For most of his post-college life, Bob O’Connell’s relationship with USD has been a fond, but distant, memory. “When I was in school, there were 1,500 students. I was on the crew team, in student government, campus ministry and was a resident adviser,” O’Connell ’82 says. “But when I moved away, I didn’t really have much contact — except for my USD rowing buddies.”
One of six family members to attend the university, the 48-year-old O’Connell leads a vibrant life in Chicago with wife Darci. Though an entrepreneurial passion for art and other business ventures keeps him busy, last March, the men’s basketball team’s NCAA Tournament appearance brought USD back to the forefront of his mind when he attended a Chicago-based alumni TV viewing party for the USD-Connecticut game.
Chicago alumni president Maureen Partynski ’82 was happy to reconnect with O’Connell at the event, as they were among the same circle of friends at USD. The interaction with his alma mater was so much fun that O’Connell wanted to host his own alumni event. A charity art auction at his art gallery, The Architrouve, took place in October. Nearly 60 people, including 40 alumni, attended and bid on artwork donated by local artists.
“He came up with the event and it was wonderful,” Partynski says. It was such a hit that O’Connell’s gallery is booked again for an alumni event on Oct. 29, 2009.
Auction proceeds went to USD’s Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship, which made the night resonate on a deeply personal level. Kyle — Bob’s nephew and the son of Michael ’87 and Julie ’88 (Belfiore) O’Connell — passed away at age 9 from brain cancer. After that tragic loss, a scholarship was established in his name; it goes to a graduate student or undergraduate junior or senior studying in a healing arts discipline.
“It’s just part of giving back,” O’Connell says. “I not only went to school at USD, but this is a legacy scholarship. I feel good contributing money in hopes of coming up with a cure for cancer.”