TCU Daily Skiff Wednesday, February 11, 2004
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Energy, humor drive Donovan throughout teaching career, life
Nowell Donovan, one of three finalists for provost, and his friends, family and students share his love of teaching and learning.

By Jarod Daily
Staff Reporter


One of the things Nowell Donovan misses most about his native Scotland is the sea.
He said he has always enjoyed watching the battle between the ocean and the rocky shore, the struggle for superiority as the sea laps up against the cliffs of his home island.

“I need a Scotland fix every year,” said Donovan, the geology department chairman and one of three candidates for provost. “I get part of that by going with students, but also my wife Jeanne and I often go off on a private thing.”

Donovan was born Sept. 2, 1943, in Haddington, Scotland, and raised in Montrose, Scotland. He first came to the United States in 1975 as a professor at Oklahoma State University, far from the oceans he loves to watch. In 1986 the geology department offered to make him the first recipient of the Charles B. Moncrief Endowed Chair, which he currently holds for the second time.

“I came here because TCU offered me a tremendous job opportunity,” Donovan said. “The benefit of being an endowed chair is that you no longer have to apply for grants to fund your research.”

Donovan teaches two to three classes every semester, despite the fact that being department chairman frees him from the obligation to teach as many classes as other professors in the department.

“He always takes the heavy load and gets spectacular teaching scores and comments from students,” said Ken Morgan, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

Donovan said great teaching is basically telling good stories. Colleagues and students say this shows up in his lectures and speeches.

“He takes something that a lot of people probably aren’t interested in and at least makes it entertaining,” senior geology major Andrew Parker said. “He’s always got a good joke or something.”

History professor Kathryne McDorman said Donovan has a “highly developed and quirky British sense of humor.”

“He has been known to recite entire skits from Monty Python, doing all the parts,” McDorman said.

Geology professor Richard Hanson, who was a graduate student in one of Donovan’s first classes at OSU, said Donovan has always had an exciting and inspiring style of teaching.

“Back when I was a graduate student, we all found him very inspirational because of his approach and the way he was able to present ideas,” he said. “His enthusiasm was very contagious.”

When Donovan worked at OSU, he met Jeanne, an administrative assistant in the geology department. She married him in 1982. Jeanne Donovan said the first time she saw him she was surprised because it was summer and most faculty had gone home.

“He was funny. I’d always been around people who were serious about everything,” she said. “And he seemed to have a breadth of knowledge that was impressive.”

Jeanne Donovan said her husband likes to tease her from time to time.

“I took Nowell’s class one time, along with another faculty wife,” she said. “We would sit at the front of his class and he would embarrass me by telling jokes about his grandmother. I just wanted to slide down in my seat and become invisible.”

When he has free time, Donovan likes to garden. He said he usually grows flowers, not vegetables.

“It’s a garden of beauty, not a garden of utility,” he said.

Donovan also likes to listen to classical music.

“When he’s working, he has the classical music going, sometimes too loud for my ears,” Jeanne Donovan said. “He’s always interested in the history of the composers as well, he knows an awful lot about them.

Jeanne Donovan said her husband’s energy is remarkable.

“Nowell, when he’s in Scotland, every mountain that’s in front of him he wants to climb. And he has climbed most of them,” she said. “There’s no stopping him. Even when the students are with us, he wants to beat them to the top.”

The Donovans have two daughters. Erin Donovan is a junior geology major at TCU. Donovan said Erin always wanted to go to TCU and loved the school since she was little. Corrie Donovan is a senior at North Crowley High School. Donovan said Corrie is a singer and is looking at many different schools.

Morgan said Donovan is a natural leader.

“Dr. Donovan is the kind of person that people who know him want to do anything to make his goals and their goals successful,” he said. “If you had a football team, he’s the person you pick to wear a ‘C’ on his sleeve for ‘Captain’.”

 
 
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