O’Connell honored by Roberts Alumni Association
Sister Colman O’Connell’s life has been steeped in education dating back to her childhood in Roberts where she graduated from Roberts High School in 1945.
On Friday, August 14, the 88-year-old was honored by the Roberts Alumni Association as they held a reunion at Ready Randy’s in New Richmond.
“I was well-prepared for college,” she said. “My teachers provided me a good education with extracurricular activities.”
O’Connell even remembers her high school principal telling her fellow classmates, “we have no more to teach you,” and set them up with jobs the second half of her senior year. f
For O’Connell, it meant a job at the local feed mill.
“It was a brilliant move getting a job for everyone because it taught us great work habits,” O’Connell said.
Despite those at the feed mill trying to keep O’Connell after her high school years, O’Connell had her heart set on attending the College of Saint Benedict (CSB) in Collegeville, Minn.
“My sister went there and she loved it,” O’Connell said, noting she had two cousins who attended the college.
O’Connell graduated from CSB in 1950 and started her teaching career at various high schools in Minnesota before coming back to CSB in 1954 where she served as chairperson of its theater and dance department for the next 20 years. For her contributions to the department, the Colman Theater was built and named in her honor.
In 1977, O’Connell took a break from her CSB duties to pursue a doctorate in higher education from the University of Michigan, adding to other degrees she earned from the Catholic University of America and CSB. She has also studied at Stanford University, Northwestern University, Stratford, England, and Tokyo, Japan.
She returned to CSB where she served as director of planning from 1979-84 and executive vice president and a member of the president’s staff from 1984-86.
Starting in 1986, O’Connell was promoted to president where she served for the next 10 years.
“Building a closer relationship with [neighboring] St. John’s,” O’Connell said, when asked what she was most proud about during her tenure as president. She said students from both colleges started having more classes together, which she loved.
“We have more students abroad than any other college [65 percent] in the country for a semester,” O’Connell said. “Nothing changes your life like being abroad.”
O’Connell still works for the college as a senior development officer for institutional advancement.
“It’s a perfect job for me,” she said. “Because I knew our donors from when I was president.”
O’Connell concluded she always keeps an eye out for those from Roberts who attend CSB, with the graduates being at seven.