The Catholic University of America

May 21, 2010

Tribute Celebrates the Priest Who Became a ‘Rock Star’

Faculty and Staff Recognize Father O’Connell’s ‘Legacy of Leadership’

  Faculty and staff farewell reception for Father O'Connell
  Vice President for Student Life Susan D. Pervi laughs as newly deputized "Officer" David O'Connell briefly seizes the microphone to make his first arrest after Capt. Barry McCoy, of the Department of Public Safety, presented the president with a badge and commander's cap at the farewell reception honoring the outgoing president.  More photos.

“Look at all these people here. It’s a testament to you,” said Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs, to Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., university president.

The crowd of about 750 faculty and staff members of Catholic University gathered for “A Legacy of Leadership,” a tribute celebrating the 12 years of Father O’Connell’s leadership.

“I hope you will remember your time at Catholic University as fondly as we’ll remember you,” Nakas said.

The event was held in the Great Room of the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center — fitting since Father O’Connell spearheaded the construction of this “living room” for the university.

Speaking of how he raised the profile of the university, Frank Persico, Father O’Connell’s chief of staff and vice president for university relations, said “Father has become a rock star. He’s put CUA on the map.” Persico presented a video of Father O’Connell’s “greatest hits” of accomplishments.

  Related Links

> Watch video of the program at the reception

> View photos from the reception

> Visit the Father O'Connell tribute website

Vice President for Student Life Susan Pervi shared her memories of meeting Father O’Connell for the first time “12 years, two months and three days ago.” She described him as a “man on a mission.” Noting that he was the “walking president” who loved to see what was happening on campus, Pervi and Capt. Barry McCoy of the Department of Public Safety deputized Father O’Connell, giving him a public safety cap and badge.

Ernest Suarez, chair of the Department of English, roasted Father O’Connell on behalf of the faculty. “I tried to talk him out of leaving,” he said.

Suarez talked about Father O’Connell’s goals when he became president — to improve the university’s Catholic identity and to raise the bar academically. While some people thought the goals were incompatible, Suarez said Father O’Connell has made the school “a first-rate university without compromise.

Faculty and staff farewell reception for Father O'Connell  
Father O'Connell expresses his appreciation to the faculty and staff at the conclusion of the reception.


“It’s indisputable that this university is so much better now than when he got here,” Suarez said. “Running a university isn’t easy, yet he’s excelled at it.”

Kevin Petersen, director of facilities maintenance and operations, spoke on behalf of the CUA staff about Father O’Connell’s “genuine affection for people” and “obvious love of Catholic University.”

Ever humble, when Father O’Connell responded to the tributes, he said “I know a lot of people are giving me praise — I just showed up.”

Talking about his legacy, he said, “We proved we could be THE Catholic University. We showed them we could be a community of faith and build and grow that faith.”

He repeated the words delivered to graduates almost one week ago when he served as commencement speaker. He told the graduates to “do something great.”

To the faculty and staff, he said “Continue to do great things, because you do them so well.”

Father O’Connell was presented with four photos of himself as CUA’s president that were framed with mats signed by the faculty and staff.



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