David Barry O’Connor knows what it’s like to be a lifelong learner.
“I was always taking a class here, a class there,” said the Back Bay resident. “I tried to stay academically engaged as much as I could. But partly because of my work schedule, I never was able to attend college full time.”
That all changed once O’Connor retired. Encouraged by one of his good friends, Suffolk University alumnus Peter McCarthy (BA, ’64), O’Connor decided to enroll at Suffolk and fulfill his dream of become a college graduate.
He has done more than that. O’Connor at 76 is a proud member of the Class of 2017 and received not one, but two master’s degrees during Suffolk University’s College of Arts & Sciences graduate-school commencement ceremony in May. He also has a bachelor of arts degree in history from the university.
“My entire time at Suffolk was wonderful all the way around,” he said. “The professors were always interested in my work and [supported] my goals.”
The age difference between O’Connor’s and his fellow students was never an issue. “I got along with everyone,” he said. “I was just one of the riders on the bus.”
During his professional career, O’Connor was a special agent with the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps and an intelligence officer. He received a presidential citation from President George H. W. Bush for “distinguished service to the American intelligence community.”
In addition, O’Connor worked as an account executive with executive search firms and was a member of the Massachusetts Board of Appeal hearing cases related to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and insurance companies.
O’Connor wrote a thesis on the ethics of espionage to earn a master’s degree in ethics and public policy and a second thesis on human intelligence reform for the master’s in political science.
“David was a model student and other students looked up to him,” said David Gallant, associate director of undergraduate advising in the Division of Student Success. “He is a very interesting guy, and I believe bringing all of his life experiences to the classroom was to his benefit. He really appreciated being involved in an academic setting.”
O’Connor took his first course at Manhattan College in 1960 and studied at other higher education institutions in the United States and Germany over the years.
He built college credits for more than 50 years before entering Suffolk, a decision he considers one of his best ever.
However, he reflects on his academic accomplishments with a bit of irony.
“It seems I now have the credentials to do things I’ve already done,” he said.