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Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
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georgewebb Offline
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Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
On the second-to-last day of 2018, Rice University lost one of its best, kindest, and most modest friends: the great Ralph O'Connor. He was 92.

At Rice, Ralph was the benefactor of Martel College, the old president's house (called O'Connor House before its renovation and conversion to office use in 2004), the George R. Brown Tennis Center (Brown was Ralph's father-in-law, and Ralph credited him with instilling his lifelong love of tennis), the owl sculpture behind the Rice Memorial Chapel, an endowed faculty chair in Economics, Martel College, and many other things large and small, often made quietly and with little attribution.

Ralph was a proud Johns Hopkins alumnus, where he funded the O'Connor Recreation Center, a scholarship fund for undergraduates, a professorship in Biology, and an endowed chair in Ophthalmology.

Ralph served as a trustee of both Rice (two terms) and Johns Hopkins (one term), and has received each university's highest medal (the Gold Medal and the University President's Medal, respectively) for service.

I had the great privilege of knowing Ralph not only through Rice but also through lacrosse. He is the acknowledged founding father of lacrosse in Texas: he brought the 1971 Johns Hopkins v. Navy men's game to the Astrodome (setting a lacrosse attendance record that stood for well over a decade) and the 2015 Johns Hopkins v. Marquette women's game to UH, and he supported the sport (including the Rice men's and women's teams) as it grew in our area. The Rice lacrosse field is named O'Connor Field in his honor.

A brief notice has been published here:
https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituari...or-8103888
...and a more detailed obituary will follow this Sunday.

More information about Ralph from Johns Hopkins:
https://studentaffairs.jhu.edu/recreatio...s-oconnor/

And from Rice:
http://news.rice.edu/2015/11/23/rice-tru...economics/

UPDATE #1:
Rice historian Melissa Kean has published a splendid tribute in her blog:
https://ricehistorycorner.com/2019/01/02...1926-2018/

UPDATE #2:
Official tributes from Rice and Johns Hopkins:

Rice trustee emeritus Ralph O'Connor dies at 92
https://news.rice.edu/2019/01/03/rice-tr...ies-at-92/

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph O'Connor, a 'quintessential Blue Jay,' dies at 92
https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/01/03/ralph-oconnor-obit/

* * * * *

My heart goes out to Ralph's widow Becky and to all the O'Connor family. May he rest in peace.
(This post was last modified: 01-04-2019 12:18 PM by georgewebb.)
01-01-2019 06:12 PM
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RiceLad15 Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Sad news, but thank you for sharing. I met Ralph briefly a few times, but a few of my friends knew Ralph very well through personal connections and bus involvement with Martel dormitory. They only had good things to say about Ralph and his generosity and love for Rice, despite as you said, having graduated from Hopkins. He will be sorely missed.
01-01-2019 06:34 PM
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georgewebb Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
(01-01-2019 06:34 PM)RiceLad15 Wrote:  Sad news, but thank you for sharing. I met Ralph briefly a few times, but a few of my friends knew Ralph very well through personal connections and bus involvement with Martel dormitory. They only had good things to say about Ralph and his generosity and love for Rice, despite as you said, having graduated from Hopkins. He will be sorely missed.

Two summers ago I discovered that there is an area in the Martel commons named in Ralph and Becky's honor. I took a picture of the little plaque and sent it to them. It turns out they didn't even know about the plaque; my picture was a nice little surprise. It was typical of their habit of caring so much for Rice, and so little about being recognized for it.
01-01-2019 06:51 PM
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Fort Bend Owl Online
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Sad to hear. He used to come to a lot of basketball games including one early one this year maybe?
01-01-2019 07:42 PM
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Hambone10 Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
A great man who will be missed. It was a privilege to have gotten to meet and (somewhat) know him. Thanks for sharing.
01-01-2019 07:57 PM
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Owl 69/70/75 Online
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
A great man and a great supporter of Rice. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
(This post was last modified: 01-01-2019 09:28 PM by Owl 69/70/75.)
01-01-2019 09:27 PM
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georgewebb Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Rice historian Melissa Kean has published a splendid tribute in her blog:
https://ricehistorycorner.com/2019/01/02...1926-2018/
01-03-2019 11:00 AM
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georgewebb Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Updates:

Official tribute from Rice University:
Rice trustee emeritus Ralph O'Connor dies at 92
https://news.rice.edu/2019/01/03/rice-tr...ies-at-92/

Official tribute from Johns Hopkins University:
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph O'Connor, a 'quintessential Blue Jay,' dies at 92
https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/01/03/ralph-oconnor-obit/

It stands out -- tellingly -- that each of these tributes describes a man who was a giant in the life of the respective institution. The fact that Ralph had such a role in two great universities -- and in a sport, a secondary school, a foundation, and many other ways -- is heroic.
01-04-2019 11:49 AM
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Almadenmike Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
(01-04-2019 11:49 AM)georgewebb Wrote:  Official tribute from Johns Hopkins University:
Entrepreneur and philanthropist Ralph O'Connor, a 'quintessential Blue Jay,' dies at 92
https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/01/03/ralph-oconnor-obit/

The Johns Hopkins tribute contains a lot of information about O'Connor's business background, including that his Highland Oil Co. built on his wildcatting success, expanded to become Highland Resources, Inc., which "had holdings in oil and gas, real estate, agriculture, a railroad, and a beer distributorship."

That last business had me wondering how that happened. Here's how, from this February 2000 JHU article:

Quote:In 1975, from more than 900 applicants, Mr. O'Connor was awarded one of six distributorships offered in the Houston area by the Adolf Coors Company. "I felt a great sense of personal pride," (O'Connor) recalls, "on finding that the other distributors selected included such fine people as former astronaut Alan Shepard, major league baseball figures Bob and Ken Aspromonte, and a friend, John Barksdale [A&S '66], whom I had influenced to apply to Johns Hopkins."
01-04-2019 12:18 PM
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Almadenmike Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Here's a link to the obituary in Sunday's Houston Chronicle ... https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/housto...=191138042 ... to which retired Rice tennis coach Ron Smarr (1998-2012) posted a lovely remembrance (https://www.legacy.com/guestbooks/housto...=155737821).
01-06-2019 12:36 PM
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georgewebb Offline
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RE: Ralph O'Connor (1926-2018)
Pictures from today's Rice-Johns Hopkins women's tennis match, which was dedicated to Ralph O'Connor:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=...08389410fe
(you don't need to have a Facebook account to view the pictures)

After the match there was a small ceremony honoring Ralph and Becky. The speakers were Joe Karlgaard, JHU Athletic Director Alanna Shanahan, Bobby Tudor, and David Leebron. Two particular tributes were announced that will carry Ralph's name:
- Rice's annual men's tennis invitational (which takes place this weekend) is now called the Ralph O'Connor Invitational; and
- the road in front of the tennis center is now officially named O'Connor Way.
The latter tribute may be unique in Rice history: I'm not sure Rice has ever named a campus road for an individual by name.

One of the speakers said that the reason these particular honors were conferred posthumously is that Ralph would not have allowed those things to be named after him if he were alive. While said in jest, it is almost certainly true.

What a man!
03-19-2019 11:03 PM
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