BENNINGTON — Award-winning news/sports writer and educator Michael Donoghue '71 will address Southern Vermont College's (SVC's) graduating class as commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree at the college's 89th exercises at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 14.
"Mike's outstanding career, his strong ties to Vermont and links to Bennington made him an obvious choice as our speaker," SVC President David Rees Evans said in making the announcement. "His devotion to his profession, his students and to this alma mater is also why we want to honor him."
Donoghue, who recently retired after 47 years with the Burlington Free Press, Vermont's largest newspaper, 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.
"(Donoghue) has been an extraordinary digger, uncovering corrupt officers on state and local police forces, a hazing scandal involving the University of Vermont hockey team, and how the justice system compounded the terrible experiences of rape victims. He prompted a change in state drunken-driving laws when he found a 16-time DUI offender was still free to roam around the state," Stowe Reporter/Waterbury Record Executive Editor Tom Kearney wrote in an editorial upon Donoghue's retirement. "There's nobody like him in New England's journalism and there may never be again. It's doubtful that anyone will ever have his insatiable curiosity, sense of justice and dogged refusal to take no for an answer."
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.
"My years attending college in Bennington were some of the best and most fruitful times in my personal development," Donoghue said recently. "It's rare for a day to go by that I do not reflect back on a member of the faculty, staff or a student at St. Joseph College. They all helped me to develop as a person and enhance the code of conduct I live by. Whether you graduated from SJC or SVC we have a common bond through our time in Bennington."
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.