In 1939 Stanford officials recognized McDonald’s contributions to the University by naming a road near the athletic fields after him. Ray Lyman Wilbur, then President of Stanford University and a former Dean of the School of Medicine, proclaimed:
If I ever had to run against Sam McDonald for the presidency of the University, I'd be mighty afraid of the result.
Another recognition came in 1950 when the annual Convalescent Home volunteer day was renamed Sam McDonald Day. McDonald recalled how large the event had become in those years.
[In 1953 at] the annual barbecue at the Stanford Convalescent Home on Sam McDonald Day, an estimated five thousand students gathered to be served around the new eight-by-twenty-two-foot pit!
During his years at Stanford McDonald purchased hundreds of acres of real estate in redwood forests near campus. When he passed away in 1957, McDonald left a third of his estate to the Convalescent Home and two-thirds to Stanford University. In 1958 the University transferred the land it had received to San Mateo County, which used the gift to establish Sam McDonald Park in 1970.