Pursuit, Connection, and Giving Back

Edna Lamb Donar (B.S. ’58) has spent a lifetime pursuing passions, connecting with the past, and giving back.

Edna_Lamb_DonarNo, Edna Lamb Donar doesn’t play the saxophone–at least not yet. A clarinetist since the seventh grade, she had heard that the crossover wasn’t too difficult, so she’s teaching herself how to play the green and gold instrument she purchased through Amazon.com in September. Her first notes all sounded the same thanks to a dislodged spring she diagnosed. She got a screwdriver from her sewing machine drawer, found an inch-long spring off its post, made the repair, and voila. “I’m getting so I can play it,” Donar says. “A simple thing like a saxophone is not going to defeat me.”

In fact, not much has deterred Donar over the last 77 years. She has gone after what she wants with clear-headed certainty. The oldest of five children, Donar grew up on a dairy farm outside Windsor, Colo. She received a Boettcher Scholarship–which granted her a full ride for all four years–to attend Colorado State where both her parents went to school. Her father graduated in 1935 with a B.S. in agronomy and her mother graduated in 1936 with degrees in economics and sociology. All of the Lamb family were regular attendees at alumni picnics and other events over the years. “I pretty much knew that CSU was going to be my home,” Donar says.

Growing up on a dairy gave Donar a keen understanding of science. “You could walk through the pasture with Dad and he could give you the Latin name for every blade of grass and every weed,” she says. Studying biology seemed like a natural fit, but it was too easy. “I had to work at chemistry,” Donar says. “I liked that challenge.” When she wasn’t studying, she was playing her clarinet in the symphonic and marching bands.

Donar got married her senior year of college, graduated, and was intent on working in her field. Being married, however, was a liability. “I was a married female of child-bearing age and no one was going to hire me because I’d have to take time off,” she says. “Companies didn’t want you doing that. It wasn’t policy; it was very subtle.” She finally found work as a medical technician at National Jewish Hospital in Denver. The application didn’t inquire as to her sex, marital status, race, or religion.

Once she had three kids at home, Donar decided teaching was a better fit for her and her family. She found more pushback as she searched for teaching job–this time because she has been out of school for seven years (she earned her teacher certification after college). When she got an offer to teach physics in Bennett, Colo., where the K-12 school had a staff of 17, she jumped at the chance. That first year she also found herself teaching two levels of algebra, geometry, freshman English, and girls P.E. Fortunately for Donar, teaching math and science was a great fit. She kept at it for 32 years–in two states, several high schools, two community colleges, and one four-year college. During that time she also earned an M.S. and Ph.D.

In 2008, Donar’s lifelong connection to CSU deepened when she and her second husband, David Donar, established the Lamb-Donar Undergraduate Scholarship in the College of Natural Sciences. Their gift was the culmination of family tradition, personal history, and a commitment to giving back.

“David was kind of impressed with the fact that when we came to homecoming at CSU there was a cameraderie that he didn’t have with his alma mater,” Donar says. “He just didn’t have the connection that we had. And he didn’t have any family that had gone to the same college. My family probably has 14 bricks on the Morgan Library wall. It’s just a family thing and David is a part of the family.”

Donar’s chemistry background made the College of Natural Sciences a clear choice. As the recipient of a four-year collegiate scholarship, Donar has an appreciation for what it means to get financial support. “I was going to go to college anyway, but the fact that I had that scholarship meant that I didn’t have to work what would have amounted to a full-time job and go to school, too. That was a big advantage. We’re glad to be able to give back,” Donar says.

Donar also gives back through music. She currently plays bass clarinet in two all-volunteer community bands, the Denver Concert Band and the Golden Eagle Concert Band. Along with members from the Denver Concert Band, she  promotes instrumental music in elementary schools through the Show and Tell Band. As for the saxophone? “When I’ve become proficient on the saxophone, I may be able to play it in one or both bands at least part of the time,” she says.

Edna Lamb Donar has been a Lifetime Member of the Alumni Association since 1976.

by Carol Busch (M.A. ’02)