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.