Early last November, the Huskies’ boys basketball team was getting in a workout when head coach Matt Maloney brought in OPRF alum Tom Donahoe. The 84-year-old played on OPRF’s basketball team in the mid-1950s and asked to meet this year’s squad.
Each player took turns shaking hands with Donahoe and talked with him for a short period of time. Little did they know that Donahoe was so enamored with how they conducted themselves that day that the Donahoe family is now working with the school to award a scholarship to the Huskie who best exemplifies strong sportsmanship and character.
“Not a single player showed any attitude for being pulled away from what they were doing,” said Martha Gallo, Donahoe’s daughter. “They all looked him in the eye and made him feel like the president of the United States. He was on Cloud Nine.”
The scholarship is going to extend over the next five years — $5,000 a year to a senior on the varsity boys basketball team to use toward college tuition. The family said it will continue the scholarship beyond five years as well.
After his days of playing high school basketball were over, Donahoe went to Dartmouth College to play basketball but was forced to take out student loans due to high admission costs. He wasn’t able to pay off his student loans until he was 35 years old. With this scholarship, he hopes to help lift the burden off the players who win the scholarship.
“Meeting those kids was the greatest day of my life,” said Donahoe. “Anything we can to provide opportunities for those young men is worth any amount of money.”
The school is still working out the logistics and has formed a committee to develop the criteria for the scholarship. Maloney stressed that everyone involved wanted to veer away from an application process that would require recommendations and a GPA requirement.
“We want to reward the senior who exemplifies leadership and possesses the qualities of being a good leader and teammate,” said Maloney. “They wanted to look at the intangibles and the things that don’t often show up on the stat sheet or gradebook. We’re very excited about this opportunity.”
The name of the scholarship hasn’t been determined, but Gallo said she wants it to include her father’s name. Maloney later said the Donahoe family can name it whatever they please. This year’s winner will be announced on May 27 during the senior sports awards.
“I want them to know that there’s more that goes on than the game of basketball,” said Maloney. “Playing basketball teaches you life lessons, and I’m thrilled that they are going to be recognized for something that might have felt so small for them but meant so much for someone else.”
OPRF guard Josh Smith has already felt the impact the team had that day on Donahoe.
“It really showed us the importance of being a good person when no one is watching,” said Smith. “We didn’t need that reminder but it’s nice to see that we are rewarded for that, you know? It’s very generous of them.”