McDonald received the society's Living Legend accolade during an awards luncheon that also honored Lambert Dekker, senior vice president and chief perfumer at Takasago International Corp., with the society's Lifetime Achievement Award.
A tribute was given to Roman Kaiser, research fellow at Givaudan, in recognition of his accomplishments, not the least of which was creating a palette of some 2,500 olfactory notes.
"'When did I get old enough to be called a legend?'" McDonald remembered thinking when she got the call informing her of the award. She gave credit for the honor to the people she has encountered throughout her career at L'Oréal, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and BBW, referring to perfumers as "consummate craftsmen" who are able to "create something beautiful out of thin air.
"Perfumers make magic and miracles out of thin air," she added. "It takes passion, perseverance and courage. None of that legend criteria applies to me."
McDonald added that, during her 30-year career, she has "never worked harder or learned more" than she has during the past four years at BBW, given the firm's 1,600 stores, the $2.4 billion worth of products it sells annually and its "direct line" to 35 million women.