Giving Back, Together

Thomas L. O’Connor ’95 and Sarah Daniels O’Connor ’95 with their children
(l-r) Mary Kate, Grace, and Tommy.

by Steven Bodnar

Thomas L. O’Connor ’95 and Sarah Daniels O’Connor ’95 know well that gaining an edge on the field or court can make a difference in the highly competitive arena of collegiate sports. It’s one of many reasons the former student-athletes turned board members of the Statesmen Athletic Association (SAA) and Heron Society, respectively, know that even a small gift can make a lasting impact.

“It’s just so important to show support for the different programs at HWS that mean so much to us,” says Tom, a senior vice president at PBF Energy, a major petroleum refiner and supplier. “Whether it’s the SAA or the Heron Society, we want to make sure that HWS teams stay competitive at the regional and national levels, and that students and coaches have as much support as we can give them.”

For the O’Connors, of Riverside, Conn., HWS athletics have been a significant part of their lives since they were students. Sarah played lacrosse all four years, while Tom was a member of the Hobart golf and basketball teams. Following graduation, they have invested in the Colleges to benefit future generations of student-athletes.

Together, they established The O’Connor Golf Award, an endowed honor given to a Hobart golfer who demonstrates significant improvement, untiring perseverance and the will to win during a season or career. Harry Hagen ’16 is the 2014-15 recipient.

“It’s really a good time to remain involved at the Colleges,” Tom says. “I always look forward to getting get back to campus and connecting with students and coaches, while staying up to speed with what’s happening overall at HWS.”

Sarah says that giving back to the Colleges is a personal choice, particularly because the Colleges have given so much to her. “HWS is where I learned to think critically and where I learned to push myself physically and mentally,” Sarah reflects. “HWS has a special place in my life.”

Sarah began her commitment to giving to the Colleges as a student. She was a member of the Senior Gift Committee, The Stewardson Society, which brings together members of the senior classes to present a gift to HWS upon their graduation. Sarah says that in the years that followed, she knew she wanted to stay involved with William Smith Athletics.

“I saw the incredible support current students were receiving from the Heron Society and I knew that by starting off small I could stay connected,” she says.

She says she’s seen the residual benefits of giving in action, whether the support goes to new and better equipment or to the Herons’ Peak Performance Plan that emphasizes leadership, empowerment and education for William Smith student-athletes.

The O’Connors say there’s a real pride in continuing to stay connected with current student-athletes – making sure that the teams have as much support as possible and the resources to compete at the highest levels. “The Colleges are very special,” Tom says. “We want to see them continue to thrive.”


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