Peter J. O'Connor '63
In a world and a time where the notion of the "Good Fight" sometimes appears an archaic cliché, Peter O'Connor has been battling for justice for over three decades. In a story that is a lesson about the benefits of tenacity and the value of unshakable belief, Peter challenged the state and won a victory for people in need.
An attorney by profession, this son of Holy Cross has given his life, appropriately enough, to a crusade whose cause was neither profit nor glory but righteousness and fair play. As founder and executive director of the Fair Share Housing Development Corporation, Peter spent more than 30 years battling bureaucracy for affordable housing and integration in the state of New Jersey.
His commitment to the urban poor began early, when a tour of Latin America brought visions of what he has called "a different reality." Graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in the mid-'60s, he moved home to South Orange in time to witness race riots in Newark and to begin pondering, in his words, "the enormous disparity in wealth," that existed in his own country.
Troubled by that disparity, Peter pledged himself to combating poverty and injustice through the courts. It has been a marathon struggle, but he remained steadfast throughout?his doggedness winning him credibility and the trust of those he represented.
"I view what I do," Peter has said, "as the pursuit of moral justice." And, indeed, a classmate has summed up this unrelenting vocation by writing, "He lives the gospel message daily."
For his determination to see all people given a place at the table, for his tireless pursuit of a more just world, for his faith in the idea that one man's passion can ennoble and renew the community around him, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Peter O'Connor the Sanctae Crucis Award.