On March 26, treasured former philosophy professor at Mount St. Mary’s University, Dr. John Francis Donovan, passed away. He left a great legacy at the Mount, with alumni and current professors learning exceptional lessons through his life’s work.
Donovan began his education at Mater Christi Seminary College and St. Mary’s Seminary College, and received his degrees in classical languages, philosophy and theology. He then went on to complete his education at Georgetown University where he received his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1980.
At Mount St. Mary’s University, he served as the department chair of philosophy in 2004-2008 and directed the Honors Program from 1995-2003. He had other numerous titles and responsibilities at the Mount, and he was a phenomenal educator in each role he acquired.
Donovan had an eminent impact on his colleagues in the philosophy department at the Mount. They had noteworthy lessons and stories to share about the great professor.
Professor of philosophy, Dr. Joshua Hochschild, who met Donovan in 2001, talked about how Donovan inspired his career as a professor of philosophy. Hochschild said, “He cared deeply about the Mount as a Catholic university, and specifically encouraged me to help others see the connection between our academic and Catholic mission.”
Hochschild continued, “He knew the presence of Catholic wisdom needed to be kept fresh, alive and relevant on campus. He helped me see the importance of that calling.” Hochschild has exercised Donovan’s mission of relating philosophy to the Catholic faith, teaching students the value of virtue in accordance with their belief in God.
Professor of philosophy, Dr. Michael Miller, who met Donovan in 2002, highlighted the infectious spirit of Donovan in the department and in the classroom. When talking about the aura of Donovan he said, “He handled stressful situations with great calm, he had a patience about him whereas I tended to be frantic or worried or stressed. His witness taught me most about how to handful stressful situations. He gave me great confidence that things were going to work out.” Having a mentor who embodied patience and calmness helped Miller to have belief in his abilities as a professor and to teach his own students to be confident and calm within themselves.
Miller is not the only professor to be inspired by Donovan’s calm nature. Hochschild also noted, “Dr. Donovan modeled patience and gentleness. He was a deeply spiritual man and drew a lot of strength from his personal faith and from the study of great books.” Placing the spirit of patience and tranquility in multiple peers and students speaks volumes to Donovan’s natural ability of not only teaching but embodying the great practice of philosophy.
Philosophy professor, Dr. Richard Buck focused on the educational lessons Donovan taught not only his students but himself also. When talking about an important lesson from Donovan he said, “One thing he used to say to his students when describing the books that he read is, ‘that this is a book everyone should read before they die.’ I took that as his advice to students that they should read as much as they can and to understand as much of the world around them that they can.” To be a true philosopher, one needs to learn as much as possible in their lifetime.
Promoting the philosophical act of lifelong learning through literature showed Donovan’s passion for his field and enriching the lives of others.
Donovan was an all-embracing professor, friend and great human being. He inspired his peers and the future generation to live their best lives. He exemplified the university’s purpose of living lives of significance in service to God and others. The current and future students at the Mount can hopefully learn from Donovan’s exceptional life. He will be remembered as a phenomenal philosopher and a disciple of God.