Throughout his career, Rushion McDonald has worn plenty of hats. The University of Houston alumnus is a stand-up comic turned writer turned producer turned financial adviser. Now, he’s donning a baker’s cap for his latest project.
McDonald is the spokesperson for the Perfect Company, the creators of the Perfect Bake Pro Scale that takes the guesswork out of measuring cooking ingredients. He’s not just promoting this device. McDonald is an avid baker and uses the scale regularly in his kitchen.
Baking and promoting cookware might seem a bit out of place on McDonald’s résumé filled with television and film credits. He says, however, that all of his projects — including this one — have one thing in common.
“Everything I’ve done has been about making people feel good and lifting them up,” said McDonald, who continues to produce a number of vehicles for longtime collaborator Steve Harvey (including “Family Feud” and talk show “Steve Harvey”). “I’m happy to do that for everyone, whether it’s a TV audience or someone trying to make a Bundt cake.”
Nothing is off the table for McDonald. Whether it’s baking, television production, writing or making people laugh, the versatile Coog is up for any challenge. Growing up in Houston’s Fifth Ward, he says that he had to stand out to be successful. McDonald was one of nine children being raised in a one-bedroom shotgun house by hard working parents.
“I was a dreamer,” he said. “I wanted to be different. I didn’t care where I came from. I just wanted to succeed at something.”
Success didn’t come easy. After graduating from Houston’s Forest Brook High School, McDonald found his way to UH, where he spent seven years earning an undergraduate degree. He admits that his main challenge in college was deciding on a major. His academic interests shifted from civil engineering to biology to chemistry. McDonald ultimately majored in mathematics with a minor in sociology.
“When I first came to UH, I tried to find an easy major,” he said. “I learned that you can’t cheat the process. If you cheat the process, then you’re cheating the results.”
When he wasn’t studying or in class, McDonald was checking out the local comedy scene and eventually took the stage himself. He regularly performed at Houston’s popular (but now defunct) Comedy Workshop alongside rising stars such as Sam Kinison, Brett Butler and Bill Hicks.
After graduating in 1983, he put his math skills to use at IBM. He worked at the computer company while moonlighting as a comic. In 1986, he left corporate America for a full-time career in comedy. During his travels, he befriended Harvey, who also was working the comedy club circuit. Their friendship evolved into a professional partnership that continues to this day.
McDonald recognized Harvey’s passion as a comedian and performer and realized his own talents behind the scenes. McDonald made the decision to step out of the spotlight and apply his creative energies to writing and producing. His first television collaboration with Harvey was writing for the ABC television series “Me and the Boys” in 1994. The series featured Harvey in the lead role of a widower raising three sons. That opportunity earned McDonald writing and producing credits on a variety of popular shows, including “The Parent Hood,” “Sister Sister,” “The Parkers,” “The Jamie Foxx Show” and “The Steve Harvey Show.”
McDonald continues to lend his creativity to vehicles for Harvey. He’s a producer for hit game shows “Family Feud” and “Celebrity Family Feud” and talk show “Steve Harvey.” He also is the executive producer for the syndicated radio program, “The Steve Harvey Morning Show.”
One of his favorite projects, however, is “Money Making Conversations.” This weekly dialogue (on McDonald’s Facebook page) allows him to connect with social media audiences and share financial and career building insights. It’s an initiative that McDonald has undertaken to help people. He’s not paid for his advice or time but is rewarded in other ways.
“I try to share my experiences with others,” he said. “If I can answer just one question that will help someone be successful, then I’ve accomplished my goal of giving back. When I look back through my life, people did that for me. My success is based on a group of people pointing me in the right direction.”
McDonald and his wife, Cecily Mitchell, an alumna of the University’s College of Optometry, continue to give back to UH. Through UH’s Black Alumni Association, they sponsor a scholarship for math and optometry students. Likewise, McDonald — a 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient — offers advice to students and aspiring entertainers during campus events.
McDonald said he and his wife are indebted to UH for their successes and are happy to support students and the University. The campus, however, isn’t exactly as they remember it. Each time he’s back on campus, he notices new buildings. He said he can’t help but smile when he sees how UH has changed.
After all, UH changed his life, so he’s pleased to the institution doing the same for others.
“The success I’ve had is directly tied to the things I learned and experienced at UH,” he said. “It molded me for the challenges I faced in my life. When I go back to campus, I realize it’s changed in the same way it’s changed me. It’s gotten better with age, and I’m happy to do what I can to help it grow.”