The Success Story of Charles O'Connell '69
"The biggest positive about being at MacMurray was the interaction with professors. They were encouraging and seemed to enjoy reaching out to students. Success was never guaranteed, but you really had to work at not doing well because the Mac community was behind you. Mac created a sense of place where everybody knew you and you knew everyone. It was not uncommon to sit with a professor at the student union and discuss the issues of the day. I am a supporter of small schools for this very reason."
Charles O'Connell attended MacMurray from 1965 to 1969 and graduated with a degree in economics/business with a minor in humanities. Upon graduation, O'Connell "stumbled into teaching", a profession he revisited later in his career. He taught for seven years in the northern suburbs of Chicago before entering the business world in 1976. He started his investment career with Hornblower and then went to the Institute of Financial Education, writing and conducting training sessions in finance and investing. In 1981, he took a position as the Assistant Vice-President of Investments, with the Investment Office of the University of Chicago, where he was employed for 16 years. While at the University of Chicago, he obtained a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1983. Shortly thereafter, he became involved with the Investment Analyst Society of Chicago. He became chair of the Education Committee in 1987 and was instrumental in setting up an education platform offered to individuals both in and out of the investment business. He also was involved in setting up CFA review classes in conjunction with DePaul University, for those who would take the CFA exams. He taught many of the fixed income classes and eventually was contracted to teach CFA classes in Thailand as well as in Germany. He served as president of the Investment Analyst Society from 1990-91 and remained on the board for several years afterward.
Through his association with DePaul University, he was hired as an adjunct professor. He taught night classes on investments from 1987 to 1997. He also taught as an adjunct at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Stuart School of Business from 1993 to 1997. In 1997 he was named acting chief investment officer of the U of C's $2.5 billion endowment. After a change in their direction with their investment management, O'Connell left the University of Chicago to join Harris Bank as the vice-president and senior portfolio manager in their Private Wealth Group, which entails overseeing approximately $1.3 billion in assets for families of substantial wealth. He has been at Harris Bank for 11 years and has no plans to retire in the near future.
To serve the community, O'Connell has served on the board of Ragdale, the 4th largest artist colony in America. He is also the Chair of the Finance Committee of the Lake County United Way's Forever Fund. He has joined the board of the Liberty Prairie Conservatory, a land trust whose mission is land preservation, where he currently serves as Treasurer. He served for 11 years on the board of the Cook Memorial Library, six years as president and is a member of the investment committee of the Chicago Metropolitan YMCA, where he oversees the YMCA's endowment, which is over $100 million.
O'Connell and his wife of 38 years, Jody Ver Steegh '69, now a Professor Emeritus at DePaul University, have three children, Matthew (wife, Joey), Patrick and Carrie. They enjoy traveling and playing golf together and working together to support an organization called Angel Flight, for which O'Connell, a private pilot, transports people, primarily for medical purposes, who cannot afford airfare.
O'Connell became chairman of the College's Board of Trustees in October 2012.