AIC’s 137th Commencement to Welcome Honorary Degree Recipient Marcella MacDonald

SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) will celebrate its 137th commencement on Saturday, May 7 at 10 a.m., at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, with President Hubert Benitez presiding. Benitez takes the helm as the college’s 12th president on April 11. The board of trustees unanimously selected Benitez to lead the institution in February.

International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and AIC alumna Marcella MacDonald will deliver the commencement address to graduate and undergraduate students and receive an honorary degree from the college. MacDonald, who graduated from AIC in 1985, will receive an honorary doctor of laws, honoris causa, awarded for outstanding achievement.

MacDonald graduated with a bachelor’s degree from American International College in 1985. While attending AIC, she credits now-retired Coach Judy Groff with welcoming her to the college that eventually led to her becoming a softball All-Conference student-athlete and an All-American honorable mention her senior year. Following completion of her undergraduate studies, MacDonald attended New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York City, graduating with a doctoral degree.

While attending to a successful podiatric practice spanning more than 30 years that focuses on caring for the senior population, MacDonald has likewise achieved monumental athletic success. In 1994, she was inducted into the Manchester Sports Hall of Fame for softball in her hometown of Manchester, Conn. In 2005, she was inducted into the AIC Athletics Hall of Fame, also for softball. Most recently, in 2019, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

According to MacDonald, she approaches swimming “in its purest form: one bathing suit, cap, and goggles. No wetsuits or performance enhancements.” To that end, she has conquered the English Channel, “the Mount Everest of open water swims,” she said, amassing 17 solo crossings from England to France, including three double crossings of the English Channel by herself — that is England to France, then return to England, in one shot, more than 40 miles. MacDonald holds the distinction for the most solo crossings for an American woman.

Among her international and national accomplishments, MacDonald successfully tackled Loch Ness in 2015, swimming 23 miles in just under 12 hours; the Maui Channel in six hours; and Lake Sunapee, N.H., a punishing, 10-hour qualifying swim in 60-degree water. Among other accomplishments, she has participated in the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim five times, where she was highlighted in the Discovery film The Big Swim. She has participated in the annual Swim Across the Sound to encourage past swimmers to get reacquainted with the sport. In addition, she swam the Molokai Hawaiian Channel, a feat of 17 hours, 27 minutes, 20 seconds. But, as she says, “who’s counting seconds?”

MacDonald and her wife, Janet Galya, reside in Andover, Conn., where she can frequently be spotted training for open-water swims early in the morning before patient hours and on the weekends at Connecticut state parks and the shore.