During her 15 years at Mount Vernon Nazarene College, Lora Donoho held the positions of Director of Women’s Athletics and professor in the athletics department. Women’s sports were not always offered at the university, and it is because of Donoho’s leadership and organization that they are offered at Mount Vernon Nazarene University today.
Shortly after MVNC opened, then-President John Knight asked Lora Donoho, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the University of Illinois, to consider accepting a position as MVNC’s first women’s athletic director, as the athletic department was creating a women’s program.
“There was always a rudimentary sports program, but it was basically men’s basketball, no women’s sports,” Donoho said.
Her husband, John, “JJ,” was also offered the position of Dean of Students at MVNC.
“The Lord has made my paths pleasant … Always laid [them] out for me. I call them divine surprises…Divine surprises are the best surprises one could have,” Donoho said. This job offer became a “divine surprise” for Donoho, who would later positively impact the lives of many.
With previous experience from a similar position at Trevecca Nazarene University, Donoho took the position at MVNC, alongside JJ.
“We started with women’s basketball and tennis … We didn’t have any time to recruit, so we used the players out of the dorms [who] had high school experiences,” Donoho said.
Because it was just the beginning of the women’s athletic program, there was no equipment. “We didn’t have a budget, of course,” said Donoho.
So she turned to Mr. Richard K. Mavis, who is now the Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon, who owned a sporting goods store at the time.
“I remember going in one day [saying], ‘We are going to start an athletic program at MVNC and I don’t have any money. I don’t have any equipment. I thought maybe you might be willing to give us a little time to pay you.’ And he said, ‘Come right on in, look around, see what you need,’” Donoho recounted.
Mavis graciously agreed to let Donoho pay him from the future budget the following academic year.
Donoho then set to work by organizing the Physical Education curriculum, which has, according to Donoho, “taken on a whole new face since those years.” She also held the coaches and teams to “a pretty high standard” and believes “that is what made the program what it is today.”
Lora Donoho’s legacy in helping to start women’s athletics at MVNU is remembered in the annual athletic endowments offered and the Donoho Recreation Center, respectfully named after John and Lora Donoho and their service as Dean of Students and Director of Athletics.
“The Lord blessed us in those early days because we had great kids. Not just in their skills, but they were good, moral girls. I look back on it now and I think if I could do it all over again I would wake up every morning and you couldn’t wait to live the day. It was that kind of experience.”