Remembering Shawn Donovan

With great sadness we announce that Lebanon resident Shawn M. Donovan, one of the co-founders of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (UVTMA), passed away on February 19 at age 70 – see the obituary in the Valley News.

Shawn was the epitome of the dedicated civic servant – a talented engineer, a natural born leader, and a major contributor to many good causes in the Upper Valley. He was a collaborator and synthesizer who truly embodied the vision of a “vital community.”

The UVTMA was formed in 2002 after several lunch meetings at the Polka Dot Diner in White River Junction with Shawn, who was a planner for Dartmouth College, as well as transportation expert Dan Brand of Lyme and Vital Communities’ then Executive Director Len Cadwallader. The UVTMA, a membership-based group of workplaces, transportation providers, municipalities, and planners, has been dedicated ever since to reducing reliance on driving alone.

In addition to his instrumental role in forming the UVTMA, Shawn’s accomplishments are many. Here are a few:

  • Helped develop the Hanover Shuttle Bus System in the 1980’s, which served downtown employees, including those from the college and hospital, which was located in Hanover at that time
  • Served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of Advance Transit for seven years and helped to find and hire Van Chesnut, AT’s Executive Director
  • Served as the Board Chair of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission (UVLSRPC) and served for many years as Lebanon’s representative to that commission
  • Worked on transit-oriented development projects in the Boston metropolitan area and in Montpelier, Vermont
  • Instrumental in creating Dismas House, a half-way house in Hartford that helps non-violent offenders make the re-entry from incarceration to society smoothly, safely, and successfully
  • Advocated for the residents of the encampment behind the plazas in West Lebanon while they were under threat of eviction
  • Led the process of introducing the Sanctuary movement to Hanover Friends Meeting which resulted in the faith community becoming a Level 2 Congregation
  • Participated regularly in the monthly vigils at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices at the federal building in Manchester, New Hampshire.

We wish to share some of Shawn’s own words of wisdom for the Upper Valley. In 2003, he addressed a group at the annual visioning forum organized by Vital Communities, the Montshire Museum and the League of Women Voters. In that speech, Shawn laid out his vision for transportation in a more livable Upper Valley.

“We need a new land use pattern, one that harkens back to our historic, traditional neighborhood patterns, more pedestrian friendly neighborhoods. We need neighborhoods that are linked to public transit service lines that can get people to work.  We need neighborhoods that have sidewalks that can bring them all the way downtown.  We need collector roads and arterial streets with bus shelters along them.

“Our traditional, multi-use neighborhoods work: these are places where not only do people live but have neighbors, children play in the school play yard, adults talk over the backyard fence, children can walk to school, parents can walk to the market, to the post office, to the restaurant and maybe even walk to work. 

The TMA shares that vision and strives to continue his work. Thank you for your contributions, Shawn. We miss you, and may you rest in peace.

 –  By Bethany Fleishman, Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager; Dan Brand, UVTMA representative from Lyme; and Len Cadwallader, former Executive Director of Vital Communities