NORTHFIELD, Vt. —It’s with heartfelt sadness that I notify the Norwich Community on the passing Colonel Tim Donovan this past weekend. We mourn together over the loss of a national hero and an all-time Norwich great.
“The passing of Colonel Donovan is a devastating blow to the Norwich community,” said Norwich President Mark Anarumo. “I first met him at an alumni event in Washington, D.C., in 2020, early in my time at Norwich. Everyone in attendance knew they were in the company of a hero. Tim was the epitome of grace, and just had such an amazing presence. I consider myself honored to have known him. All of Norwich mourns his passing but celebrates that we were blessed to have benefited from such a hero and gentleman.”
COL Donovan, NU Class of ’62, came to Norwich in 1958 from Bristol, CT. He studied engineering and English at Norwich while serving as a Cadet First Sergeant and Cadet Company Commander. A member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Tim was part of Hotel Company, Golf Company, and led Kilo Company during his time on the Hill. He was also a member of the Honor Tank Platoon, Mountain Cold Weather Rescue Team, and numerous other clubs and committees. Upon graduation, he served 30 years, 10 months, and 17 days in the Army where he was first assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Armor in Friedberg, Germany, before being sent to Vietnam. As commanding officer of C Troop of the 10th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Division, Tim was severely wounded on November 1, 1969, around the Cambodian border near the la Drang Valley. He sustained his injuries while leading a response to an ambush of his platoon and nearly lost his life. In his own words, “a very brave soldier from North Vietnam jumps out of a spider hole about sixty feet away and shoots me through the seam of the flak jacket, not through the padding, but through the cloth. And, and it severed a rib, took out my left lung, nicked a pulmonary artery, tumbled along my spine so we had three compound fractures of the spine, severed my diaphragm, and ended up in my spleen.” He would be evacuated to a hospital in Pleiku, before being sent to Boston Navy Hospital where he would make a full recovery.
COL Donovan began his academic career at Norwich as an engineer, but by his junior year, on the advice of faculty mentors, changed his major to English. While in the English department, Donovan wrote several articles about the History of Art that would find their way into Encyclopedia Britannica and was nominated for a Fulbright scholarship. Tim was proud of many things during his time at Norwich, and often bragged of never having to walk a tour. He often stated that the most important thing he learned about leadership at Norwich was “to listen to your soldiers, and listen especially to your NCOs, your noncommissioned officers.”
He continued his academic career by getting a Master’s Degree in History from Rice University and then earned a coveted faculty position at West Point. Beginning in the 1980s, COL Donovan served as both Commandant and Professor of Military Science at Norwich until his retirement from the Army in 1993. He was the last active duty Commandant to serve in that role. As his tenure on the Hill ended, he continued to give back to the community, serving as an active volunteer for many Norwich events and activities. He spent time as President of the Friends of Kreitzberg Library, Chairman of the Board of Fellows, was a founding member of the Norwich Alumni Club at West Point, Director of the Alumni Association Board and a member of the William E. Colby Military Writers Symposium.
Tim and his wife Jackie spent many years mentoring and befriending countless Norwich students, shaping hundreds of leaders who served with distinction in all branches of service. His long and honorable service to Norwich was memorialized in 2020 when the Sullivan Museum and History Center honored the Donovans by dedicating the Norwich Valor Exhibit Project in their name. At the dedication event, former Chief of Staff of the Army General Gordon Sullivan called Tim one of the greatest soldiers ever who went to Vietnam, commenting that he “did what he knew was right and he almost paid the price.” “Tim, you are the epitome of what it takes to be a combat soldier and I am honored and to look you right in the eyes and tell you – you’re my hero,” said Sullivan. COL Donovan often shared stories of how his military and civilian careers took him to many places, including the exact spot where Napoleon stood during the Battle of Waterloo.
His travels also introduced him to a variety of people including famed author Tom Clancy and future General David Petraeus who, as a cadet at West Point, asked Professor Donovan “how can I find out more about, you know, national strategy and politics.”
COL Donovan earned a Silver Star, two Legions of Merit awards, two Bronze Stars, an Air Medal, a Combat Infantryman Badge, and a Purple Heart during his service to his country. “For those of us who were his Cadets in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Colonel D was a daily walking example of courage and grit,” said Commandant Bill McCollough ‘91. “He was genuine and made each of us know that regardless of our individual backgrounds, there was at least one person who cared about what kind of leader we became, and would be proud when we made the hard, right decisions.
As the years passed, he went from being our Commandant, to being our mentor, and ultimately to being our friend. Through all those phases, he remained our hero. When times are hard and tough decisions need to be made, it’s always good to have a model to follow so you can ask ‘what would that leader do?’ For many hundreds of us, Tim was that leader.”
- Dr. Mark Anarumo, Maj Gen (VSM) President, Norwich University
* * *
Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu
VP Marketing and Communications +
AVP Enrollment Services, College of Graduate and Continuing Studies
Follow us on Twitter @norwichnews