Senior Drew O’Donoghue passed away on Friday after a year-long battle with andrenocortical cancer at just 22 years old.
“Drew was successful in everything he pursued,” Ross Bjorklund, friend of O’Donoghue. “He was a musician, an athlete and a scholar. He used to call the Exchange his ‘office.’ He was kind hearted and compassionate.”
A student in the School of Business, O’Donoghue double-majored in finance and accounting and minored in Chinese. He was on the Dean’s List every semester since freshman year, and was a member of both the Beta Gamma Sigma Business Honor Society and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. O’Donoghue was on track to graduate magna cum laude in 2014.
Professor Patricia Crenny describes teaching O’Donoghue as a “privilege.” O’Donoghue was a student in her accounting classes for two semesters, and Crenny described his attitude as extremely positive and collaborative. “[O’Donoghue] was an outstanding student,” she said. “During his last classroom group presentation, it was apparent to me that he was suffering from symptoms from his treatments but did not complain to me. He participated and actually even whispered a few answers to his teammates.”
O’Donoghue’s academic excellence did not begin at the University, however, for his high school career was also an extremely successful one.
O’Donoghue graduated from Hunterdon Central High School in 2010. There, he was a member of the National Spanish Honor Society, the National Honor Society and received the Edward J. Bloustein Distinguished Scholar award and AP Scholar award with distinction.
He was also a very talented high school athlete, and was named captain of Hunterdon’s basketball team, participated in the first team All-County, the County Tournament All-Star team, the second team All-Skyland Conference, and the third Team All West Jersey.
In addition, he was given honorable mention at All-Area, was named his county team’s MVP and was selected as a varsity scholar athlete in both 2009 and 2010. O’Donoghue continued to show his passion for basketball at the University, where he was both an avid and dedicated basketball and lacrosse fan.
“He was a keenly insightful student who actively participated in the classroom,” Crenny said.
“The last time we spoke in January he stopped to discuss his observations about the reversal of loss reserves on the financial statements of banks. Drew was obviously looking beyond his illness and still immersed himself in his studies. I believe I was very lucky to have him as a student and the University has suffered a tremendous loss.”
In addition to all of his academic and athletic success, O’Donoghue was very involved on campus in both philanthropic and social life. O’Donoghue was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon at the University, and his friends said they were very touched and inspired by O’Donoghue’s presence.
“From the second I first met Drew, all I wanted to do was figure out how to be just like him,” said sophomore John O’Toole. “ Drew was everything that you could ever want to be. Whether it be on the basketball court, in the classroom or (maybe most of all) on the dance floor, everybody idolized him. Drew was not just a friend and a brother, Drew was a role model.”
Another friend, Kristin Herbert, describes O’Donoghue as both a kind-hearted person and a fierce friend.
“Since the moment I met Drew freshman year at Villanova I knew there was something special about him,” Herbert said. “He gave the warmest hugs and his smile would light up the room. Drew was so incredibly brave in coping with his illness. He would often wear his ‘cancer sucks’ shirt out and was not afraid to talk about it. He made everyone realize how short life is and taught us to appreciate every moment. He will be alive in our hearts and memories forever.”
O’Donoghue’s condition, adrenocortical cancer, is an extremely rare disease. It is a cancer of the outer layer of tissue in the adrenal gland. This very aggressive cancer affects only about 1,000 Americans each year, and O’Donoghue recently endorsed an endowment fund to help other people battling this disease. The fund will focus on the development and design of research related to adrenocortical cancer, and some funds will also be directed towards the patients and families affected by the disease.
The fund, now called the O’Donoghue O’Donoghue fund, is based out of the University of Michigan Health System, but will hopefully help with patient care across the country, in institutions like the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where O’Donoghue received treatment. Additional funds raised will be used to support the needs of the Adrenal Cancer Program.
A mass was held for O’Donoghue on Sunday in the church on campus. The O’Donoghue family also arranged for a visitation on Monday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in New Jersey, and a funeral Mass was held on Tuesday at the family’s selected church. All of these celebrations were widely attended by the Villanova students.