Stephen C. O’Connell

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(1916-2001)

Stephen C. O'Connell

“This state and nation need more like Steve O’Connell, and we will see few,” said former University of Florida President John Lombardi on O’Connell’s death. “Few have equaled his accomplishments; none have done so with such grace.” Athlete, scholar, rancher, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, university president at the beginning of one of the most turbulent times in American higher education. Formal, proper, loyal, devoted to his university, correct and careful, charming and graceful, reliable and committed, smart, wise, perceptive and effective – additional praise for O’Connell from Lombardi. And UF President Charles Young noted, “under his steady, skillful leadership, this institution rose to national prominence…(his) contributions to the university, the state and the people of Florida are unparalleled and indelible.”

Born 1916, in West Palm Beach, one of six brothers and three sisters. Married first wife, Rita McTigue. They had four children: Rita Denise, Stephen C. Jr., Martin R.”Robbie,”and Ann Maureen. Following first wife’s death, married Cynthia, who survives him. Preceded in death by first wife, Rita, and son Robbie.

College Education / Achievements

  • B.S.B.A., J.D., University of Florida, 1940
  • President, Sophomore Class and Student Body; President, Florida Blue Key; Alpha Tau Omega; Captain, Florida Gators Boxing Team; Southeastern Conference Championship/Middleweight Division, 1938
  • University of Florida dedicates Stephen C. O’Connell Student Activities Center (O’Dome), 1981, in tribute to service and dedication
  • Designated Distinguished Alumnus, University of Florida, 1968
  • Stephen C. O’Connell Chair, UF College of Law, endowed 1974
  • University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame
  • Capital Area (Tallahassee) Gator Club creates Stephen C. O’Connell Leadership Scholarships

Legal Experience

  • Practiced law in Ft. Lauderdale, 1940-55
  • Attorney/Counsel: City of Hallandale, North Broward Hospital District, Florida State Racing Commission
  • Chief Counsel, Florida State Road Department
  • Justice, Florida Supreme Court, 1955-67; Chief Justice, 1967

Non-Legal Achievements

  • World War II, U. S. Air Force, Major (service in New Guinea, Philippines, Okinawa)
  • Chairman, CEO, Lewis State Bank
  • President, University of Florida (first alumnus to so serve), 1967-73
    • Among accomplishments: Increased minorities among faculty, students; reorganized Alumni Association and created Office of Development staffed by professional fund-raisers; new facilities during his tenure included Holland Law Center, Museum of Natural History; credited with saving University Auditorium and gothic classroom buildings of original campus

Associations / Organizations / Honors

  • Board of Directors, University of Florida Foundation
  • Emeritus Advisor, Florida Blue Key