“I am a flower. I live in the ground. I like to wear petals, and my friends and family are the leaves.” Those words were a part of her stand-out performance.When most students were stressing about money or homework, Nikki Donahue was living her life to the fullest. When others were sitting in their rooms watching reruns of mid-90s television shows, Nikki was outside talking to total strangers and sharing stories with them. She loved life. She loved her friends, her family and even those people she had only met for a few minutes.
West Chester University lost a tremendous member of its community on Sept. 5 when the short life of Nikki Donahue was brought to a tragic halt when she died in a car accident on Route 202. While many mourn her loss, her friends know that she would want them to remember the good times. She was a second-year Communication Studies student who was an active and quite impressive member of the speech team. “She loved forensics and was amazing at it,” said close friend Shaundi Billet.
Her love and skill for forensics earned her twenty awards and honors. One of those awards was the showcase performance at the Pi Kappa Delta National Championship Tournament. Her teammates also presented her with the Kevin W. Dean Forensics Excellence Award for ability to successfully combine academic achievement with competitive excellence, according to forensics advisor Mark Hickman. The judges at those forensics events also thought very highly of her colorful and energetic performances. Several of the ballots praised “Fun,” “You seemed really into this,” and “Wow! That was incredible.” One judge also gave Nikki the highest score possible.
“The thing that really seemed to distinguish her was her energy. Her enthusiasm for everything was off the charts,” said Hickman, and her friends agree. “She was the most vibrant, positive person I had ever known. She was the type of person who would never let anyone stay sad. If she saw someone in a bad mood, she would try her hardest to cheer them up,” said friend Jackie Peller. In fact, her friends believe that if she could tell them all one last thing it would be to live their lives to the fullest. “She was almost never upset, and when she was, she didn’t let it drag her down,” said Billet.
Aside from being an outstanding performer and enthusiast, Billet said that Nikki was the best friend that anyone could ever ask for. She said that Nikki was a great listener, and a great comfort. While some might expect these qualities to reside in the closest relationships, Billet and Peller said that even someone who knew Nikki for ten minutes would remember her forever. “Anyone that crossed her path knew how special she was. And that she has touched many people’s lives, even if they only had one conversation with her,” said Peller.
Nikki loved movies and hoped to one day direct them. Her creative drive to eventually become a director could be fueled through her quote book. Peller said that Nikki would carry around a notebook full of quotations that she would add to every time she heard someone say something enlightening or humorous.
Even though she graced the lives of her friends and family for a short while, her memory will remain in their hearts forever. “She was the most amazing person I’ve ever met…she accepted everyone,” said Billet.
Hickman said it best at her funeral, on behalf of all of those whose lives she touched: “Nikki, you were indeed a flower, a wild flower; tenacious and beautiful and strong, with an enormous enthusiasm for life. And we, your family and friends were your leaves, made beautiful by your bloom.