• Abby Finafrock

Fr. Jim Named Commencement Speaker for Class of 2022


Fr. Jim photographed by Abigail Finafrock

As the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance are heard faintly in the air and seniors are beginning the final stretch to commencement, Rev. James Donahue is preparing to address the graduates as they take their final steps on Mount St. Mary’s ground as an undergraduate. 

On March 8, President Timothy Trainor announced that Donohue, C.R., Ph.D., also known as Fr. Jim, would be giving the commencement speech on May 14. This will be his last commencement ceremony as a faculty member. Donohue will be retiring from the Mount to continue his work in Tanzania and will be honored with an honorary doctorate of humane letters. 

Every year brings a different commencement speaker to the podium. In 2021, for the four different commencement ceremonies there were different speakers. The speaker is usually chosen by the board of trustees, as well as the cabinet members of the Mount.  

In speaking with Donohue, it is evident that he is proud of this year's senior class. When asked what made the 2022 graduates special, he responded with “their perseverance.” He continued by saying “over the last two years our world has changed, and it has been turned upside down…They might have had more challenges than any group I can think of... yes... perseverance.”  

Donohue commented on many of his opportunities that he had at the Mount. One of which was coaching the club ice hockey team. He remarked on the incredible experience, both for the team and himself. Donohue said that he was closest with the team, “You know, you see people in class, but when you are on a team, you are traveling, you are practicing, you are in the dressing room, you are playing, you have ups and downs, you have joys and sorrows.” 

Many colleagues have much to say about Donohue. Associate Provost Dr. David McCarthy, when asked how he knows Donohue said that he has “known him as a colleague since 1998, and also as a neighbor and a family friend.” McCarthy also said that he believes, in his speech, Donohue will inspire all in attendance to be better.  

When speaking with Dr. Peter Dorsey, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, he brought up how big of an impact Donohue will leave on the Mount, “Over the 26 years that he has been here, I cannot think of any one person who had a bigger impact.” He continued by saying, “The Mount has a long history of having great faculty priests, and so I think Fr. Jim belongs at the top of that list.” He continued by recognizing people are usually more nostalgic on the past, but “in terms of his contribution, he is part of that group and is probably at the top of the list in so many ways.”

Students and faculty alike have shown their love for Donohue. Dorsey said that one of the ways that he reaches people is through his sense of humor, which they both believe will be present in his speech. Both McCarthy and Dorsey expressed joy and honor that they have in knowing Donohue.  

In regard to his retirement, Donohue said that it all happened quite by accident. During his sabbatical, Donohue planned to go to Tanzania for one or two weeks. He was told that they really needed him to be there for a year. He was extremely surprised by this but said yes to the opportunity. As the time to leave grew closer, he began to regret his decision, but he knew he could trust other people, trust in God and trust that it would work out, and it did.  

Donohue’s first trip to Tanzania started off rough. On his daily walks, he would daydream about the day he would return to his beautiful mountain home. One day, he realized his daydreams changed. He was now counting the months until he had to leave Tanzania. This was a major turning point in Donohue’s decision to leave the Mount.  

Donohue concluded by saying, “At this point, I am very very grateful. The Mount is a huge influence on who I am, and the trust people have put in me is quite incredible.”