LaRae Donnellan was born August 26, 1947, in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1969, and a master's degree in mass communications (graphic design) in 1975 from the University of Minnesota. In 1986, she received a doctorate in communication and rhetoric, with distinction, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
She began her career with the extension service and the experiment station at the University of Minnesota as an editor in December 1970. In 1974, she became publicity director for the Minneapolis Public Library and Information Center. In 1975, she wrote and designed "A Practical Guide to Newsletter Editing and Design." It was published by the Iowa State University Press.
Also in 1975, Donnellan became senior publications editor and a teacher for the Office of Information at the University of Vermont, Burlington.
She took a leave of absence in 1980-81 to teach technical writing and speaking at the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology at Cardiff. She returned to Vermont and, in 1989-90, became acting head of the office of information. In 1991, she and her family moved to Moscow, Idaho, where she became professor and head of the Agricultural Communications center at the University of Idaho.
In December 1996, she and her family moved to the University of Tennessee, where she became professor and section leader of extension communications. She is currently a professor in the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University
Donnellan's awards include an ACE Pioneer Award in 1978 and an ACE Service Award in 1990.