Elected in 1978
“For leadership in the field of mathematical modeling to gauge the
effects of pollution and abatement measures.”
BY KEVIN J. FARLEY
SUBMITTED BY THE HOME SECRETARY
DONALD J. O’CONNOR, a distinguished professor at Manhattan College and a pioneer in the field of water quality modeling, died on April 18, 1997, at the age of 74.
Don was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 7, 1922, the son of a scenic artist who painted sets for films, operas, and Broadway plays. His younger years with his mother, father, and younger brother Robert were happy times filled with laughter and early exposure to literature, philosophy, religion, and the arts. His early family influences initially led Don toward the liberal arts, with thoughts of following his father into a career as a scenic artist. The tough economic times of the 1930s, however, led Don to ultimately pursue a more practical career in engineering.
In 1940, Don accepted a partial scholarship to study civil engineering at Manhattan College. Although he had very little idea of what engineering involved, he was intrigued with its logic and its puzzle-solving nature. It was during his studies at Manhattan College that Don started to appreciate what he calls the beauty and the power of mathematics. In his junior year he was drawn to the civil engineering department’s sanitary engineering option, where he studied under Professor Clarence J. Velz. It was Professor Velz who introduced Don to the Streeter-Phelps dissolved oxygen equation, which served as a focal point of Don’s seminal work on water quality modeling over the next two decades.