Jean Donovan Honored With Assumption Church Plaque

Jean Donovan is one of Staples High School’s most famous alums.

And one of its least recognized.

Just 9 years after graduating with the Class of 1971, Donovan — a lay missionary helping poor people in El Salvador — was one of 4 American churchwomen killed by Salvadoran national guardsmen.

Jean Donovan

Jean Donovan

She and 3 nuns were beaten, raped, shot in the head, then dumped by the roadside.

The Catholic church is considering her for sainthood.

Her story was told in“Salvador.” Written by Oliver Stone — who directed it too, as his 1st major film — the character based on her life was played by Cynthia Gibb. Amazingly, she’s a 1981 Staples grad — and lives here still.

Other films, and several books, portray her life and death.

A Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship at Santa Clara University supports students interested in social justice, while in Los Angeles the Casa Jean Donovan Community Residence houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

But until recently, the only memorial to Donovan was a framed photograph in Assumption Church. That’s where her memorial mass had been held, and where she attended elementary school.

The existing memorial to Jean Donovan — a story from the Assumption Church bulletin.

John Suggs — a longtime Westporter, and Assumption parishioner — has worked tirelessly to keep her memory alive here. He enlisted the help of Donovan’s ’71 classmates.

Father Tom Thorne was proud of the chance to house a plaque in the vestibule. A blessing and unveiling ceremony will be held soon.


9 responses to “Jean Donovan Honored With Assumption Church Plaque

  1. Saints come in all sizes and from all walks of life. She rests now in His hands. May the people she was trying to help gain strength from her mission.

  2. A lot of people far beyond the class of ’71 helped to make this happen with their contributions and other support but, first and foremost, we all should be thankful to John for the time and effort he devoted to this.

  3. Rozanne Gates

    With a lump in my throat, I thank you, Dan, for sharing this information and letting us all know about Jean Donovan’s legacy. And to John Suggs, you are to be applauded for understanding the importance of her legacy and persisting to get this project accomplished. We are all your beneficiaries. Thank you.

  4. Wendy Crowther

    John Suggs’ persistence to remember and honor Jean in her own hometown of Westport, and Dan’s support of that effort via his numerous 06880 postings about Jean throughout the years, are both to be commended. Thank you for sharing Jean’s story with us. And thank you, John, for surmounting so many hurdles in order to find a special way and a fitting location to help us all realize and remember the very special person who once walked among us. Welcome home, Jean.

  5. So glad Jean’s plaque is finding a home. A heartfelt thanks to John Suggs and Assumption Church.

  6. Thank you, John Suggs, for spearheading the effort to memorialize Jean Donovan. Her quote above—it takes your breath away. Her story, though tragic, is one all Westporters should know. Thanks also to Assumption Church for honoring this Westport hero. I plan to watch the movie starring Westport’s Cynthia Gibb.

  7. Morley Boyd

    An astonishingly brave and compassionate young woman. Thank you, John for your years of tireless work to preserve and honor Jean’s memory. A special thank you as well, to Assumption Church for providing her extraordinary legacy of selfless love and sacrifice a place of dignity.

  8. Mary Cookman Schmerker '58

    I am thankful that Jean’s contribution to the Lord’s work has been memorialized. As Jill said above, Jean’s own words do take one’s breath away. We know Jean rests secure in the arms of our Lord and now we can rejoice that her memorial plaque will be at Assumption for all to see.
    Thank you John for your tireless work to help all of us remember Jean.

  9. Gerry Kuroghlian

    Jean was a caring and compassionate young woman as a student at Staples. Her work as a missionary in El Salvador was an extension of her heart. I am very pleased that Jean’s church home has recognized her attempt to make the world a better place. The Donovans are a very special family!