James J. O'Connor '58
In the city of Chicago, no name rings louder than that of Jim O'Connor when it comes to business acumen and civic leadership. His is an example of a life well lived, an example of relentless dedication to family, to community and to Church. Jim's sense of integrity is nothing less than inspiring, and his work ethic is legendary.
That legend began here at Holy Cross and grew, as Jim earned, first, an M.B.A. degree from Harvard, and then, following service in the Air Force, a law degree from Georgetown. In 1963, Jim went to work for Commonwealth Edison, where he quickly rose to vice president, president and chairman.
Jim's wisdom, guidance and leadership have been sought by many of the largest corporations in the nation. He has served as a director of Corning Inc., The Tribune Co., United Airlines, Bell and Howell, Borg-Warner, Esmark and First Chicago Corp. In 1987, Jim was inducted into the Chicago Business Hall of Fame. In 1993, he received the state of Illinois' highest honor-being named a "Lincoln Laureate" by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois Order of Lincoln.
Over the course of a 35-year career, Jim found the time and energy to become an extraordinary leader for a vast array of civic causes and organizations. In the late 1980s, he chaired one of the most successful United Way campaigns in Chicago history, raising over $92 million. He has chaired Cardinal Bernadin's Big Shoulders Board since its inception in 1986, raising funds to build schools and endow scholarships for inner-city children. He has chaired the Chicago Urban League, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society. He has headed the Field Museum and served as president of Catholic Charities.
The recipient of honors that range from the Vatican to local, state and national agencies, to the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, Jim O'Connor has never let his acclaim slow or sway his determination to give of himself to all who ask. And his sense of philanthropy and civic responsibility, shared with his wife, Ellen, has been passed on to their children, Fred '84, Jim and Elizabeth.
For his towering business sagacity, for his sense of responsibility to and stewardship of his community, and in tribute to a life well lived, the College of the Holy Cross presents to James J. O'Connor the Sancate Crucis Award.