Patrick J. O'Connor

In 1971, Patrick O’Connor was only four years removed from Villanova’s School of Law when the president pro tempore of the state Senate appointed him to Temple’s Board of Trustees. At 28, he became the youngest trustee in the University’s history.

“My first thought was, ‘What am I doing here?’” recalled O’Connor, now president and CEO of the law firm Cozen O’Connor. “I was in awe of the people I was serving with. At one of my first meetings, someone said to me, ‘What do you think, counselor?’ I didn’t really know what I thought. From that point on, I studied hard and became very active.”

O’Connor served 13 years on the board until 1984 and was reappointed to the board in 2001, this time by the speaker of the state House of Representatives. During his first term, he rose to leadership positions overseeing finance and investments; he currently is chairman of the student affairs committee.

Serving on the board has enabled O’Connor to “see firsthand the transformational power of Temple in people’s lives,” something he deeply appreciates because of the role that access to a quality education played in his own life.

Born and raised with nine siblings in Wilkes-Barre, O’Connor lost his father at age 15. A full scholarship to nearby King’s College was his only opportunity to attend college. Accepted by law schools at Georgetown, Temple and elsewhere, he chose Villanova, again because a full scholarship was offered.

“Education afforded me an opportunity to become a successful attorney,” O’Connor said. “Without an education I had no shot, because I didn’t come from money or a connected family.”

That explains why O’Connor’s commitment to education runs deep. Between 1984 and 2001, when he was not serving on Temple’s board, O’Connor served as trustees chairman at College Misericordia, as a member of the board at King’s College and as chairman of the board of consultors for Villanova Law.

When O’Connor agreed to return to Temple’s board 17 years after his first term had concluded, “President David Adamany was walking me through the campus and I was overwhelmed by the fantastic changes. I told him, ‘I can’t believe this! These were streets when I was first a trustee.’ Temple has a great campus. What a wonderful environment for the University and for the neighborhood. And it’s going to get even better.”

The physical changes to the campus are only part of what O’Connor described as a “metamorphosis” of the University. “Temple is transforming itself into an institution of even higher quality. Attracting better students helps challenge everyone, their peers and faculty alike. It’s a rising tide that lifts all boats.

“And I don’t believe that Temple is forsaking its traditional mission by putting greater emphasis on academic rigor,” he added. “Temple remains an exciting, diverse, open environment for all races, creeds and backgrounds to learn from one another. Who would want to go to a school that did not emphasize academic excellence?” he asked.

“Educational opportunity is the great leveler in society, and Temple provides that better than anyone in the country.”

-By Mark Eyerly

2004 Temple Times