Batavia, New York — Dr. Alfred C. O’Connell, Genesee Community College’s first president, died November 11 in North Carolina. He was 83 years old.
Genesee’s first Board of Trustees recruited Dr. O’Connell in 1966 to organize the new college which had been approved by Genesee County voters in a November 1965 referendum. At that time, Dr. O’Connell was serving as president of Harford Community College in Maryland.
Dr. O’Connell served from February, 1967 to August, 1970. He was widely credited with recruiting a distinguished faculty, and setting high standards for academic programs and college operations.
Dr. James M. Sunser, current president, called Dr. O’Connell a “pioneer” in the community college movement. “Alfred O’Connell had a vision of the comprehensive community college in the 1960s,” Dr. Sunser said. “He saw Genesee Community College, and community colleges in general, as the nation’s best way to provide higher education access to coming generations of students. Early on, he recognized that Genesee Community College could become a vibrant force for community transformation, and he worked tirelessly to make Genesee Community College part of the fabric of our local communities. Today, Genesee Community College is known for excellence and innovation across the United States. Alfred O’Connell laid the early groundwork for Genesee’s reputation. Our success today is in no small measure due to his vision and commitment.”
Dr. O’Connell began his career as a secondary school teacher, and held English and Social Studies teaching positions at Wethersfield (CT) High School and Cushing Academy, in Ashburnham, MA. He served as Assistant Professor of History at Auburn (now Cayuga) Community College, Chair of the History Department at Grosse Point University (MI), and Director of the Evening Division of Baltimore (MD) Junior College prior to assuming the presidency of Harford. He also built a reputation as a coach, and over the course of his teaching career, coached ice hockey, baseball, and football.
After leaving Genesee, Dr. O’Connell served as State Director for Community Colleges for Maryland and later returned to serve as president of Harford Community College.
Dr. O’Connell earned a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Hartford (CT); a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Hartford; a Master’s degree in History from Trinity College (CT); and Doctoral Degree in Education from Columbia University.
He was a veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict. Dr. O’Connell’s wife died only days before his own death. Dr. and Mrs. O’Connell were parents of two children. The Board of Trustees named the College Library in his honor in 1972.
For a complete listing of Genesee Community College’s presidents, including photographs, please go to: http://www.genesee.edu/library/college-archives/college-presidents/
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