The Rev. James H. Donahoe, a Jesuit priest and retired Loyola College professor who taught for 55 years, died Friday of coronary artery disease at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 81 and lived in Roland Park.
Known by the nickname "Coach" -- he was an assistant basketball coach during his lengthy career -- he was at Loyola College from 1971 until 1996 and then taught Latin at Maryvale Preparatory School in Brooklandville. He was planning to teach this fall until ill health forced his retirement.
Born in Washington, he graduated from Gonzaga High School in 1938, the year he entered the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order. He was ordained a priest in 1951 at Woodstock College in Maryland. He later earned 13 degrees from nine colleges and universities in theology, English, French, the humanities and rhetoric.
Before coming to Loyola College, Father Donahoe taught at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia, Scranton University, Gonzaga High and Loyola High School in Towson, where he was on the faculty from 1955 to 1957.
"When I was sophomore in high school, I begged on my knees that I would not have him -- and I did not," said the Rev. J.-Glenn Murray, a fellow Jesuit priest who lives in Cleveland. "Coach could be an ordeal. He was irascible. But you could not find a more faithful man. He was very concerned about the life of his students. He was passionate and caring, but you would never have picked that up on first meeting."
"Students who took one of his classes in public speaking emerged very confident," Father Murray said. "He was rough-and-tumble. He was the coach of a basketball team. Yet he was a man who wrote poetry with great feeling.
"There were kids he taught years ago who sought him to officiate at their weddings and baptize their children."
While at Loyola, Father Donahoe often walked the campus with his collies, first one named Flag and later another named David. He wrote poetry that was collected into the books I Didn't Know You Danced with Dogs, You're Not Listening and Heartspeak, and also wrote short stories.
"He was a crusty marshmallow," said Mary Kottraba, a Maryvale Preparatory School secretary. "He had the children scared of him until they caught on to his charms."
"He was a man who challenged people to honesty and integrity and to be good to their word," said the Rev. Michael French, a fellow Jesuit. "He was always filled with wonderful stories, and he demanded the best."
Sister Shawn M. Maguire, the Maryvale headmistress, said: "He endeared himself to his students. Only last spring did he write me a letter in which he said, `In 55 years of teaching I've always been happy.'"
Graveside services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Jesuit Novitiate in Wernersville, Pa., A Mass was offered yesterday at Loyola College.
Father Donahoe is survived by two brothers, John C. Donahoe of Annapolis and William A. Donahoe of Paris, Va.; two nephews; and three nieces.