Sally Sears Donner '63

Never Too Late

Lydia Young

"I was a political science major and I told Professor Victoria Schuck, who founded the Washington Internship Program, that I wanted to intern with Congressman Silvio O. Conte. His interns had always been men from Williams. So, she called him and made it happen.

That internship in D.C. shaped my career.

After graduation, I worked off and on for Conte for 11 years, eventually serving as his chief of staff. "

Sally Sears Donner ’63 learned the cardinal rule of fundraising early on in her career as a congressional staffer on Capitol Hill: “First, make your own financial commitment. Then, it is much easier to ask others to give.”

That tenet, she said, has guided her decadelong tenure as Head Class Agent, culminating in the Class of 1963’s record-shattering 50th Reunion Gift. This past spring, the class raised $1,304,501 for The Mount Holyoke Fund; it also has a five-year comprehensive total of $7,679,330 for all gifts to all College funds, including documented bequest intentions.

Donner credits her dedicated volunteers and her generous classmates for those accomplishments. 

“We all want to give back, of course. But what really inspired our efforts was exposure to current students,” said Donner. “When you have that experience you want to make sure that Mount Holyoke has the resources that allow women to keep blazing new trails.”

The recipient of the Alumnae Medal of Honor, Donner also is the daughter and granddaughter of Mount Holyoke graduates. While she is proud of that legacy, it is the College’s future that has her attention. Donner is particularly concerned about the amount of debt that students acquire to attend colleges of the caliber of Mount Holyoke.

“My parents were schoolteachers, but when I attended MHC, it cost $2,500 a year for tuition, room, and board. I had no debt when I graduated,” said Donner. “Now I feel a responsibility to help this generation of students so they aren’t in debt for the rest of their professional careers. I think we all have that responsibility.”

That also is one reason why Donner regards everyone as a potential donor.

“You never know when someone is going to decide that it’s time to start supporting this institution. Every gift makes a difference. And it’s never too late.”