Bethel Park High School graduate Ethan Donovan feels a connection with Ken Waldie because of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Donovan, 18, learned while making a video for an AP History project that Waldie, a Bethel Park graduate, was on the first plane that struck the World Trade Center in New York City during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and that his childhood friends and classmates instituted a memorial scholarship in his name.
Also as part of the lesson, Donovan discovered his father, Stephen, was supposed to be on a flight to New York City that same day.
“Thankfully he had surgery the day before,” Donovan said of his father. “He sent someone else in his place. Fortunately for them, they had a complication, too.”
Donovan said he applied for the Waldie Memorial Scholarship because he shared beliefs Waldie held, especially regarding character. His scholarship essay earned him a stipend which will enable him to pursue his academics at Boston College.
“Good character consists of compassion, integrity and tenacity,” Donovan wrote. “These components are what I strive to embody each day of my life. I see them most clearly in some of the best humans to have lived and the ones I look up to most.”
“After reading about Mr. Waldie, there is no doubt he possessed these characteristics,” Donovan added. “It would have truly been an honor to meet such an extraordinary and inspiring example of good character.”
Donovan, like Waldie, is passionate about sports. He was as tenacious in the classroom as he was in the field. He maintained a 4.53 GPA and excelled in soccer.
A four-year varsity letter winner, he played center midfielder for the Black Hawks. He led the team in assists and gained all-section acclaim his senior season.
Donovan also played club soccer for Century United and helped his teams win two state cup championships.
Donovan also possessed Waldie’s leadership abilities as he was voted captain of his soccer teams. He said he treasured the opportunity to lead his teammates.
“Communication is the biggest point of being a leader. To be able to clearly communicate ideas enables you to gain people’s trust and for you and them to be more productive,” he said.
Donovan also belonged to DECA club and Bethel Park’s debate team. In addition, he had an internship with a Canonsburg wealth management firm. He said he plans to pursue a career in finance.
“Sports combined with high school required great time management skills,” Donovan said. “You have to be organized and dedicated. I think that will carry over to college and into my career.”
Donovan said soccer has taught him resilience and that anything is possible. He recalled being eliminated from playoff contention but being but being able to knock off the No. 1 team during the regular season.
“Sports teaches you that where there is a will, there is a way. We weren’t going to let that team beat us,” he said.
Soccer, as a sport, honed Donovan’s spontaneity and flexibility. He said his greatest assets are having the “ability to shift the way a game is going” with a tackle or big play and “by motivating the team.”
Donovan was motivated to complete his senior season despite a worldwide pandemic. He was unable to participate in many extracurricular activities and saw how many of his friends lost their spring sports campaigns in 2020 because of COVID-19.
“It didn’t impact me too much. Fortunately, I remained healthy and am now vaccinated” he said, “We all learned a valuable lesson. Nothing is guaranteed.”
With the Waldie Memorial Scholarship award, Donovan will enjoy a four-year education. He is anxious to start the semester on Chestnut Hill Aug. 20.
“The last four years I have seen the same people every day and while I love my friends, I am looking forward to college and just meeting new people,” he said. “There will be a whole new group of people. I don’t know anyone from that area but I’m good with that.
“I’m also thankful for the scholarship. It’s great what Mr. Waldie’s friends are doing. Not just the amount of money but the memorial and promoting him as a person.”
Donovan said he believes more people of his generation should learn about Waldie’s life.
“His story is inspiring and that is why I wrote about character because it’s also an important part of who I am,” Donovan said. “I think those three main components I wrote about relate to each other and help build a person to be a success not just financially but with friends, family and life in general.”