Petition submitted to name new Alexandria City High School athletic fields after former Mayor Kerry Donley

Former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley (Courtesy Tisara Photo/Steve Halperson)

Nearly 500 signatures have been collected in an effort to name the new and yet-to-be-built athletic fields at Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus after former Mayor Kerry Donley.

A steering committee of civic leaders, colleagues and friends submitted the petition with 486 signatures yesterday to the Alexandria School Board. In their letter, the steering committee wrote that the name is fitting, as Donley’s contributions were through public governance, education and community service.

“In so many ways, his contribution served to improve the day-to-day lives of countless individuals who live (and will live) in the City of Alexandria, to enlarge and strengthen the capability of ACPS (Alexandria City Public Schools) to deliver educational excellence to its students, and to assist a broad spectrum of nonprofits in their delivery of essential services to members of the Alexandria community,” the Kerry J. Donley Facility-Naming Steering Committee wrote.

The committee wrote that the athletic fields at the Minnie Howard campus would be a fitting place to honor for former mayor.

“In recognition of the length, breadth, and impact of his aggregate community contribution, the Committee believes it would be fitting and appropriate to name the complex of athletic fields to be reconstructed on the ACHS Minnie Howard campus in memory of Kerry Donley,” the committee wrote.

The Minnie Howard campus, which serves ninth graders, is undergoing a total redevelopment, and athletic fields will eventually be built on the site of the old building that now accommodates students.

Donley, who died unexpectedly last year at the age of 66, was on City Council for 18 years. He was mayor from 1996 to 2003, after which he was chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia for two years. He was also vice mayor from 1994 to 1996 and then again from 2009 to 2012. After briefly leaving politics, from 2005 to 2008 he was also the athletic director at ACHS. Donley moved to Alexandria in 1963 and attended Douglas MacArthur Elementary School and Bishop Ireton High School.

“The importance that public education, and ACPS in particular, held for Kerry, the support he had provided ACPS  while an elected official, and the gratification he had derived from his time as athletic director for ACHS were important reasons for the Committee’s decision to seek the naming of an ACPS facility in his memory,” the steering committee wrote.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that he’s been in touch with Donley’s family about the matter over the past year and that it seems like an appropriate honor.

“Kerry was passionate about athletics in every form, and was always a staunch advocate for our schools,” Wilson said. “A naming effort that honors his legacy and brings together those passions seems fully appropriate for me.”

The members of the steering committee are:

  • Mary Lee Anderson, executive director of Senior Services of Alexandria
  • Rosa Byrd
  • Lynwood Campbell
  • Former Vice Mayor Bill Cleveland
  • Judge Nolan Dawkins
  •  Mark Eaton
  • Former Mayor Bill Euille
  • Frank Fannon, former City Council member
  • Connie Hart
  • Retired Sheriff Dana Lawhorne
  • Ericka Miller
  • Former U.S. Congressman and Mayor Jim Moran
  • John Porter, longtime ACHS principal
  • Gayle Reuter
  • Paul Smedberg, chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Board and former City Council member
  • David Speck, former City Council member
  • Philip Sunderland
  • Lizette Torres

Donley’s name has also been offered as a replacement for one of the Confederate-named streets by the Historic Alexandria Resources Commission.