July 1, 2022

Athletic Training Anniversary Event Honors Program Founder Phil Donley

(L-R) Katie Morrision ’02, professor and chair of WCU’s sports medicine department; Scott Heinerichs, dean of the College of Health Sciences; honoree Phil Donley; and WCU President Christopher Fiorentino.Now celebrating 50 years, West Chester University’s athletic training education program was one of the first four accredited athletic training programs in the country. One educator’s vision brought the University there: Phillip B. Donley, retired head athletic trainer and emeritus professor of physical education, who established and led the program from 1965 to 1991. Generations of WCU graduates now work and hold leadership positions nationally in the field due to Donley’s mentorship and example.

On June 29, in conjunction with the annual National Athletic Trainers’ Association conference held in Philadelphia this year, WCU’s College of Health Sciences and the Department of Sports Medicine hosted a reception to honor Donley and the University’s 50 years of athletic training education. Golden Rams athletic training alumni, current and former faculty, colleagues, and friends gathered at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to reminisce and pay homage to their visionary mentor.

In addition to his academic career as a frequently honored educator, an author, and a nationally recognized speaker and clinician, Donley owned a private sports physical therapy clinic in West Chester from 1981 to 1995 (now known as Optimum Physical Therapy Associates). He was a consultant to the Philadelphia Phillies for 10 years and the Philadelphia Eagles for five years; a consultant for 16 sports medicine clinics and universities; and a staff athletic trainer/physical therapist for both the 1980 Winter Olympics and the 1996 Summer Olympics.

When Donley first set foot on the West Chester State College campus in 1965, the South Campus complex was still in the planning stage, football was played in an old stadium with wooden bleachers next to a new men’s dormitory (later renamed Killinger Hall), and the student enrollment was just 6,000.

Donley quickly recognized that there was an opportunity to bolster the college’s renowned health and physical education programs. So, in the 1971-72 academic year, he established the first academic program for athletic trainers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the first co-educational facility for student athletes in the entire country. At that time, WCU’s South Campus was beginning to take shape with a brand-new Farrell Stadium and a state-of-the-art health and physical education facility, later named Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center.

Fast forward to 2022. Both the South Campus facility and the athletic training program, now a master’s level degree program, are more than 50 years old. The campus has expanded to 17,600 students and WCU is the flagship of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Sturzebecker Health Sciences Center will undergo facility upgrades in the near future. When those are completed, the University will celebrate Donley’s legacy by naming a portion of this renovated space the Phillip B. Donley Athletic Training Facility in honor of this national leader in the athletic training profession. For more information, visit wcupa.edu/AT50.

donley crowd

WCU Athletic Training Education Program by the Numbers:

1 of the first 4 accredited athletic training programs in the country. There are now more than 300 programs.

9 alumni have been inducted into the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.

9 alumni have been recognized as the Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.

15 alumni have been recognized by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association for service awards.

11 alumni named to the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame.

7 alumni have been recognized in Excellence in Leadership Awards by the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association.

5 alumni have been recognized for their excellence in the secondary school setting by the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association.

9 alumni have been inducted into the Pennsylvania Athletic Training Hall of Fame.


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