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Preparation, Clear Vision Helped Donohue Face Day of Danger

FullTextImage/img/@altDic Donohue '02 addresses the Corps of Cadets as Regimental 1st Capt. Joseph Bishop and Col. Dave Miller, interim director of the Center for Leadership and Ethics, look on. -- VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.

LEXINGTON, Va., Feb. 25, 2014 – Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Officer Richard “Dic” Donohue ’02 suffered severe blood loss in an early morning shootout with the alleged Boston Marathon bombers last April. With only a 2 percent chance of survival and after some 40 minutes without a pulse, he survived, thanks to the quick actions of many law enforcement, emergency, and medical personnel.

This afternoon he addressed the Corps of Cadets as the Corps speaker of the 2014 VMI Leadership Conference.

The conference took cadets from their classes, as they attended speeches and participated in group discussions around post throughout the day . The theme of the conference was “George Washington: The American Cincinnatus.” Cadets were challenged to consider their personal vision, actions, and character and how Washington’s leadership example is relevant today.

“The VMI experience lends itself to such a challenge [as leadership] even if I don’t point it out explicitly,” said Donohue. He recounted the events leading up to his injury, starting from the time he heard news of the first explosion and confirmed fatalities to days later when he and his partner responded to back up officers in a firefight with the suspects.

He commended the command decisions that law enforcement, emergency, and medical personnel made on the scene to save his life, and noted the efforts of so many, from doctors who were at home in bed asleep who came in to operate to the blood donors who ensured availability of the blood products he needed.

“Everything I’ve talked about so far has been the easy part – I was doing my job, I got hurt, I went down, people took care of me,” Donohue said. For the next two months after the successful surgery, he was in the hospital, and he continues the rehabilitation process some 10 months later.

“I’ve had ups and downs, good days, and some of the worst days of my life,” he said.

Donohue described elements important to good leadership that were called on that day – preparation, great people, and clear vision.

While Donohue said he was not exactly ready for what happened to him, he pointed out that he had acquired the tools that made him better prepared through his education and experience. The lines blur, he said, between education and experience at VMI.

“We know that there are no free rides [at VMI], and grades and a diploma do not come easily,” Donohue said. “This translates directly into a strong work ethic.”

Donohue said surrounding oneself with great people does not mean cadets have to be around those people every day. Members of his class started fundraising for him and his family, and he received calls and e-mails from alumni and well wishes from cadets on post, many he had not spoken to recently, or ever.

Donohue said that clear vision allows one to be determined to make things right: “We will heal, recover, and find those responsible.” His goal is to return to the police force.

He ended by telling cadets not to be afraid to make mistakes and to remember that every cadet is a leader.

 See more photos.

–Daniel Stinnett