From teen convert to Alumni Association president, O’Connor’s path has defied expectations.
BYU’s new Alumni Association president came from a family where college was not an expectation. But Michael J. O’Connor (BA ’89) of Moreno Valley, Calif., says his ideas about education changed dramatically after he joined the Church.
Upon encouragement from his Latter-day Saint employers, O’Connor put in his mission papers and accepted a call to serve in Argentina. There he heard fellow missionaries talk about BYU and, while he was still in the mission field, he applied for admittance—a decision, he says, that has made all the difference.
“BYU was very difficult at first,” O’Connor explains. “I had to learn how to study and do well in a competitive environment. But who knows what my life would have been like had I not persisted? Every great thing in my life has come from going on a mission and attending BYU. I met my wife here. I have a daughter at BYU, and I have stayed invested in the wonderful friends I made as a student. Now I have an opportunity to serve our alumni.”
On a more personal note, O’Connor adds, “Although my mother never joined the Church, I like to think [that] if she were still alive, she would be ordering a bumper sticker that reads, ‘My son is president of the BYU Alumni Association.’”
O’Connor majored in Spanish with an emphasis in international relations. Eventually he parlayed his education into his current position as the executive vice president of HUB International Insurance Services, a commercial insurance brokerage company. His specialty is commercial and employee benefits.
His expertise prompted the BYU Alumni Association to invite him to serve as a member-at-large in 2006 and help with its insurance program. He later served as vice president of benefits and giving before taking his current assignment.
O’Connor is delighted that being president will mean more trips to Utah. “I bleed blue,” he says. “Whenever I’m traveling, my goal is to wear something blue with the BYU logo. I consider it a great missionary tool.”
The O’Connor family decided together to accept the position, but because of their love for BYU (and for BYU sports!), the decision wasn’t hard to make. “I consider BYU a wonderful place of refuge, and seeing the Y on the mountain gives me warm feelings of nostalgia,” he says.
“We are excited and humbled,” he added. “BYU has one of the biggest alumni brands anywhere, and to be an ambassador of that brand is a sobering thing.”
Among O’Connor’s goals is to ensure that BYU alumni feel connected to the university and have a desire to give back. “We are asking our alumni to become givers of their time and talent in addition to their treasure,” he says. “I want our alumni to help students throughout their education and have a close relationship with BYU. I especially want to help enrich our mentoring program. I look to our alumni to play a greater role in mentoring students and recent graduates and helping them be successful in life.”