His students knew him as the likable professor who always had a minute to talk. His colleagues pinned him as a man with a great sense of humor, who strove to make his students better teachers.
But Sept. 4, the College community suffered greatly from the passing of professor Terry O’Connor after a prolonged battle with cancer.
“He was one of the most brilliant men I ever had the honor of working with,” Jacqueline Norris, department chair of Educational Administration and Secondary Education, said. “He was visionary in the sense of the big picture – the long-term plan.”
O’Connor first came to the College in 2002 after accepting the position of dean of the School of Education. Upon his arrival, O’Connor became crucial in overseeing the school’s “academic transformation” as part of the College’s Teacher Education Advisory Council.
After the curriculum had been successfully revamped, O’Connor stepped down as dean to return to his first love – teaching.
“He was always very approachable,” Kelly Archibald, class of ’08, said. “He taught the class what he needed to, but made it so each student could use their own personal approach.”
Colleagues also praised the professor for challenging his students to think on a deeper level when it came to their own teaching methods.
“I believe my role is to create a learning atmosphere and invite students to take on whatever learning they are ready for,” O’Connor wrote on his Web site.
O’Connor’s thirst for knowledge was evident early on. After obtaining his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, O’Connor went on to earn both his M.Ed and Ph.D from the University of Virginia.
In 1986 he began teaching at Indiana State University. During his 16-year tenure at the University, O’Connor was appointed director of the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. It was at this time O’Connor refined his focus on new approaches to classroom instruction, faculty development and diversity.
Outside the classroom, O’Connor spent much of his time in the great outdoors – traveling, taking pictures and enjoying his favorite pastime, building boats.
“It was how he relaxed,” Norris said. “He would always try and convince me to go out on the water. He loved it.”
In recent years, O’Connor built and refurbished his own personal fleet of sail and row boats including Fluffy, a 12-foot row boat named after the three-headed dog in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
His passion for travel took him to places around the globe, but his self-proclaimed favorites included Brazil, Ireland, Spain and Thailand.
Services for the professor were held Monday night in Pennington. Despite his demanding career, O’Connor was hailed as a family man who showed nothing but love and support for those close to him, especially his four children.
“What can I say?” Bill Behre, dean of the School of Education said. “He was a gracious, good guy. He will be missed.”