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Diane Donoghue ’54

Posted On - May 28, 2015


(Feb. 26, 1931 – Feb. 26, 2017)
For 50 years, Sister Diane Donoghue has been an effective and relentless advocate for systemic change. She has been a key player in formulating public policy with respect to housing, economic development and living wage issues. She has devoted her life to assisting the poor and underrepresented in our community.

Donoghue was active as a student leader at UCLA, especially in University Religious Conference projects, including service on the UniCamp Board, Panel of Americans and in 1953 Project India, where her observations of extreme poverty affected her profoundly and greatly influenced her philosophy and life. After graduating in political science, she entered the Sisters of Social Service, and ever since she has actively worked for social change while pursuing her deep commitment to her religion.

In 1969, she received her master of social work from UC Berkeley, then became director of a residential treatment center for adolescents with mental health issues in Sacramento, and later co-sponsor/director of a residential center for women heroin abusers. During the same period, she set up a hot lunch program for senior citizens in the area and arranged classes for them through the Los Angeles Unified School District. Everywhere she has gone – from Sacramento to San Francisco and back to Los Angeles – she worked to develop leaders within the community, especially among parents and youth in low income areas, enabling them to establish and manage teen clubs and day camps in their local parks, and to establish summer camps.

Following a year of sabbatical studies at UC Berkeley, Donoghue became the community organizer for a South Central Los Angeles parish in 1985. Many families approached her with concerns about finding safe, affordable housing and creating a healthy neighborhood. In response, she formed Esperanza Community Housing Corporation in 1989, which led to the creation of Villa Esperanza Apartments – 33 units of affordable housing for large families, a community center and an on-site Head Start program, the first of 10 similar developments. She also raised funds – a $750,000 capital campaign – for the administrative headquarters for Esperanza Housing and the USC Head Start Child Care Center, which opened in South Central in August 1995.

A founding member of the South Central Organizing Committee, she raised $75,000 to get the committee started. She served on the Nehemiah West Housing Corporation, the Clergy Caucus of United Neighborhood Council, USC and on the Ninth Council District Project Area Revitalization Committee.

Donoghue has lived and worked in the Maple/Hoover Adams community since 1973 and has developed an extensive knowledge of its challenges and strengths, as well as a network of colleagues and associates. Through her work with the Ninth District City Council, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Figueroa Corridor Coalition for Economic Justice, she has been instrumental in developing policy relating to housing and community economic development in South Central L.A. She was also a leader in the local living wage campaign and a strategic partner in the efforts for amnesty initiatives for undocumented workers.

Donoghue has received many awards including the 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern California Association of Non-Profit Housing and the 1997 UCLA Alumni Award for Community Service. She has set a shining example of the true meaning of community service.

In 2003 she was appointed to the board of directors of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Sr. Diane Donoghue died on Feb. 26, 2017 in Los Angeles on her 86th birthday. Her legacy is reflected in the values statement of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation:

We act with integrity; thus we earn community respect.
We support self-determination; therefore we value the individual.
We prize dignity and self respect; so we create opportunity.
We value knowledge; so we work for education.
We reject powerlessness; thus we are mentors and advocates.
We belong; so we are known.