Remembering Donald M. Zuckert ’56

Don Zuckert '56

Former Chair of the Bowdoin College Board of Trustees Donald M. Zuckert ’56 at Commencement, May 2006

The College learned Monday of the passing of former chair of the Bowdoin Board of Trustees Donald M. Zuckert ’56. In a message to the Bowdoin Community, President Barry Mills describes Don Zuckert’s life and career, and his many contributions to the College.

To Members of the Bowdoin Community,

We were saddened to learn yesterday of the death of former chair of the Board of Trustees Don Zuckert ’56, who died Sunday at the age of 79 after suffering a heart attack. Few alumni have given so much of their time, talent, and resources over the years for Bowdoin’s benefit.

Don was born on April 3, 1934, in New York City, the son of Sidney and Doris Zuckert. He graduated from the King School in Stamford, Connecticut, and entered Bowdoin as a member of the Class of 1956. Following his graduation, he entered the law school at New York University, served six months on active duty in the U.S. Army, and completed his law degree in 1959. He served in the U.S. Army Reserves for nearly ten more years.

Don’s brilliant career in advertising began in 1960 with an executive vice president position at Ted Bates & Co. in New York. There he was responsible for crafting slogans, jingles, and brand identification for many major accounts (remember Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is”? – that was Don’s playful creativity at work).

He modestly summed up his business career for his 50th Bowdoin reunion in this way: “Stayed at the agency [Ted Bates & Co.] from 1960 to 1988 when the firm was sold to Saatchi & Saatchi. Started a niche marketing firm, Arcature, with former Ted Bates pals and acquired a frozen vegetable firm in California in 1991. Over the next 13 years helped build that company into the market leader on the Pacific Coast and sold it to a major competitor in 2004. Simultaneously joined in the acquisition of a direct marketing company in a buyback from the Saatchis and assisted in building that firm into an industry leader, and sold it to a NYSE listed communications conglomerate.”

Both within the industry and at Bowdoin, if Don was involved, then everything seemed to work out with a minimum of anxiety. Don loved people, and he had a keen sense of humor that he used to encourage and inspire those around him. He also had an ability to see the big picture and ask tough questions, traits that served him well as a member of the Governing Boards at Bowdoin. He was elected an overseer of the College in 1987, a trustee of the College in 1995, chair of the Board of Trustees from 2002-2005, and trustee emeritus in 2005. He assumed leadership roles in the Campaign for Bowdoin in the 1980s and served as Chair of the New Century Campaign Steering Committee from 1996 to 1998.

Despite the demands of a career at the highest levels of the advertising industry, Don was always among the first to put the shoulder to the wheel for Bowdoin’s benefit and bring about a positive outcome, whether the need was for the renovation of Cleaveland House, establishing the Donald M. Zuckert Visiting Professorship and the Zuckert Career Services Technology Fund, donating the funds for the construction of the Zuckert Seminar Room in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, loaning works of art to the Museum, or bringing promising students to the attention of the Admissions Office. For his generosity of spirit and his record of outstanding service to the College, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Bowdoin in 2006.

Don is survived by his wife, Susan, whom he married in 1957, two sons, Andrew and Timothy ’86, five grandchildren, a brother, Owen ’54, and nieces and nephews.

A memorial service for Don will be held on Friday, October 18, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at the Innis Arden Golf Club (120 Tomac Avenue) in Old Greenwich, Conn. Memorial Contributions may be made to the Donald M. Zuckert Visiting Professorship Fund at the College, and sent to Secretary of the College, Bowdoin College, 4100 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8432.

Each of us who knew Don will miss his guidance, sense of humor, creative imagination, and his leadership. Our hearts go out to Sue and the entire Zuckert family at this very sad and difficult time.


Barry Mills


  1. John Gibbons says:

    A very special Bowdoin citizen…never flagged in his determination to upgrade, modernize, and expand the Walker Art Museum….a 15 year effort. He will be missed.

  2. Bill Chapman says:

    A devoted son of old Mother Bowdoin.

  3. martinmitchell says:

    Don touched my life twice and each time altered it. first he recruited,hired and more importantly mentored me as president of one of his Ted Bates agencies. then and probably much more important he recruited our daughter away from Dartmouth and Brown to Bowdoin. Maggy was not only a great athletic star but received a wonderful education .

  4. So very saddened to hear of Don Zuckert’s passing. He was a revered classmate and a wonderful man. Extremely successful in his chosen field, he was always very humble and pleasant to be around. I know those of us who managed to be in attendance at reunions enjoyed his companionship and smiling demeanor. He was Bowdoin through and through and I’m proud to have known him. My sympathies go out to his family at this sad time.

    Lee Dyer ’56

  5. Dick Burns '58 says:

    Don was a great person and a strong supporter of the College. With his wife, Susan, they supported the College, generally, and its arts, in particular, over the years most generously. Don will be missed by all who knew him.

  6. The class of 1956 has stood as a line of tall, majestic oak trees over the years. A small class, but a generous class in both a financial way and unwavering support of the college. But, now one of our mighty oaks has fallen. But the acorns he left will grow another mighty oak and we will call it Don Zuckert again.

  7. Dave Brown says:

    Don was the personification of the Offer of the College and he will be missed. He combined wisdom and passion in all his endeavors. His leadership and service to Bowdoin helped build the College into the purposeful, aspirational and principled community it is today.

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