» Donna Ford Attallah Bust

“We help others. We serve good causes. We uplift souls
and hearts like ours.”

- Donna Ford Attallah

Critical Essay By
Reverend Nancy Brink
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences
View Bio

Donna Ford Attallah ’61 is one of the most generous benefactors and patrons of Chapman University.

Donna Ford grew up in Victorville, California. Her family attended First Christian Church there, part of the same Christian denomination that founded this school. She first learned about Chapman by attending church camp with other Disciples of Christ students. There she met Chapman students who were serving as counselors at the camp. She was so impressed by their leadership that she decided to apply!

Donna’s final college decision was between UCLA and Chapman. She chose Chapman for its friendliness and warmth, knowing that at UCLA she would have been just a number. And she continues to be pleased that Chapman, even as it has grown, continues to foster a strong sense of community and care.

Donna’s favorite college story was from her time working for the ceramics professor. Her job was firing the student pottery in the kiln. The kiln had to be watched carefully—once the cone indicated the kiln had reached the proper temperature, it had to be turned off. If it never got hot enough or went over temperature, the projects would be ruined. One evening while working, Donna was asked to dinner by a student she was dating. When they returned to Reeves Hall, the building was locked, and it was time to check the kiln. They shimmied open a basement window and Donna took care of the kiln. But they also attracted the attention of the night watchman. He let her stay to finish the project but was none too happy about it. The next day she was called into the office of the chair of the Art Department. Fearing she was going to be kicked out of school, she went in nervously. The chair told her that he had heard about her adventure the previous evening. Then he plunked down a set of keys to the building—keys she proudly carried until graduation!

Donna completed her degree as an education major, and when she graduated in 1961, she began as a kindergarten teacher in the Cypress School District. She taught kindergarten and first grade for 40 years!

It was at a school meeting her first year of teaching that Donna caught the eye of the school psychologist, Fahmy Attallah. Fahmy quickly asked her out and began talking about their future together on their second date! They were married in 1962.

Rather than taking a European tour as a honeymoon, the couple bought their first apartment building and continued to purchase apartments in the Long Beach area. It is that ongoing investment that has allowed their incredible generosity to Chapman.

Their first major gift was to establish the Donna (Ford) and Fahmy Attallah Endowed Director of Church Relations, and generous gifts to the Leatherby Libraries soon followed. The heart of the Orange campus, Attallah Piazza, was created and named in honor of Fahmy. In 2017, Chapman’s education college honored Donna’s generosity by renaming itself the Donna Ford Attallah College of Educational Studies.

Donna lost Fahmy in 2005 after a long illness. He had long called her his angel, and Donna began to expand her collection of angels. The Attallah Angel Room, on the second floor south wall of the Leatherby Libraries, contains a beautiful collection of some of those angels.

Donna never forgot the first $200 scholarship she received at Chapman. At a ceremony where she received the money, one of the benefactors told her, “As you are able, please find a way to pay this gift forward.” And this whole university is blessed that she has dedicated her life to following that advice!

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Collection of Historical Figures Map

View the map locations of the Collection of Historical Figures statues located throughout the Chapman campuses.

Donna Ford Attallah bust


Library of Arts and Humanities

Miriam Baker

Campus Location
Leatherby Libraries, Orange Campus