Born: March 13, 1944
Deceased: May 30, 2021
Donagh O’Donoghue, businessman, philanthropist, and supporter of the arts and academia in Galway passed away on May 30, 2021. For half a century he was an imposing figure, displaying his exuberant, ambitious and sometimes powerful personality with a lasting effect.
Donagh was instrumental in the donation of the old Flood Street Tea Warehouse, now renamed Mick Lally Theater, which has been home to the Druid Theater Company since 1979. He has served as President of Druid for 20 years and oversaw its evolution to from a nascent professional troop. to a rapidly growing, internationally renowned Tony Award-winning company. His guidance and drive were essential supports for the artistic talent that emerged from University College Galway (now NUI Galway) Dramsoc in the 1970s.
He recognized the talent and creativity of Garry Hynes, Mick Lally and Marie Mullen and had a wonderful ambition for Druid, always remaining a close confidant and friend of the company.
Druid was the first professional Irish theater company outside of Dublin when it was founded in 1975. Donagh had left the animated drama company a few years earlier and was then the group managing director of another Galway institution, Thomas McDonogh & Sons Ltd, its family fertilizer and animal feed business which has since evolved into a real estate investment company with interests in Ireland and Belgium.
However, he took drama as seriously as he took business and believed that a thriving art scene would fuel the growth of the city as a whole. He recognized the talent and creativity of Garry Hynes, Mick Lally and Marie Mullen and had a wonderful ambition for Druid, always remaining a close confidant and friend of the company.
Donagh was born in 1944, one of four children to Peter and Gretta (née Geraghty) O’Donoghue in Galway. Gretta was a teacher at Claddagh and Peter was Managing Director of McDonogh’s. Donagh dated Coláiste Iognáid and it was as a choir member of “The Jes” at age 15 that he met Marcia Hynes. Their extraordinary partnership was to last over 60 years.
Donagh then attended University College Galway and obtained BA (1965), BCom (1966) and MBA (1974) degrees. His many college friends included Michael D Higgins and Gearóid O’Tuathaigh. As a member of the Comhairle Teachta na Mac-Léinn (the Student Representative Council), he manages its finances, opposing any frivolous or indulgent expenditure. Respected not only for his business acumen, but also for his honesty and integrity, he scrupulously distributed the student dance recipes at Seapoint among the various university societies. His main extracurricular focus, however, remained on the student drama society: Dramsoc.
After college, Donagh followed his father to McDonogh. He was CEO of the group from 1975 until his retirement in 2000. He took pleasure and pride in his many business successes, always applying a keen sense of probity in his dealings. His talent has been widely recognized and his various roles have included director positions at James McMahon Ltd, Techrete Ltd, Shannon Ferries, Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and Trinity Bank; President of Bord na Móna, Vice President of Galway Airport, Member of the Galway House Council and Vice President of IBEC.
Donagh remained committed to the development of NUI Galway. For 30 years he was an influential member of the governing body of his alma mater. Under his careful leadership, the university maintained a strong financial position while completing a transformative capital development program. In 2008 he received an honorary doctorate from NUI Galway. For over 20 years he also served on the board of directors of the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) and in 2015 he was awarded an honorary scholarship by GMIT.
Gregarious with a playful sense of humor and a warm laugh, Donagh was a competitive golfer and tennis player and avid angler. He will be missed in Galway and beyond
His association with NUI Galway continues posthumously through the O’Donoghue Center for Theater, Drama and Performance which opened in 2017 and was funded by his philanthropic donation. It is the second major theater in Galway born out of Donagh’s generosity and vision. At the official opening of the center in 2017, Higgins said: “This new center is, of course, named in recognition of the patronage of Dr Donagh O’Donoghue who, although he has contributed so much to economic and cultural life of Galway, in particular, has been a constant source of advice for NUIG and for the administration of NUIG.
“He was involved in the expansion in all areas. Donagh, Marcia and I all started out as students at UCG in the same year, taking practically the same subjects, but more importantly we shared an interest in the same society be it the arts society, the societies debate and in particular, Dramsoc. . . Donagh’s interest in Dramsoc was therefore precocious and would lead to his pioneering and enduring support for Druid.
Gregarious with a playful sense of humor and a warm laugh, Donagh was a competitive golfer and tennis player and avid angler. He will be missed in Galway and beyond.
He is survived by Marcia; her children Gillian, Denise, Peter, Andrew and John; sons-in-law Derek and Ian; daughters-in-law Emma and Fiona; grandchildren Daniel, Jake and Emily; and by his sister Maura Neligan.