The Catholic University of America


Click here to Submit Greetings, PersonaL STORIES OR Recollections of Father O'Connell

"Can't say enough"
? Nancy E. Ahlum (2006)
2006 President's Society Member

I can't say enough nice things about my time working in Father O's office. He is the most generous and kind man I have ever met. He also has a great sense of humor and really enjoys being around students. It has been said before, but one of the defining characteristics of Father's presidency was his ability to bond with students and meet them on their level. The moments I spent with him in the kitchen of Nugent and toasting at various events will stay with me always.

"God Bless You"
? Vincent R. Meyers, Sr.
Friend and former alterboy partner

I will never forget the many times we stood together as boys on the alter to serve Mass. I wish all the best to you David as you begin your service to the people of Trenton. May God Bless you always.

? Lawrence Somer
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

Dear David, I wish you all the best on your new journey. I will always remember the kindness you have always shown me, and how you have always warmly greeted me by name from the very beginning whenever you have seen me, whether at CUA or at Dupont Circle where I lived. All my best wishes and regards, Larry Somer

? John (Jack) Kaiser
SJU Athletic Director Emeritus

Dear Fr. O'Connell: It was with Great Joy that I read that you were appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, New Jersey by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Those of us raised in the Vincentian tradition are especially delighted because of this great honor bestowed on you. All our prayers and good wishes will be with you as you begin this new adventure in doing God's work. May the Holy Spirit be with you every day of your life. Sincerely, Jack Kaiser, A.D. Emeritus, St. John's University

? The Honorable Paul R. Ahr, Ph.D., M.P.A. (Ph.D., 1971)
President and CEO, Camillus House, Miami, FL

Dear Bishop-Elect O'Connell: Congratulations on your recent appointment as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. As an alumnus of Catholic University (Ph.D., 1971) and a nephew of the Most Reverend George W. Ahr, Trenton's 7th Bishop (1950-1979), I wish you continued blessings in your new post. Bishop Ahr was always very proud of my affiliation with Catholic U. When I was a student here, my brother was attending Georgetown Medical School, and we would wait expectantly for the Bishop's meeting in November for a good meal at Uncle George's expense at the Mayflower Hotel. I hope that you will be as happy being the shepherd of the Trenton diocese as was Bishop Ahr.

"All the Best in Your New Role"
? Joellen Schumacher
Parent of CUA Student

Dear Father O'Connell: It is with great joy that we learned of your new position to succeed Bishop Smith in the Trenton diocese. My son will be a junior at CUA this coming August. I had the pleasure to hear you speak at his orientation in August 2008 when he started at Catholic. I liked everything I heard and knew that my son was being left at a great institution. The contributions you have made to CUA in the years you served there are well known. Thank you. We wish you all the best in your new role. We know that the diocese of Trenton will benefit greatly from your leadership. We are part of the Paterson diocese in Madison, NJ and it is nice to know that you will be continuing your good work in New Jersey. Sincerely, Joellen Schumacher

? Father Cliff Bishop
Chaplain, Holy Family Manor, Bethlehem, Pa.

Dear CoAdjutor-Elect: God bless you, Dave! I am so proud to have known you "when." I fondly remember the day in the Sacristy of Notre Dame when I told you I was returning to seminary after my mother had died and you welcomed me back! Thanks for your support! God bless you.

"To Serve and Not to Be Served"
? Maria Olivares
Doctoral student (Modern Languages)

Dear Fr. O'Connell: Thank you for your superb job as CUA president; certainly, you came to CUA to serve and not to be served, to give your life as ransom for the many. My best wishes in your new job as a bishop; I ask our Lady to help you carry this new ministry. May I ask your blessing on my family and me. Yours in Jesus Christ, María Olivares

"The Best and the Brightest!"
? Frank Persico (1974 & 1976)
CUA Alumnus

The Diocese of Trenton is getting the best and the brightest that the Catholic Church has to offer. The faithful won’t know what happened to them — or how they were so fortunate to have Pope Benedict’s choice for them be Father David O’Connell. He is a man of ideas, passion, vision and faith. Bishop O’Connell . . . it has a nice ring to it! Congratulations and God bless.

"Congratulations From SJU Physics Department"
? Bob Finkel
Professor and Chair, SJU Physics Dept.

Congratulations, Your Excellency! You are sorely missed here at St John’s, but I am happy to know that, as Bishop of Trenton, your influence will extend even further. Best Regards, Bob

? Tim Brown
Library Technician

We are so sorry to see you go. Thank you so much for everything you did for CUA. We will miss you and congratulate you on becoming a bishop! Ad multos annos!

"Three for Three!"
? Rich Napoli
Father of Three CUA Students

We sent three kids to CUA, and all three have come out with more faith and more knowledge (and one came out with a future husband!). We couldn't have asked for anything more. Thank you, Father O'Connell, for being such an outstanding leader for the school and for our kids. God bless you!

? Deacon Eugene Somma
Permanent Deacon

Congratulations on your appointment to the Diocese of Trenton. Welcome and best wishes.

"Advocate and Ambassador"
? Matthew J. McGuire (1987)

Father O'Connell is an excellent advocate and ambassador for CUA.

"You Will be Missed."
? Anonymous

Dear Father O’Connell: I was truly blessed that I shared my five years with you being the president of the university. On my daily routine, I walk from my office to areas where it is part of my work, and in few times we crossed each other's path and you said hello to me before I had the chance to say hello to you first. Even though we exchanged just the greetings, I felt a tremendous uplifting of my spirit by seeing you and sensing your positive energy that engulfed my spirit. The University was indeed blessed by your presence during the past 12 years. You will be missed but not forgotten.

"A few words...."
? Jim Battle
Assistant Director, FMO

As religious, president and friend you will be missed! Take care Fr. O'Connell. May God Bless you and keep.

"Need a Lift?"
? Douglas Rowe (2000, 2002)
Vice-Principal, BVM Academy

About 10 years ago, I was walking across campus from the Metro station to my apartment in the Heights. It was raining, and I had a lot of luggage. A black car pulled up next to me and asked me if I needed a lift. It was the president of the university, whom I had never met. He gave me a lift the rest of the way. I was impressed with Fr. O'Connell's charity and humility. He will be missed at CUA.

"Role model of a great leader"
? Nirmal L. Gomes (2004 & 2009)
Technical Services Technician, University Libraries

You are a very extra-ordinary leader. Your public relationships and creative leadership practices bring many positive changes in human life. You are a very inspirational and visionary leader that gave me so much inspiration in my life. You will be in my heart for ever and ever as a "role model" of a great leader. I wish your good health and I pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon you to nominate you to become a bishop in the United States. Please bless us wherever you go.

"Momentum for the future"
? Anonymous

You saved the university and created the basis and momentum for an even stronger future.

"Thank You"
? Anonymous

Dear Father O'Connell, You took on a difficult job here at CUA and in all the years you've been president, you've never shirked your responsibility, but have met every problem head-on. You've done so much — built a student center and new housing, increased the size of the campus, set up south campus development, but I'd like to thank you in particular for making CUA's campus a very beautiful place for all of us — faculty, staff and students.

"Thanks ... health ... success"
? Anonymous

After you've read the many loquacious and deserving acknowledgements, a break for your weary eyes: Thank you; the best of health and much success as you continue your journey.

"God Bless"
? Donna Hennessey
Parent of a Graduate

The first time I heard you address my daughter's class I noticed the sparkle in your eyes that only a devoted teacher can have for his class. As a Catholic educator for 38 years, I knew we shared an unspoken bond, and I left for home confident that our daughter had made the best choice for college. Thank you for making CUA an outstanding university and a foundation of faith.

"A Dog Is a Man's Best Friend"
? Sweetie
The President's dog

Dear FRO: I’m glad Terry found me and gave me to you. / You gave me a home and lots of love too. / I make you laugh when I spin around, / and sometimes you frown when I mess all around. / I miss you so when you’re away / but yip with delight when you’re home to stay. / There’s a special bond between canine and friend / That lights up your heart more than anything can. / You’ll always be mine and I will be yours / I’m Sweetie, You’re FRO / Please take me with you wherever you go. / I ruv ru FRO / Your Sweetie

"Thank you"
? William John Shepherd
Associate Archivist

Thank you for your fair-minded and consistent leadership, and especially for putting 'human' in Human Resources. The early Fridays and presidential holidays weren't bad either! Best wishes for the future.

"The Big Picture"
? Christine Mica
Dean of University Admissions

Eventually, someone walks into my office for the first time and will say, “Wow, that’s a big picture.” I explain to them why that big picture has a special meaning to me. The picture is CUA! In the photo is the red CUA Cardinal wearing an athletic jersey. To me, this is the representation of student life: friendship, service, and fun. Also in the photo is Fr. O’Connell. To me, this is a representation of our academic and spiritual life on campus: guidance, knowledge, and faith. Fr. O’Connell is not just in a big picture, but he sees the big picture. His ability to listen, his loyalty, and his leadership have made CUA a better place. When I think of Fr. O’Connell, I think of many things – the fact he lives and works in the same place and does not have to commute from the ‘burbs; how he leans on the lectern and holds his glasses in his hands when giving a homily; and telling new counselors what “DOC” stands for and that he is the person who signs our paychecks! But more than that, I think about how his ability to see the big picture has changed what I do day to day, what guests to campus see when they visit, and most importantly what students, faculty, staff and alums have come to love – The Catholic University of America.

"Rising to New Heights"
? Jon Sawyer
Associate Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students

Over the past 12 years, I’ve witnessed the transformation and growth of our campus community and the fruits of Father’s labors. CUA has certainly risen to new heights under Father’s leadership and is well-positioned for the future in so many ways. I appreciate the spirit of community that Father has cultivated over the years. From his requests to students at Orientation to not be afraid to say hello, to his consistent recognition of employee contributions at all levels, Father has led by example in creating a warm and welcoming campus environment where all are valued. He will be missed tremendously, but his legacy will live on in the good works of the many individuals whom he has directly and indirectly impacted over the years. I feel very blessed to have been able to work at CUA during his tenure.

"It won't be the same"
? Christopher Pierno (2011)
Speaker of the CUA Student Association General Assembly

Father O'Connell has left his mark on each and every student who has walked through the gates of campus. It is clearly evident, whether the student knows it or not. His leadership of CUA has led to so many amazing gains and he will surely be missed. As my class prepares to graduate, there is a definite sadness that he will not be presiding over our commencement, or celebrating any of our Masses. While we wish him well and know that he will go on to do great things, our only request is that he come back and visit often. And hopefully make an appearance at our commencement.

"Thank You Very Much"
? Diedra (Dee) Ferguson
Graduate Admissions Coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences

Dear Father O'Connell: Life holds many Blessings, but one of the greatest is having you as our President. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to our University. The work you started will continue as you remain embossed in the pages of CUA History. You have been an inspiration to me. Your dedication and loyalty in helping all of us will be remembered as long as the cords of memory shall lengthen themselves. May God's love be the light that guides you today into the future. Thank you for your kindness, compassion and caring. I LOVE YOU.

"Your 'thankful demeanor' will be missed"
? Patricia Tesar
Sign Language Interpreter for the Deaf

Thank you for always recognizing and thanking the interpreters for their work. In my tenure at CUA, you are one of the very few to do so. Your kind smile and thankful demeanor will be missed. It was a pleasure to have interpreted for you. I love hearing the stories of your time with your mother. I too, have taken care of my mother since 1998 when my father passed away, and it has had its up and downs. But, I am thankful for the time I have had with her. Bless you and thanks again. Sincerely, Patty Tesar

"Thanks from a future cardinal"
? Victor David (2014)

Even though I will not be able to attend CUA under the leadership of Fr. O'Connell, I know how much he's done to enhance the Catholic character of the great university. Thank you for leaving behind a place of learning, love, and faith for myself and for all future cardinals.

"No ID, but Lots of Respect and Patience"
? Richard Weil (1975)
Senior project manager, Facilities Planning and Construction

During the pope's visit to CUA in April of 2008, I volunteered along with many other colleagues and remember one especially touching moment where I saw Father O'Connell remain true to himself and all of us. He was walking with other clergy and some dignitaries from his residence in Nugent Hall to the Basilica. He approached a fenced-off perimeter security point in front of Leahy Hall with a Secret Service agent, a CUA Public Safety officer and myself. All were asked for identification, and everyone had one with them except Father O'Connell. There was no way the Public Safety officer was going to let Father past the security point until he saw some ID. Father respected the fact that this officer (newly hired, which is why he did not recognize the president) was doing his job and waited, just a few minutes, until the officer was convinced, through a call to his supervisor and my offering a character reference for Father, that he could pass through the security point. That moment spoke volumes to me about the character of Father O'Connell. Thank you Father, for 12 wonderful years and daily making CUA a better place to learn, live, work and visit.

? Carlos Taja (2012)
Ph.D. student at STRS

Dear Fr. O'Connell: As you leave your beloved CUA, I just wanted to thank you for so many years in the service of the Lord through your administrative and pastoral position as our president. Thank you for strengthening our Catholic identity and for leading us through rough waters. May the Lord guide you throughout the rest of your years at his service. In Christ, Carlos Taja

"Note of Thanks"
? Michelle Walker
Enrollment Services Specialist

Father O'Connell, You have been a wonderful president and I will truly miss you. Your generosity to employees has been an overwhelming blessing. May your future bring to you and others as much happiness as you have brought to us. Sincere greetings.

"Enhancing the Great Catholic Character of CUA"
? Rev. Jordan Kelly, O.P.
Dominican Friars

I have been privileged to know Fr. O' Connell since we were students together in the high school seminary. Even then, Father O' Connell was a leader! I have been blessed to know him as a friend, mentor and a brother-priest. Catholic Education owes Father O' Connell a great deal for enhancing the great Catholic character of CUA and in so doing, giving us all an example of how to keep our schools truly Catholic. Congratulations, Father!

"A Humbleness about Him"
? Anonymous

I believe that we as a student body have been truly blessed to have been under the care of Father O'Connell. Although he is a man who has been in the company of the most holy and influential men in the world, he has always kept a humbleness about him. It really has been a blessing to have the president of my university to be a man with such incredible wisdom and heart, a man who would sit in the Pryz with us at lunch and chat with the students around him. Thank you for all of your years of service, and best of luck!

"Countless Acts of Consideration"
? Rev. Kurt Pritzl, O.P.
Dean, School of Philosophy

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to our president, Father David O'Connell, for his years of dedicated and effective leadership of our university. Along with his public record of achievement are countless acts of consideration and help done in private for us who also serve in the university community. This is a side of his leadership and care for the community that should not go unacknowledged. May God bless him in the years ahead.

"A Balance of Leadership and Caring"
? Sheri Hardison

Father O'Connell demonstrates a balance of strategic leadership with a visible care for students, faculty and staff. He has guided the university through periods of great growth, but I have always been most impressed by his interest in the people here. He will be greatly missed.

"Two Memorable Accomplishments"
? Bob Craves (1965)
CUA Trustee

Father O'Connell: It has been a distinct honor to serve on the CUA Board with you for the past 12 years. You have accomplished many things. Two memorable accomplishments were the Pope's visit and the new student center, which replaced the student center that was old when I went to Catholic but most important your care of our students.

"An Extraordinary Legacy of Reason Guided by Faith"
? Ambassador Douglas W. Kmiec
Former CUA Law Dean; U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Malta

Father David O'Connell brought me to CUA Law, and while my tenure was abbreviated for reasons of family that necessitated a return to California, there was not a single day during my service to the university when Father David's sound advice and faithful witness was unavailable to me. It was his inspiration which encouraged us to introduce CUA's unique course on Catholic Social Teaching and the Law, and which nourished the superb interdisciplinary work of Professor Bill Wagner and others in law and philosophy. The success of these efforts as they continue today represents the strength of his faith witness and his belief that a university striving to live up to the full meaning of being "the national university of the Catholic Church in America" accomplishes that goal one class – and especially one student – at a time. "Magister Utina Sequator Evangelium Universus Mundus."

? Rev. Melvin C. Blanchette, S.S. (1967)
Rector of the Theological College

In the name of the entire Theological College community, I give glory and praise to God in thanksgiving for the life and ministry of Fr. O'Connell. He has been a blessing to us at TC, and I will never forget his kindness given so freely and fully when the Holy Father visited campus in 2008. What a memorable day! Personally, I will miss Fr. O'Connell very much because of his personal concern for me, and the example and inspiration of his priestly concern for my seminarians.

"You'll Always Be an Alum!"
? Marion McDuffie Gosney (B.A.1975)
Director of Alumni Relations

Dear Father O'Connell, It's been a pleasure to work with you for the last decade! It certainly flew past. And it's been fun! Thank you for your astute leadership – for bringing The Catholic University of America to a new prominence. As an alum myself, I'm grateful for that. Wherever you go, remember: you're always an alum of CUA. CU at Homecoming! Best wishes, Marion

"The Best President Ever"
? Terry Brady Novak (1974)
Nurse Practitioner and friend, Student Health

Fr. O, Twelve years ago when I heard our new president was a Vincentian, I knew we would be in good hands. Little did I know then that we would be in the most capable, remarkable, generous and loving hands than ever before. As Jesus took on our human form to show us the way, you as president of The Catholic University of America remained human in every way. You have walked with kings and sat with national and church leaders and yet you still take the time to listen to us, to laugh with us,cry with us, pray with us and lead us forward. You will always have a special place in my heart and prayers as I thank God for you and love you. Terry More to follow ... from Sweetie and me

"The 3 Cs"
? Tanith Fowler Corsi
Assistant Vice President for Global Education

During my first meeting with Father O'Connell before I started in my position at CUA, I asked him what he considered important qualities for success at CUA. He answered promptly, "the 3 Cs – clarity, communication and consistency." I have always kept that in mind and will forever remember Father O'Connell as "Father 3Cs." His poise, accessibility, and outreach will be sorely missed and difficult to follow. Thank you for your wonderful leadership and humanness!

"Best Wishes"
? Donna Hobson
Director of Publications and Design Services

Best wishes to you as you embark on a new mission. God bless. Donna

"A Visionary Leader"
? Victor Nakas
Associate Vice President for Public Affairs

Father O’Connell has been a visionary leader and it has been a great blessing for me not only to work for him but also to observe his leadership style up close. He has not only been a creative, “think outside the box” type of leader, he also has displayed an innate sense of what needed to be done to move CUA forward, how it needed to be done and who needed to do it. In short, he made important and even transformative changes happen. What I think has made him a great leader is that he combined those qualities with two additional traits -- intellectual curiosity and a receptiveness to input from others.

? Bill Jonas
Director of Campus Activities

There have been a handful of occasions when Father O'Connell has come to my office. Usually, his first words are "I have an idea." The thing I'll always remember (and know to be true) is that he explained that often he'll throw out ideas, and they may just be ideas that he may even forget about in time, and it's up to me to pursue or not. BUT, some ideas require more attention and, as Father O'Connell put it, "if I want you to do something, you'll know it!" Clarity is a good thing! Thanks for the leadership!

"The Ask"
? Frank Persico (1974, 1976)
Vice President for University Relations

In August 2000, Fr. O’Connell asked me if I wanted to join him and work in the President’s Office. In a nanosecond, I said, “Yes!” He stopped me and told me I should think about it. I said, “No need, when do I start?” He recommended I go home and talk it over with my wife. I said, “She’s all for it, no problem!” That “ask” took about 30 seconds and my “snap” decision was one of the best I have ever made. I know that CUA is a much better place because Father O’Connell has been our president and I am really happy he brought me along for the ride! Thanks for the memories!

"A Friendly First Impression"
? Bart Pollock
CUA Web Content Editor

It was my first day of work at CUA. I ran into Father O'Connell walking out of the Pryz. I said hello and expected nothing more than a polite greeting in return. Instead, he stopped, shook hands and took time to have a conversation. Before long, we were talking comfortably about my new position and our common connection to St. John's University in New York. Here was the president of the university graciously welcoming a new staff person as if he had nothing more important to be doing. That said a lot, I thought, not only about Father O'Connell, but about the kind of friendly, people-centered atmosphere he has helped to create here at CUA. I'm sorry he's leaving so soon.