Nov. 5, 1918 – Jan. 5, 2020
William A. Donnelly, a professor emeritus who was instrumental in starting the journalism program at SUNY Buffalo State, died Jan. 5 in St. Andrews Estates, Boca Raton, Fla. He was 101.
Born in Paterson, N.J., he grew up in Queens Village in New York City. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1939 from the University of Notre Dame, where he earned letters in track and cross country.
He went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate of education in mass media from Columbia University.
He enlisted in the Army in World War II and saw action with the Liberty Brigade – the 77th Sustainment Brigade – as a field radio operator in the battle for Guam in the summer of 1944.
After he contracted a serious leg infection in Guam, he was sent stateside for treatment while the rest of his unit went on to the Philippines, where almost all of them were killed in battle in Leyte.
Returning from service, he worked for two years for the Associated Press in Indianapolis, then moved in 1948 to St. Cloud, Minn., where he taught English and journalism at St. Cloud State Teachers College.
He came to Buffalo State in 1964 to teach English and journalism.
After becoming a professor emeritus in 1985, he moved to Florida. He had been a resident of St. Andrews Estates since 1999.
He met Marion K. Smith as a teenager on the tennis courts of Queens Village in 1936 and they were married in 1941. A retired vocational rehabilitation counselor with the state Education Department, she died in 2002.
The parents of nine children, they traveled extensively in retirement. They became avid bridge players after the war and both attained the rank of Silver Life Master. He continued playing bridge until last year and was 100 points short of becoming a Gold Life Master.
His son Tom, a marathon runner who died in 2014, was race director of the Turkey Trot and the Buffalo Marathon and president of the Western New York Running Hall of Fame.
Survivors include five daughters, Maureen, Kate, Janet, Elizabeth and Margaret; two sons, Bill and Mike; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
A celebration of his life will be held Jan. 28 at St. Andrews Estates.