Colonel Donald “Don” J. Ferguson, USA (Ret.), also known as Captain Donald Ferguson, USMS (Ret.), passed away peacefully on June 16 in Roslyn at the age of 85. Don was born on May 12, 1932 in Brooklyn to Robert and Bertha (Franks) Ferguson.
A native of Brooklyn and a former resident of Connecticut, Don graduated from the University of Bridgeport in 1964, earning a Bachelor of Science, cum laude. He remained at the University of Bridgeport to earn a Master of Science degree, and later completed post-master’s work at New York University, Baruch College and C.W. Post College. He is also a 1977 graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Don had more than 42 years of enlisted and commissioned service in the Army National Guard, Active Army and Army Reserve. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1949 at the age of 16 and rose to the rank of colonel. He retired from the Army in 1989, but was recalled to active duty in 1991 to serve with the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm. During his varied military career, Don served as an artillery officer, aviation officer, engineering officer, logistics officer and as an
intelligence officer. He held a number of command and staff positions including commanding officer, 411th Engineer Brigade (Combat Heavy) and the 102nd Engineer Battalion (Combat) and served in Europe as the rear zone engineer for Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and in Germany with the Engineer Command.
Among his military awards are the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Forces Commendation Medal (MAAG-Ethiopia) and the Army Commendation Medal. He also earned badges as an air operations officer and airborne qualification. He was also a recipient of the prestigious New York State Conspicuous Service Medal for his role in the 1980 New York State Prison Guard Strike, in which his battalion held control of four maximum-security facilities.
Prior to his arrival at Kings Point in 1975, Don held key faculty and administrative positions at a number of colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, including registrar at Adelphi University; associate professor of Education and director of Admissions, Records and Studies at Baruch College, CUNY; associate professor of Social Science and associate academic vice president at Haile Sellassie I University in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and visiting professor at World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden.
Don retired from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in August 2007 after 32 years of distinguished and commendable service. He first joined the staff in 1975 as registrar. In 1989, Don was named the academy’s 13th Commandant of Midshipmen and, in 1999, he was appointed director of External Affairs, where he was the Congressional and industry liaison, and was responsible for academy protocol, public relations, alumni and parent relations and special events coordination. Don completed his service at the academy with a two-year tour as special assistant to the superintendent.
Among his civic, professional and veteran’s affiliations, Don was a member of the American Legion (Great Neck Post), the Great Neck Memorial Day Parade Committee, an honorary member of the Cancer Volunteers of America, a member of the Retired Officers’ Club of Long Island and held board positions on the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club, New York, the Queens Flag Day Committee and the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA). He also held memberships in the International Maritime Lecturers Association, the Long Island Council of Student Personnel Administrators, the St. Andrews Society, the Ends of Earth Association, the Veteran Corps Artillery, the 69th and 71st Infantry Regiments and 42nd Rainbow Division Veteran Associations.
Don is survived by his wife, Sandi, of Port Washington; children, Anna Ferguson-Sparks of Solvang, CA, and Greer Ferguson of Colchester, VT; and his grandchild, Beatrix Sparks of Solvang, CA. He is preceded in death by his father, Robert, and mother, Bertha, of Brooklyn, and brother, Robert, of New Port Richey, FL.
Don was a very social person, loved being around friends and thrived on making others laugh. He enjoyed swimming, sailing, skiing, ice hockey and traveling the world. His children remember him as a driven and hardworking father who encouraged them to pursue their goals.
In Don’s memory, please send donations to The Warrior Sailing Program at www.warriorsailing.org.
Don and Sandi were the first people I met when we moved from the Pentagon to NY. They had just come back from Ethopia with their daughter, Anne. I’ve remained friends with this family since 1977 and truly value having Don in my life. He always had something to say and some interesting place to visit. He is a person who contributed to the lives of so many, and will be thought of with love and the fun we all had.