For more than 30 years, Donnamarie Donegan Villanova has dedicated her life to helping the sick and disadvantaged. Her journey began at the College of Saint Elizabeth where she majored in Elementary Education. As part of her studies, Donnamarie taught religion to children with mental illness. It was like "taking your faith and your ability to teach and putting that all together,"she recalled.
In March 1971, three months prior to her graduation, Donnamarie secured a position as second grade teacher at Lakeview School in Denville, N.J. It was during those six years at Lakeview School that she met her husband Nick - who is director of purchasing for Max Factor. They wed in 1977 and have three children: Kimberly, Nicole and Christina. Life in the cosmetic industry meant many changes for the family, yet through it all, their strength as a family endured.
After seven years of traveling which included teaching third grade at St. Finbar School in Burbank, Calif., Donnamarie and her family came full circle home to New Jersey. They settled in Branchburg, where they have been living ever since.
When she is not teaching first grade at St. Ann School in Raritan, Donnamarie can be found at St. Bernard Parish in Bridgewater, where she is an active participant in the Christian Service Commission. She was Chairwoman for 12 years of the activity, formerly called the Social Concerns Committee.
For the last 18 years, Donnamarie has donned her sneakers for the traditional five-mile CROP Walk, which raises money for the Food Bank of Somerset County. She also initiated a Back-to-School program which provides school supplies and clothes for needy children. She serves as the Monday evening chef for the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which gives food, shelter and clothing to children and families who are homeless and in need.
Donnamarie believes that "Education Eliminates the Cycle of Poverty." With those as the "Go Words", Donnamarie helped organized the New Moms New Expectations House. The program offers free child care for infants of new mothers so they can pursue high school, college or vocational training. In addition, the new moms are also given monthly classes and training in parenting and life skills.
On many Sundays, Donnamarie serves as the Eucharistic Minister to shut-ins and visits patients at Harborside Healthcare nursing home in Bridgewater. There, she tends to terminally ill patients, offering prayers, communion, and companionship. "You don't fully appreciate life until you see those less fortunate than you," observes Donnamarie. "Sharing communion is like sharing a part of my life with them; it changes you completely."
In honor of her selfless contributions toward those most in need, Donnamarie has been honored with the St. Bernard's 2001 Service Award; the Diocese of Metuchen's 2001 Regina Nostra Award; and the College of Saint Elizabeth's Alumnae/i Association's 2005 Humanitarian Award.
As a woman who has embraced the values of Catholic faith and has come to live the Gospel in remarkable ways, Donnamarie is a living testament of the Mother Xavier Award legacy. The College of Saint Elizabeth proudly presents the 2007 Mother Xavier Award to Donnamarie Donegan Villanova, class of 1971.