Maggie Donahue

Photo by Paul Neevel
Photo by Paul Neevel

“I had an Irish Catholic upbringing,” says Maggie Donahue, who grew up in Chicago and attended an all-girls high school. “When I was 9, I did therapy, every day, at the home of a child in the parish who had brain damage. It led to a career in special ed.” She spent two years at an all-girls college in Colorado, then returned to Chicago and Loyola U for a degree in psychology. She came to Eugene to pursue a master’s in special ed in 1975, the year when Law 94-142 mandated education for kids with disabilities, and she was hired in 1977 to build an autism program for Eugene schools. “I did special ed till ’87, when my son was born,” says Donahue, who got married, adopted a son, Brennan, then divorced when he was 5.

“Massage was my next passion,” she says. Licensed in 1994, she currently does massage therapy at the UO Health Center and in private practice. Inspired when she saw Zimbabwean musician Dumi Maraire at the WOW Hall in the 1980s, Donahue learned to play marimba and joined the local band Shumba. “I had a brief period of celebrity,” she says. “But only eight people got to play. It made me think about a community center for sharing this music.” In 1991, she founded Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, dedicated to the music and people of Zimbabwe. Kutsinhira offers marimba classes, brings Zimbabwean artists to the U.S. and funds community projects in Zimbabwe. “We try to raise $2,000 each year,” she says, “to support organizations that help kids go to school.”

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