Donaldson Koons was born in Korea on August 23, 1917 to Presbyterian missionary parents. He moved to the United States at the age of 17 and enrolled at the College of Wooster, in Ohio. He got his masters and Ph.D. in Geology at Columbia before enlisting in the military in 1943. Upon his return to the States he taught at Columbia and West Virginia University. He moved to Colby College in 1947, where he stayed until his retirement. He was appointed to the Maine Water Improvement Commission by Ken Curtis in 1967, and has been active in Maine environmental protection issues.
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L'Hommedieu, Andrea, "Koons, Donaldson oral history interview" (2002). Edmund S. Muskie Oral History Collection. 197.