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Donna Halper helped Rush gain their Fame

Donna Halper with Rush’s Alex Lifeson (left) and Geddy Lee.

CRAIG RENWICK

Donna Halper with Rush’s Alex Lifeson (left) and Geddy Lee.

Donna Halper was in a staff meeting at Lesley University when her phone suddenly began vibrating — and didn’t stop. No, it wasn’t a student urgently asking for an extension on a term paper and, no, no one in her family had died. It was only rock ’n’ roll: After years of rejection, Canadian rockers Rush had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “All the buzzing was fans shooting me e-mails,” Halper told us Wednesday. “I’m not a very emotional person, but I had tears in my eyes.” Why did she react so intensely to news that bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson, and drummer Neil Peart — authors of “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight,” among other prog-rock classics — are in the Hall? Well, before she was an associate professor of communications, Halper, who was born in Dorchester and grew up in Roslindale, was a disc jockey. And in 1974, as the music director at Cleveland radio station WMMS-FM, she was the first DJ in the country to play Rush, and is widely credited with breaking the band in the United States. (She chose “Working Man,” a seven-minute song that enabled DJs at the station to get to the bathroom and back.) Grateful for the airplay, the band got in touch with Halper and they’ve been friends ever since. A few years ago, when the power trio got a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, they invited Halper, and she also makes an appearance in the documentary “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.” She believes the band’s induction into the Hall is long overdue, joking that “our long national nightmare” is finally over. (This year’s other inductees are Boston’s own Donna Summer, Heart, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Albert King, Lou Adler, and Quincy Jones.) Will Halper be at the ceremony in April to watch Rush get inducted? “If they want me to be, I’m there. I’ll drop what I’m doing,” she told us. “They really are the nicest guys. It’s such an injustice that they aren’t in already. I’m very happy for them.”

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