Richard “Okie” O’Connor Scholarship
Criteria: (One $500 Award) The Richard “Okie” O’Connor Scholarship will be awarded to a full-time junior or senior student at Worcester State University. The applicants must have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Preference will be given to students actively participating in university-sponsored extra-curricular activities. A 500-word essay must be submitted with the application expressing how the student’s education at Worcester State University has improved their life and how their participation in extra-curricular activities has enhanced their university experience and growth as a person.
Professor Emeritus Richard “Okie” O’Connor devoted 26 years of professional service to Worcester State University. He was a tenured associate professor of psychology and the University’s first track-and-field coach. He retired in 1994.
The courses he taught included history and systems of psychology, theories of personality, and the Enneagram. He became an expert of the Enneagram during a sabbatical in the 1991-1992 academic year. The Enneagram is an ancient symbol of unity and diversity, change, and transformation viewed as an insightful, useful approach to understanding human nature. In addition, Okie developed a stress unit for the Worcester Police Department and lent his expertise in psychology to WSU’s criminal justice program.
A 1955 graduate of Commerce High School in Worcester, Okie went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Clark University in 1962, a master’s degree in guidance and psychology from Assumption College in 1966, and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1972.
Okie, who ran cross-country and was on indoor and outdoor track teams in high school, was instrumental in building WSU’s track-and-field program. He coached cross-country and track from 1969 through 1985, compiling an amazing 205 wins. His cross-country team went 77-37, while his track team had a record of 128-65. His cross-country team went undefeated, 10-0, in 1970. In 1971, his track team logged an undefeated 7-0 record.
Okie’s leadership and dedication to his teams led to the successes of his student-athletes. He brought two teams to the Massachusetts State College Championship in 1972 and 1976 and coached three NCAA Division III All Americans.
Because of his commitment to his athletes and the sport of track-and-field, several of Okie’s team members have joined him in the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1996.
This scholarship is a labor of love by the WSU track-and-field alumni community. Members see this as a fitting tribute to a coach whose high expectations, motivational coaching style, and sense of humor brought out the best in his athletes.