Lowell philanthropist Nancy Donahue honored by state arts group

Published in The Lowell Sun February 15, 2017

BOSTON — Nancy Donahue found a lifelong passion for the arts at a young age. She took that love and blended it with a mission to give back to the Lowell-area community.

Donahue, 87, said she wants to continue her work for as long as she can.

“I do what I can for everyone,” she said. “As I’ve told my children, all we can do is to make our part of the world a better place.”

The Massachusetts Cultural Council recognized Donahue for her lasting contributions to the arts in the Greater Lowell area during a Wednesday ceremony at the Statehouse.

Donahue has played a role in developing the Lowell arts community for the past few decades. She helped found cultural hubs, including the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in 1987 and the New England Quilt Museum. She now leads the Lowell Arts Associations and serves on several boards.

As state Sen. Eileen Donoghue of Lowell presented Donahue with the award, the two women hugged and Donahue’s family and friends clapped as Donahue made her way on stage.

“The truth is, the cultural renaissance in Lowell that happened many years ago would not have been possible without the leadership, the support, the example and tenacity (of Nancy Donahue),” Donoghue said during her introduction.

More than 200 guests attended the ceremony in the flag-lined Great Hall.

The Springfield SciTech High School band performed near the Grand Staircase and a world-renowned Syrian artist, Kenan Adnawi, played folk tunes on his Oud, a lute-like instrument.

Donahue’s philanthropy also includes donations at UMass Lowell to establish an arts professorship and a fund in her name at the Greater Lowell Community Foundation to help nonprofit organizations.

She and her late husband, Richard, an aide to President John F. Kennedy, who died in September 2015, raised 11 children and were both involved in charitable giving in the community.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, spoke briefly about the impact of the work by the award recipients and how arts play a vital role in communities.

Donahue said she looks forward to giving back in Lowell and encouraging others.

“I hope what I’ve given to the community keeps on going, getting better and inspires others to contribute,” she said.

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