Southern Vermont College Hosts 89th Commencement Ceremony; Journalist Mike Donoghue Inspires Curiosity

May 14, 2016

Southern Vermont College (SVC) conferred degrees to more than 125 graduates at its 89th Commencement exercises on Saturday, May 14, on the Greystone lawn of the Everett Mansion. An Honorary Degree of Humane Letters was awarded to Michael Donoghue ’71, award-winning news/sports writer and educator, who recently retired after 47 years with the Burlington Free Press. Donoghue addressed the graduates as Commencement speaker.

Donoghue began his speech with one word, “curiosity,” and then returned to his seat, which prompted the graduates to cheer the possibility of hearing the shortest Commencement speech ever. “I thought if I said one impressionable word, you might remember your commencement speech,” he then told them when he returned to the podium. Reflecting on his career as an investigative journalist, Donoghue urged the graduates to “...always ask questions, and get correct answers. You need to look at multiple sources. Take nothing for granted.” One of Donoghue’s many writing roles at the newspaper was government accountability. “Get engaged in civics in your community wherever you land after graduation,” he told the SVC students. “Don’t let others make decisions for you.”

SVC President David Evans said the decision was made to honor Donoghue, who graduated 45 years earlier when the school was known as St. Joseph College, “for his outstanding career, his strong ties to Vermont, … for his devotion to the truth, to his profession, his students and to this alma mater.”

In his remarks, President Evans recognized longtime Professor Greg Winterhalter who will retire after 37 years at the College. The College conferred bachelor’s degrees to 123 graduates, one associate’s degree, and five College Steps certificates. The baccalaureate degree Valedictorian was Cynthia Stanton Richards of Greenland, N.H. The baccalaureate degree Salutatorian was Stacy Lynn Fowler of Readsboro, Vt.
Two class speakers: Chelsey Anne Gallup of Wilmington, Vt., and Dolapo Ezekiel Olugbile of Laurel, Md., offered their classmates parting remarks. Professor Jennifer Burg, Chair of the Hunter Division of  Humanities, was elected by her peers to deliver farewell remarks from the faculty.

Three traditional awards were presented to graduating students. The William A. Glasser Award, honoring a student for achieving outstanding personal and academic growth while at the College, was given to Walter Ramos of Yonkers, N.Y. The Lynda Curry Memorial Award, honoring the graduate who best exemplifies the fulfillment of the College’s mission, was given to Brian Thomas Veith of Burlington, Conn. The Edward H. Everett Award, acknowledging numerous contributions to the Southern Vermont College community, was presented to Ahmed Jamal Gaynor, Jr., of Yonkers, N.Y.
Two graduates: Cameron Michael Curtiss of Milton, Vt., and Lucas Charles Gelheiser of Pownal, Vt., were recognized for publishing their first novel through the Shires Press Publishing Program, a four-semester curriculum offered through SVC’s Humanities Division and a partnership with Northshire Bookstore.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first graduating class from the school known as Southern Vermont College.

About Mike Donoghue:
Mike Donoghue, SVC Class of 1971, recently retired after 47 years with the Burlington Free Press, Vermont’s largest newspaper, where he handled many writing roles from general assignment to government accountability to sports, while also helping train interns. His keen investigative reporting earned him much recognition including New England’s top lifetime journalism award, the Yankee Quill Award in 2007 and a National Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013. In 2015, Donoghue was the recipient of the Matthew Lyon Award for his lifetime commitment to the First Amendment and the public’s right to know the truth in Vermont. The New England First Amendment Coalition announced in February its Freedom of Information award given to the top journalist in the six-state region each year will be named for Donoghue. Since 1985, Donoghue has been an adjunct professor and academic advisor at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, where he has taught various journalism classes. Donoghue graduated in 1971 from St. Joseph College (SJC) (which became SVC in 1974) with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Trinity College. He has been named Distinguished Alumnus by both his alma maters and served on the SVC Board of Trustees from 1992 to 1998. Donoghue was honored by family, friends, colleagues and classmates when an endowed SVC Scholarship was established in his name at the College.

His early interest in journalism began when he was in high school, writing for the Burlington Free Press. While in college, Donoghue continued writing sports at the Bennington Banner and forayed into broadcast journalism by doing live play-by-play for Mount  Anthony Union High School basketball for the local cable television system in 1969 to 1970.
In 2013, Donoghue was voted by Gannett staffers nationwide to receive their “Greater Good Award.”  He is a 10-time Vermont Sportswriter of the Year and was elected National President of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association for two terms (2006 to 2008). He has been inducted into five halls of fame: the New England Press Association’s Community Journalism Hall of Fame, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s National Hall of Fame for Local Heroes, the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, the SVC/SJC Athletic Hall of Fame and the Vermont Principals’ Association Hall of Fame. In his spare time he volunteers with the New England First Amendment Coalition (NEFAC), New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) and the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Donoghue and his wife Ann Marie live in South Burlington.