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John Harvard's Journal

Sally Donahue

September-October 2011

Sally Donahue

Sally Donahue

Photograph by Stu Rosner

In a job where the workload is steadily expanding—a record 35,000 individuals applied to Harvard College last year—Sally Donahue, director of financial aid at the College and senior admissions officer, replenishes her energy by expending it—in sports. Each week, she swims two or three times, runs five miles, and on three mornings rises at 4:15 to drive from Duxbury to row at Union Boat Club, on the Charles.  “I love rowing,” she says. “It’s like being a kid again.” In fact, one of her own kids, daughter Mairead Wilson ’99, got her into the sport:  “I had so much fun watching her row for Radcliffe crews that I took it up myself.” Last summer Donahue won a gold medal in the mixed quad at the World Rowing Masters regatta in Canada, making her a bona fide world champion. Sally Clark Donahue grew up in Duxbury, where her parents still live; Mairead and son John Patrick Donahue ’01 live nearby with their families. Donahue’s own significant other, Jim Miller, is dean of admission at Brown. She attended Milton Academy and Cornell, graduating in 1975 in English, and soon married Brad Donahue, a pilot and fish spotter who died in a plane crash in 1987. She found her own career early, getting hired by Cornell’s financial-aid office. In 1981 she joined Harvard’s admissions office, then worked in financial aid and career services at the Law School from 1987 until 2000, when she took her present job. “It’s such a compelling mission we have,” she says. “Who wouldn’t love to go out and find the most talented students worldwide, admit them, and then fund them to come to Harvard? We’re blessed with a wonderful ability to fundamentally change people’s lives.”