WHO IS STEPHEN C. O’CONNELL?
Stephen Cornelius O’Connell was a UF alumnus, attorney, appellate judge and sixth president of the University of Florida. After growing up in West Palm Beach, O’Connell attended UF from 1934-1940, where he served as president of Alpha Tau Omega, his sophomore class and the student body. A star athlete, he was captain of the Florida Gators varsity boxing team, setting the record for fastest knock-out and winning the SEC middleweight boxing championship. He also helped coach the team in the late 1930s. After an active tour of duty in Australia with the U.S. Air Force during World War II, O’Connell served 12 years on the Florida Supreme Court. In 1967, he became the first alumnus in the history of the university to be appointed president. During his six year term, 1967-1973, he guided the university through a tumultuous era of student protests. He oversaw the integration of the university and reorganized the alumni association and advancement programs. When he announced his resignation in 1973, returning to his law practice and taking up cattle ranching, he left a legacy of fiscal strength and diversity at UF. The Stephen C. O’Connell Center was dedicated in 1981 to recognize his many years of devoted service. O’Connell died at his ranch home on April 13, 2001. He is survived by his wife, UF Board of Trustee member Cynthia Bowling O’Connell, three children and eight grandchildren.