Heart of the Place

Heart of the Place

Mary Donohue retires after 37 years in the Development Office

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

For nearly 37 years, Mary Donohue was often Boston College's first point of contact for potential donors, alumni volunteers and many University employees, and her unfailingly cheery disposition and efficient professional manner ensured that this initial contact was always a favorable one.

Donohue, a clerk and receptionist in the Development Office, retired last month, and not without a little reluctance.

"I loved working with the people at Boston College," said Donohue, who joined BC in 1963. "It was hard to leave after all of those years, because I enjoyed working so much. But the day just came when I said to myself, 'Mary, it's time for you to quit.'"

"Mary was a heck of a lot more than a receptionist," said Senior Development Officer James Mc - Gahay, a staff member since 1970. "She is such a warm and outgoing person. She was the heart of the place."

McGahay said that Donohue was a favorite of two generations of Boston College donors, volunteers and staff members. "People would come back just to see her," he said.

Donohue recalled her early years at the University when the development donor file consisted of a box of index cards that she updated by hand. "I kept track of the people who gave between $500 and $1,000 a year back then," she said, "and it wasn't a very big list.

"I certainly see a big change in the amounts of money that come in through development gifts these days," she said.

Mary Donohue
Donohue worked with the late Philip Callan on BC's early telethon efforts in the 1970s, the first woman to be an active staff fundraiser for Boston College. The telethons proved highly successful, but Donohue felt her real strength was meeting people on a face-to-face basis. She became the department's receptionist, a position she would hold for more than 20 years.

McGahay said that Donohue "helped build a sense of community among the Development staff" in addition to her front office duties. She and fellow staff member Janet Kelly revived the department's "Sunshine Fund" in the early 1980s, and the effort provided flowers and gifts over the years for scores of co-workers who were ill, became engaged, married or left Boston College for other career opportunities.

"Mary was the Sunshine Fund," according to McGahay.

Donohue says that she is looking forward to her retirement to travel and to spend time with her two daughters and grandchildren and with her brother, who lives on Cape Cod.

Return to Oct. 14 menu

Return to Chronicle home page