It was with deep sadness that I learned today of the passing of John F. “Jack” Donahue. Jack truly was a renaissance man, packing significant and lasting accomplishments into his 92 years. If ever it could be said that I encountered a singular, real-life saint, Jack would qualify as that one person.
At first blush, what impressed me most about Jack was his devotion to his wife of 70 years, Rhodora. The consummate family man, Jack raised 13 children with Rhodora. The couple subsequently was blessed with 84 grandchildren, which, in turn, have grown the family to include 109 great-grandchildren.
If that wasn’t enough to impress, there was Jack’s military career prior to settling down with the lovely Rhodora to begin their family. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1946 and subsequently served as a pilot in the Army Air Corps, which eventually became the Air Force.
Following his service in the Air Corps, Jack parlayed $49 of his own limited personal finances to take a stock-market correspondence course that he saw advertised in Forbes magazine. The rest, they say, is history. In 1950, he began selling mutual funds. In 1955, he established Federated Investors, Inc., with two high-school friends, Richard B. Fisher and the late Thomas J. Donnelly.
Federated, of course, was very successful and continues to succeed today by employing more than 1,400 people throughout the world who assist thousands more people with financial planning, investment and retirement expertise. More important, however, was Jack’s commitment to defending the moral foundations of a free economy. Not only did he assist his employees and clients, he was devoted to education and religious faith. He and his family endowed the Donahue Family Chair in Investment Management at Duquesne University’s Graduate School of Business. He also created the Golden Apple Awards to celebrate Pittsburgh’s best Catholic school teachers, and founded the Extra Mile Education Foundation to provide Catholic education for inner-city children.
In his role as a philanthropist and devout Roman Catholic, Jack was a critical member in helping the Acton Institute become the successful and influential organization it is today. I truthfully can say we would be nowhere near as influential today without Jack’s past patronage.
Each year at Christmas, Jack would send out a booklet containing photographs of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It was truly an inspired and inspirational gift, because Jack was possessed of a keen mind that began with faith and extended to family, business and philanthropy. My heartfelt sympathy is extended to Rhodora and the entire Donahue family whose photographs so beautifully illustrate Jack’s annual Christmas booklet. If any one man exemplified the meaning of the Gospels for our modern times, it was Jack Donahue. RIP, my friend.