Donahue to speak at WKU freshman assembly

Claire Donahue/

Tyler Lashbrook

Claire Donahue had one of the more notable summers of any WKU alumni over the past few months.

At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Donahue, a former WKU swimmer, won a gold medal for Team USA in the 4×100 medley relay.

Donahue swam the butterfly leg of the preliminary round in 58.05 seconds, helping Team USA advance to the medal rounds.

She wasn’t one of the swimmers in the pool during the gold medal relay, but her contribution to the team’s preliminary finish was good enough to qualify her for a gold medal.  

Donahue is the first athlete in WKU history to win a gold medal in the Summer Olympics and her achievement propelled her into conversation as one of the most celebrated athletes in WKU history.

She’ll be back on campus at 6 p.m. Tuesday night when she speaks at the annual Freshman Assembly. This year’s assembly theme is “the best years of your life.”

Several freshmen said they were looking forward to hearing Donahue speak on Tuesday about her experience being in their shoes just five years ago.

London, Ky., freshman Ryan Shears said he’s excited to see Donahue in person after watching her from his living room this summer.  

“It’ll be a humbling experience,” Shears said. “I cheered for her from my couch in the Olympics so it’ll be cool to listen to her Tuesday.”

Donahue, a Lenoir City, Tenn., native, came to WKU as a freshman in 2007 and said she felt many of the same nerves that people in the audience Tuesday will have.

“I was nervous, obviously, but I loved the campus and the teachers so much,” Donahue said.

She excelled right out of the gate her freshman year and set school records at the 100 fly and 200 fly during her first year on campus. She went on to set four WKU swimming records throughout her time on campus.

Since winning her gold medal, Donahue has been speaking to schools across the community about how hard work can pay off.  

Though she’s an eastern-Tennessee native, Bowling Green and the surrounding areas have really embraced Donahue as one of their own, she said.  Donahue, likewise, has embraced Bowling Green as her home.

“Now when I tell people I’m going home, I’m talking about Bowling Green,” Donahue said.

Donahue was honored at halftime of WKU’s football game Saturday against Austin Peay.  

She was greeted with a standing ovation from fans that not only acknowledged her dedication and achievements for the university but also for her country.   

Russellville junior Clay Morris said he thinks Donahue can serve as a role model for freshmen.      

“Oh, it’s awesome,” Morris said. “She should be a great leader and example for the entire class of 2016.”