication of the novelized autobiography of his spiritual mentor, Dr. Ashanin. Finally, and most importantly, he taught and mentored countless students, whose visible progression into advanced literary thought provided him with a sense of tangible fulfillment. His selection of English as his subject to teach was appropriate, as all his life, Brian maintained a tireless enthusiasm for deepening his knowledge of the human condition. It was this enthusiasm, as well as his unfailing warmth, that led to his being beloved by his colleagues and his students.

Lastly, Brian was steadfastly devoted to his family. His marriage to Susan was a thirty-four year-long testament to the happiness that results from faith, commitment, and gratitude. Both he and Sue often would say that they felt incredibly lucky to have found each other. His five children feel similarly lucky for having him as a father. His bond with them was one infused with love and devotion, as he never ceased to make efforts to attend their athletic events and extracurricular activities, often sacrificing precious sleep to do so. He is remembered fondly by his children for his idiosyncrasies: teaching them how to castigate inanimate objects when they “contrive” to malfunction, how to instruct their own children on the intricacies of Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire when their conduct is an illustration of it, and how to deploy melodrama to (unintentionally) sap domestic conflicts of tension. But more seriously, Brian’s mission to his children was an extension of his faith in a loving God, as he sought to impart to the children how to live a good and Christian life, how to foster their personal relationships with warmth, empathy, and generosity, and how to pursue wholesome and fulfilling work. Though gifted with words, Brian was exemplary in action, an unfailing model of these ideals, welcoming the needy into his home, doting upon the love of his life, Sue, and continually expressing the passion he had for his craft. His family will dearly miss him.

Brian often repeated St. Irenaeus’s statement that “the glory of God is man fully alive.” His last days in this world showed the truth of this phrase, as the terrible effects of his illness could do nothing to quench the ever present spark of divine illumination which radiated from the core of his soul. Even in death, Brian was alive in Christ. May his memory be eternal.