James J. O’Connor ’58, retired CEO of Illinois’ largest electric utility and co-founder and chairman of a charity that supports inner-city Catholic schools, will deliver the Thomas More Lecture on Faith, Work and Civic Life at the College of the Holy Cross on Monday, April 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rehm Library, Smith Hall.
The Thomas More Lecture honors a graduate of Holy Cross who exemplifies the College’s dedication to the integration of faith and learning. The alumnus or alumna is invited to speak about his or her own profession, vocation, and the ethical opportunities and challenges faced there. In his talk, O’Connor will reflect on 50 years of involvement in corporate and civic affairs and “how to survive after 11 years of Jesuit education.” The lecture is free and open to the public.
O’Connor is retired chairman and CEO of Unicom Corporation and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison Company, where he was employed for 35 years.
In 1986, at the request of Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin, O’Connor and other businessmen founded the Big Shoulders Fund, a charity to support inner-city Catholic schools, and O’Connor has served as co-chairman since then. The fund assists 93 schools and more than 24,000 students — the majority of whom live at or below the poverty level.
Recognized for his business acumen and civic leadership, O’Connor has been tapped to serve on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards. He is non-executive chairman of Armstrong World Industries and previously served on the boards of Bell and Howell; Borg-Warner; Corning, Inc.; Esmark; Everen Securities; First Chicago Corp.; Smurfit-Stone Container Corp.; Tribune Co.; Trizec Properties, Inc. and United Airlines.
He is a life trustee and past chairman of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, a director and past chairman of the Chicago Urban League, and former chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. He is past president of Catholic Charities; a trustee of The Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Symphony, the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, Northwestern University and a life trustee of Saint Xavier University. He is president of The 100 Club of Chicago, which provides support to families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. He is past chairman and presently honorary director of the Chicago Division of the American Cancer Society, honorary trustee of the Committee for Economic Development and honorary director and former chairman of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau. He also chaired the Chicagoland United Way Campaign in 1988, which raised $92 million.
O’Connor was an economics major at Holy Cross and went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard University and a J.D. from Georgetown University. He served in the United States Air Force, assigned to the Office of Special Investigation in Washington, D.C.
He holds honorary degrees from the DePaul University, Saint Xavier University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Lewis University. He received Georgetown University’s John Carroll Award, and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University established a faculty chair in his name. In 2002, Holy Cross gave him a Sanctae Crucis award, the highest non-degree recognition bestowed by the College on an alumnus or alumna.
To learn more about this lecture and to watch previous lectures online, visit the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at www.holycross.edu/mcfarlandcenter.
About the Rev. Michael C. McFarland, S.J. Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture:
Established in 2001 and housed in Smith Hall, the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture provides resources for faculty and course development, sponsors conferences and college-wide teaching events, hosts visiting fellows, and coordinates a number of campus lecture series. Rooted in the College’s commitment to invite conversation about basic human questions, the Center welcomes persons of all faiths and seeks to foster dialogue that acknowledges and respects differences, providing a forum for intellectual exchange that is interreligious, interdisciplinary, intercultural, and international in scope. The Center also brings members of the Holy Cross community into conversation with the Greater Worcester community, the academic community, and the wider world to examine the role of faith and inquiry in higher education and in the larger culture.