Grit: All In – A Tribute to Mr. Charles Donovan

Have you ever met a person with such a presence that you feel their optimism when they walk into a room? The kind of person with a contagious smile so wide that it makes your day brighter, eyes so kind you feel you’ve been friends forever, a laugh so genuine that you can’t help but join in, and a heart so large that you can see it shining through their chest?

I have known very few people like this, but one of them was my school mentor: Charles Donovan. Mr. Donovan was so great that I would even call him saintly. Mr. Donovan’s energy was so contagious that it could wake up a group of grumpy sleep deprived teenagers at school on a Saturday morning. It was 5:45 a.m., and our forensics team showed up to school for a competition. There was dew on the grass, and the sun was just starting to peak out from behind the trees. We all sat there on the cold stone in the crisp air. All that we heard were the early birds tweeting and the occasional car on Charles Street. It was way too early for any of us to be awake, let alone to have full blown conversations, but not for Mr. Donovan. He showed up driving the bright white and blue Loyola bus, opened the door with a loud creak, and he screamed, “Good morning, gentlemen!” All of this with his signature smile on his face, the smile that welcomed you to join in. All of this helped to wake us up and give us a jolt of energy, like turning on a lightbulb. We all started to talk and become much more social.

Mr. Donovan was so kind he could brighten the day of anyone he met. We were just arriving at some school in the most rural area of Pennsylvania. We had taken the “scenic” route to the school. Mr. Donovan had gotten lost and taken us down this lake-side road by accident. The view was picturesque: the new sun glistening off the water, the geese coming down to land, and the towering trees tickling the sky. This was neither the first nor the last time we had gotten lost on our way to a school for a forensics tournament because Mr. Donovan wasn’t a great navigator. However, Mr. Donovan was a great speaker. While we were still on the bus in the morning, he gave us a wonderful pep-talk. It was about how we had worked hard, but so had our opponents, so we needed to want the win more. We walk off that bus like we were about to conquer the world. With each step we took towards the school that reeked of the turkey farm across the street, his words sank in more and more. Mr. Donovan didn’t have to give us such a sincere and kind speech. He could have just sent us into school like most coaches did, but he didn’t. Mr. Donovan chose to take this act of kindness that has stuck with a lot of us forever.

Mr. Donovan always saw the best in us though even when we couldn’t see it in ourselves. The bus was silent when mere hours earlier it had been filled with a load of teenagers yelling, laughing, and practicing speeches. We had a terrible tournament. Not a single Loyola Don had gotten a podium finish, which was odd for us. The mood was very somber and none of us were happy about how we had done. We stopped at this dingy Sunoco in New Jersey, and while the woman pumped our gas — in Jersey you don’t get to pump your own gas — Mr. Donovan looked at all of our sorry mugs and said, “Guys, I know you didn’t do well. It is fine; it was only one tournament. You all have a greatness in you that you just need to let shine through.” Although in the moment, none of us took Mr. Donovan too seriously because we had just done so bad that some of the judges didn’t even have constructive criticism, in hindsight we are consoled realizing he still saw the best in every single one of us.

Mr. Donovan was a living saint. His whole life proved this. Everything he did was a miracle because he poured 110% into life. This was perfectly in line with Mr. Donovan’s motto, “Grit: All in.” It meant whenever you are doing anything, you have to have grit and pour everything you have into it. Through this motto, Charles Donovan will always be a saint in my eyes.

Kyle Weaver '22

Kyle is currently a senior at Loyola Blakefield.