By Betsy S. Blumenthal
With a week to sit on Kenneth Boyden’s address, the College’s board of trustees and a speckling of students returned on Friday to greet the second and final nominee for the position of vice president of College Advancement.
John P. Donohue, a man who has logged more years in corporate positions than in institutional ones, had a little bit of swagger as he walked into the conference room. He seemed more at ease than the other candidate — maybe this was because there were fewer attendees, or maybe he was just puffing up his feathers for the audience. Maybe his credentials have something to do with it.
Donohue attended the State University College at Oswego, N.Y., earning a BA in biology and an MS in counseling. He then went on to attend Harvard University where he received his Master’s in higher education and education management, and has since held several positions in development. He began his career at United Way of Long Island where he was a senior vice president and campaign director, and has held similar positions at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Dillard University in New Orleans. He was clear about the respective drawbacks, however, whether it was his inability to see the turn-around of the funds raised or the lack of a student presence.
He also spoke about his current position at the United Negro College Fund, where he is the executive vice president for Strategic Assessment, Planning and Coordination, with a fondness usually reserved for describing grandchildren. But of the job, he said he was “missing students and faculty, the reason for doing the work.” Bearing this in mind, he and his wife — a quiet, pleasant-looking blond in the back of the room — decided that it was “time to go back to the work that (they) wanted to do,” leading him to seek out opportunities in academia.
Referencing his brief 27-hour marathon tour of the College, Donohue said that he “liked what he saw,” and wants to help the school “at the next stage of its evolution.” Donohue then laid out his plans for the alumni: He wants them to champion the College, to help bring about a level of national recognition whose absence is much maligned among students. Donohue emphasized that he wants the College to be “known beyond the borders of New Jersey,” and that we need to “engage alumni and have focus groups and research to help us figure it out.”
A self-proclaimed storyteller, Donohue expressed a desire to create an “internal narrative” for the school — like a comprehensive self-image among students and staff — that could eventually transcend college borders and give people a focused picture of the College. Alumni “want to brag about their school,” and Donohue sees nothing wrong in taking advantage of this fact.
Donohue’s enthusiasm was well noted, and he signed off with a compliment to seal the deal: “Y’all have a really bright future.”