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Summer 2010 Table of Contents

O’Connell Memorial Scholarship

Alumna’s bequest biggest of its type in BU history

| From Commonwealth | By Alyce Nicolo

Ernestine O’Connell took a keen interest in her family’s scholarships. Photograph courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Naples

Ernestine O’Connell believed in blunt talk, quick action, and the power of a strongly worded letter. In 1996, she wrote to Louis E. Lataif, the School of Management’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean and former president of Ford Europe, asking to be put in touch with the highest-ranking Lincoln-Mercury official in North America. The problem? The air conditioner in her four-year-old Lincoln Town Car had failed.

“She was most unhappy that her Lincoln air conditioner should fail and need replacing after four years, all at her expense,” recalls Lataif (SMG’61, HON.’90). “So I asked Jim O’Connor, a former colleague and friend, who was then general manager of Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury Division, to intercede. Having collected the evidence from Ms. O’Connell, he sent her an apologetic letter and a check for $1,171.94 — the full cost of the repairs. She was thrilled.”

O’Connell (CAS’43, GRS’46, SED’58), who died in October 2009, demonstrated her gratitude and her enduring affection for the University in a characteristically dramatic way. She left $7.4 million to BU to greatly increase the endowment of the T. George and Ernestine O’Connell Memorial Scholarship, a fund her mother, Ernestine O’Connell (CAS’15), established in 1961. It is the largest gift to a scholarship fund in the University’s history. The scholarship is awarded annually to juniors and seniors majoring in chemistry, geology, physics, biology, astronomy, or math in need of financial assistance.

“The O’Connell scholarships will help BU continue to attract and retain superb students in the sciences and mathematics,” says Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences, “and this will be true for generations to come.”

O’Connell’s mother established the scholarship in honor of her husband, the Boston-area architect T. George O’Connell, for students showing outstanding ability in the sciences.

When her mother died in 1982, O’Connell honored her by adding her name to the fund’s title. She continued to donate to the scholarship fund and remained keenly interested in its recipients. Since 1978, the fund has awarded full- or partial-tuition scholarships to eighty-five math and science students.

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On 1 December 2010 at 2:36 PM, Anonymous (CAS'64) wrote:

Ernestine O'Connell was my High School chemistry teacher. She encouraged my interest in science. At that time she was a nun, teaching in a blue collar High School in Dorchester. Very few students went on to college from that area. Sister Ernestine Marie was also interested in geology. I don,t think I had ever heard of it when I was 14. I went on to CLA, majored in Geology. I received both an AB and an MA in geology in 1957 (my batchelors class year). I am a Certified Professional Geologist (Ret.)

Ms. O'Connell did inherit her money. It was invested wisely. I doubt that she lived "the high life:. There were many worthy places that she could have donated it . She choose to donate to her Alma Mater.

I was on the 50th Reunion Year Committee for the class of 1957. The percentage of donors for gifts of any size was very small.

On 1 December 2010 at 2:36 PM, Anonymous (CAS'64) wrote:

I went to this site to learn what Ms. O'Connell had done to earn her millions. From your articles( in print and above), I assumed, since nothing else was mentioned, that she inherited it, and wisely invested and saved her inheritance. I agree with Dr. Yee's comment. Mark must know something that neither of us know, and I would like to know what she accomplished. Thanks.

On 24 November 2010 at 12:54 AM, mark (LAW'85) wrote:

I think Thou dost protest to much. You should actually see what this women did in her years...I would say YOU WILL NEVER BE AS ACOMPLISHED AS HER..By the wat way U SUCK

On 21 July 2010 at 1:07 AM, Richard Yee (MED'77) wrote:

So, Ms. O'Connell has trouble with her car AC and gets a suit at the auto company to apologize and pay for expenses incurred. I don't read this as holding someone's feet to the fire. Instead, I get it that if you're rich and connected, you get what you need or want, more than the rest of us who are not so well off. This anecdote does not give me the impression of a remarkable and generous person that the author wanted to convey.

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