John (Jack) Donahue
John (Jack) Donahue
John (Jack) Donahue, who died on May 11 at age 92 at his home in Naples, Florida, is being remembered for his devotion to his large family, his business success, his generous philanthropy, and how his Catholic faith informed all that he did.

Donahue’s funeral Mass was held at St. Ann Parish in Naples on May 20, and was celebrated by Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former bishop of Pittsburgh, and Bishop David Zubik, the current bishop of Pittsburgh. A memorial Mass was also held on May 24 at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh, the city where Donahue grew up, started a business and raised his 13 children.

After graduating from the United States Military Academy and serving as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Donahue left the Army in 1950. Soon after, he returned to his hometown and co-founded Federated Investors in 1955, along with two of his classmates from Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. By the early 1980s, it had grown to become the second largest mutual fund company in the United States.

During his homily at the funeral Mass, Cardinal Wuerl, who is a close friend of the Donahues, recalled a story from one time that he visited the family’s home. While the cardinal was visiting, Donahue’s wife of more than 70 years, Rhodora, brought out a plate of cookies. When Donahue did not want any, his wife said, “But you love these cookies,” and Donahue replied, “No, Rhodora, I love you. I eat the cookies.”

“All we have to do is look around this church to see your 13 children and their spouses, your 84 grandchildren and your 110 great-grandchildren to realize how much life and love you and Jack have brought into this world, nurtured and helped flourish,” Cardinal Wuerl told Rhodora during his homily.

The love that Donahue had for his family and for his faith spilled over into the generosity that he displayed, especially in regards to his support of Catholic education. The Donahue Family Foundation has continually supported Catholic schools in various ways, including by establishing the Golden Apple Awards to recognize excellent teachers in Catholic schools.

More than 20 years ago, Donahue established the awards in the diocese of Pittsburgh, and soon extended the awards to include several other dioceses nationally, including the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio; the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio; the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania; and the Archdiocese of Washington.

“The Archdiocese of Washington Catholic school community mourns the recent loss of Mr. John “Jack” Donahue,” said William Ryan, the superintendent for Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Washington, in a statement. “Mr. Donahue was truly a special friend to those in our archdiocese who have the vocation to be a Catholic school teacher.”

This year was the ninth time Golden Apple Awards were presented to teachers in the Archdiocese of Washington. Each year, 10 teachers from across the archdiocese are selected to receive the award, and are celebrated at a dinner with Cardinal Wuerl, where they receive a golden apple and a check for $5,000, funded by the Donahue Family Foundation.

“Mr. Donahue has been represented at the awards dinner in Washington, D.C., by his son, Bill Donahue and more recently his grandson, Greg Dolan and his wife, Meredith. I have had the privilege of talking with both of them about their father and grandfather and his love for his family and his commitment to his strong Catholic faith,” said Ryan. “We are grateful for Mr. Donahue’s tremendously generous support of Catholic education. The entire Catholic Schools Office joins me in offering our prayers for Mrs. Donahue and her family in this time of sorrow.”

An obituary by Federated Investors noted that Donahue did not seek recognition for much of his philanthropy, and anonymously paid the tuition of many students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for 50 years. He has also generously supported the business school at Duquesne University, the Naples Community Hospital in Florida, Central Catholic and Oakland High Schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and the Rhodora Donahue School on the campus of Ave Maria University near Naples.

In addition, he was instrumental in founding the Extra Mile Foundation, which provides financial support to parochial schools serving underprivileged youth in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Only recently did Donahue start to allow his family name to be associated with his contributions.

“Whatever he did, and it was much, he never veered from this moral perspective as he engaged in so many aspects of life, economic, financial, political, academic, philanthropic and more,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “He always lived greatly aware that the decisions he would make, the actions he would take and the things he would do would always need to be judged in the light of eternity – and the great goal – the only goal – to get to heaven.”

At the May 20 Mass, Cardinal Wuerl noted how the garments draped over his coffin represented two citizenships that were important to Donahue. As the coffin left the church, it was draped in an American flag, which Cardinal Wuerl said reflected his love of country. During the funeral Mass, the coffin was draped in the pall, which is a white emblem of the baptismal garment Donahue wore at his Baptism. This garment symbolized his citizenship in heaven, the cardinal said.

“Jack loved his Church and his Catholic faith and tried greatly to live it in all its dimensions,” said Cardinal Wuerl. “His private prayer life was important to him as it nourished his deeply held convictions that life should be guided by love of God and love of neighbor.”

To Donahue’s children and grandchildren, Cardinal Wuerl told them to hold on to the legacy that their grandfather, whom they called “Grandy,” left for them.

“Always love God and hold on to your faith that it might be the solid foundation for all of your life,” said the cardinal. “This is the enduring gift that ‘Grandy’ leaves to each one of you.”