Students and Faculty React to Departure of Dr. O’Connor

by Ben Fuller

Editor-in-chief, ’16, English

facebook group - oconnorDr. Frank O’Connor departed from LaGrange College faculty on Monday, February 17th, drawing a strong reaction from students. One of O’Connor’s former students, psychology major Trayton Carson-Tanner, responded by creating a Facebook group. The group exists, according to its description, “To let Dr. O’Connor know how much we appreciated him and that we won’t forget him.”

The reason for the professor’s leave being undisclosed, Carson-Tanner made sure to add that she didn’t intend “a gossip board with rumors.” Rather, the group, aptly named “We Love Dr. O’Connor,” has given students the opportunity to share their good experiences in the professor’s classes as well as express their sentiments regarding his unforeseen departure.

Dr. O’Connor taught a variety of subjects at LaGrange College, including Latin American studies and anthropology and sociology courses. Religion major and Facebook group administrator Anna Kirkpatrick posted thanks to O’Connor for “[making her] so much more passionate about Latin American studies,” specifically in regards to issues of “immigration and oppression.” Similarly, in another post, sociology major Andrea Richard praised O’Connor for his “unique” teaching style, “hard work,” and belief in educating students to become “well rounded, active local and global citizens.”

O’Connor also held American Experience classes during his time at LaGrange. His American Experience course for this spring semester halted on account of his leave, after he’d taught just four lectures. Spanish major and American Experience student Nicole Cato, who’d heard good things about O’Connor as “not only a professor but also as a man who loved cats and food and culture,” praised his lecturing style in a group post, saying “his personality made it all come to life and interest me.” English major Lindsay Claire, who’d had American Experience with O’Connor in the past, shared with the group her initial impression of O’Connor: “We need more teachers like him” and also expressed appreciation for “the amount of genuine care” he had for his students.

ImageO’Connor’s American Experience course is now taught by Professor Kevin Shirley, who’d worked with O’Connor for fifteen years. Shirley wishes his former colleague “nothing but the best as he begins a new chapter in his life.” Reflecting on his new role as American Experience professor, Dr. Shirley says he is excited at this new opportunity to investigate “notions of American cultural and national identity,” which he hasn’t had “a chance to explore in a while.” Emilee Prestridge, currently enrolled in the American Experience course, says she was “startled” by the sudden change and was “disappointed,” as she’d heard good things about O’Connor’s teaching. Despite this, she praised Shirley for “helping with the transition.”

Some of O’Connor’s other colleagues also shared their sentiments. According to a post by Carson-Tanner, Spanish professor Amanda Plumlee “could not say enough” on “how much [the group] would mean to him” and thanked the group members for their effort. Religion professor Dr. Alvin Lingenfelter said he’d miss O’Connor’s “dry, apocalyptic humor” and recalled that the professor was always “on,” constantly sharing new ideas, facts, or interesting and valuable publications he’d stumbled upon. He reminisced that O’Connor had “a special wit about him” and “wore his hopes and concerns on his sleeve.”

The group, as of March 1st, has approximately 60 members. It is closed to all non-members, however, and is only available to Facebook users who receive an invitation. Students continue to record their memories and write their best wishes to O’Connor via the group. Carson-Tanner has sent O’Connor the posts written so far in order to show the departed professor the gratitude of his former students.

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