Alabama Academy of Honor


Cameron McDonald Vowell

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2004.



Cameron McDonald Vowell has contributed her time, her talents, and her leadership and management skills to a wide range of efforts to improve Alabama, her native state.

Active in community affairs since graduation from Hollins College in 1968, she has worked as a board member with a number of nonprofit groups which encourage philanthropy, including the Women's Fund, an endowment for projects benefiting women and girls, and the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, an endowment exceeding $100 million. Her interest in issues affecting women and girls led her to help found the Alabama Women's Initiative, a group formed to promote the advancement of women in leadership in Alabama; the Women's Fund; and the Alabama Solution, a women's political action committee.

Dr. Vowell's environmental interest began in graduate school when she was a member of GASP, a student-run clean air group. It continued after graduate school when she left the laboratory and began work in environmental sciences. After obtaining an M.A. in the field from the University of Texas at Dallas, she worked as a consultant in Texas and Washington, D.C., returning to Alabama in 1980. Her environmental consulting work led to her appointment to the Alabama Air Pollution Control Commission and its successor, the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. With appointments from three governors, she served on those boards for fourteen years. She also served on the national board of The Nature Conservancy for nine years, and is currently on the board of the Alabama Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. She is a founding member of the board of the Black Warrior, Cahaba River Land Trust and of the Citizen's Environmental Advisory Committee of the Jefferson County Commission.

Her most recent area of activity is in the field of geriatrics. She serves on the Board of Counselors of the Center for Aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and is active in bringing attention to geriatric issues across the community.

Dr. Vowell's grandfather, Frank Spain, was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 1971. Her mother, Peggy Spain McDonald, was the first director of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, and her father, William C. McDonald, Jr., was a noted pilot in China during World War II. Though both of her parents were from the Birmingham area, they met and were married in India, and their daughter, Cameron, was born in Shanghai, China.

Dr. Vowell and her husband, Scott, Presiding Judge of Jefferson County, have one son, John Scott Vowell, Jr., who is a rising senior at The Altamont School.