National Press Club

'Club MVP' Marilou Donahue, Speakers Committee standout, dies at 82

August 10, 2014 | By Donna Leinwand Leger | dleinwand@usatoday.com

Marilou Donahue greets Donald Trump before the National Press Club luncheon on May 27, 2014.

Marilou Donahue greets Donald Trump before the National Press Club luncheon on May 27, 2014.

Photo/Image: Sam Hurd

Marilou Donahue, 82, who brought blockbuster luncheon speakers to the National Press Club, died on Friday, Aug. 8 after a brief illness.

Donahue, a member of the Club since 1988 and a member of the Speakers Committee for many years, had a particular talent for luring the biggest artists, politicians and athletes to the Club’s signature luncheons. In May, she organized two back-to-back, sold out luncheons featuring two presidential hopefuls: surgeon and author Dr. Ben Carson and real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Speakers Committee Chairman and 2007 NPC President Jerry Zremski said one of his first acts as chairman this year was to ask Donahue to rejoin the committee.

In addition to organizing great luncheons, Donahue shared her tips, assisted other members and taught the committee “about how far a lot of charm can go in helping us land big speakers,” Zremski said.

“She was a wonderfully smart, warm and witty lady,” Zremski said. “I shared many conversations with her over breakfast at the Club over the years -- about the Club, about the arts and about sports, all of which were among her passions. All of us who knew her will miss her terribly.”

Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump offered her condolences to Donahue's family and the Club.

"In the brief time that we knew her she seemed like a kind, intelligent and spirited woman," she said.

NPC President Myron Belkind said Donahue would be honored posthumously with a Vivian Award for Service to the Club.

"Even before she left us, she made a tremendous impact on this year’s Speakers programs," Belkind said.

It will be her fifth Vivian award.

“She was a Club MVP,” 2011 NPC President Mark Hamrick said.

Donahue grew up in Bridgeport, Conn., but left the state to pursue a music career as a dramatic soprano after college. She made her debut as a classical singer at New York City’s Carnegie Recital Hall. In 1983, The New York Times reviewing one of her recitals, said Donahue “showed a strong voice” particularly when singing Wagner and Beethoven. In 1986, she performed throughout Korea on a musical tour.

In Washington, Donahue became a fixture and authority in the arts community. She produced, edited and hosted a cable TV show, Artistically Speaking, which featured interviews with artists in the community. She also taught public speaking and voice.

Church of the Annunciation in Washington, D.C., the parish where Donahue belonged, will hold a memorial service in the fall, a church representative said. Donahue’s family resides in Connecticut.