Scholarship in memory of beloved veterinarian to benefit pre-vet students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nancy Donahue, of Portsmouth, Virginia, has provided $50,000 to create a scholarship endowment in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences in memory of her late husband, W. Durbin Donahue, who graduated from the college before embarking on a long career as a veterinarian.

The W. Durbin Donahue, VMD, and Nancy J. Donahue Scholarship is aimed at helping to defray the educational costs of pre-veterinary students who are Pennsylvania residents and who are enrolled in the animal science major or in any of the majors offered by the Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences.

First preference for funds will be given to Penn State students who have been accepted into the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Students who have been accepted into any accredited school of veterinary medicine will receive second preference, and other students meeting the general eligibility criteria also may be considered.

"Durbin Donahue was a compassionate and dedicated practitioner whose love for animals was rivaled by his love for Penn State," said Val Beasley, professor and head of veterinary and biomedical sciences. "He was a true believer in the value of education, and we are grateful to his wife, Nancy, for establishing this endowment in his honor so that the Donahues' legacy can be preserved through the educational and professional success of our students."

Durbin Donahue was a veterinarian who was admired and loved by his clients, both two- and four-legged, Nancy Donahue said in a statement explaining the motivation behind her gift. She noted that longtime friend Brad Cherry called him "the kind of man you could call on at any time of the day or night, and he would be there for you."

Born in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, Durbin Donahue was an alumnus of the pre-vet curriculum in the College of Agricultural Sciences and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of captain in the Veterinary Corps.

In 1968, he founded the Churchland Animal Clinic in Portsmouth, Virginia. "At the time, Churchland was surrounded by farmland, and Durb treated animals of all sizes," Nancy Donahue wrote. "It was not unusual to find horses in the parking lot of the clinic."

As the suburbs and population of the area grew, Donahue opened a second veterinary hospital in Suffolk, Virginia, in 1998. Over the years, he was active in the community, serving as first chairman of the Portsmouth Towne Bank board and as president of the Churchland Rotary Club. When he died in August 2014, he was survived by Nancy — his wife of 52 years — and three children and six grandchildren.

Nancy Donahue also grew up in Blairsville before graduating from West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University of Pennsylvania). She was a business partner with her husband, handling the bookkeeping and staffing.

"Mom made Dad a better person," said their son, Patrick. "Dad handled the medicine and the money, but Mom was their relationship builder when they moved to Portsmouth. She raised the family while bottle-feeding sick puppies that Dad brought home, answering late-night phone calls from worried clients and treating pets with Dad at the hospital when an employee called in sick."

Durbin Donahue was a "super fan" of Penn State football, always finding time to watch the games no matter where he was, Nancy recalled. "He rarely sat down during games, pacing back and forth like a coach on the sidelines. His home office was decorated with Penn State memorabilia, with a custom-made carpet in the shape of a Penn State football helmet. He loved his alma mater and the Blue and White."

The first person in his family to attend college, Durbin Donahue believed in the importance of higher education and funded educational accounts for his children and grandchildren, Nancy noted. "He said it was the best investment he ever made," she said. "One of his final wishes was to have a scholarship for students at Penn State who chose to become veterinarians."

Donahue expressed his passion for practicing veterinary medicine in an interview several years ago. "If there is an occupation that works longer and harder hours than a veterinarian, I have yet to see it," he said. "Veterinarians have to diagnose patients that cannot communicate, counsel clients who are upset about their pets' illness, and manage a small business that operates 24/7. Veterinary medicine is not just a career, it's a calling."

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Last Updated April 15, 2016