Sometimes one person can make all of the difference. Kathleen O’Connell is a shining example.
O’Connell, associate professor of illustration at Herron School of Art and Design, believes that it’s important to pay it forward. That’s why in 2011, her 28th year of teaching at Herron, she decided to establish the Robert O’Connell Memorial Scholarship Endowment, made in memory of her father. Her goal is to benefit a new generation of students, particularly those enrolled in illustration courses at Herron.
“When I was a young girl attending Herron’s Saturday School program, my father used to take me downtown to buy art supplies,” she shared. “Later in high school, we would visit exhibitions at the old Indianapolis Museum of Art when it was located on Herron’s former campus at 16th and Pennsylvania streets.”
Those early trips to arts institutions directly impacted O’Connell’s educational path, where both the arts and sciences played a role. After studying biology at Purdue University, she received a B.A. in Biology from Indiana University (’76), a B.F.A., magna cum laude, in Visual Communications from Herron (’82) and an M.F.A. in Illustration from Syracuse University (’88).
Her artwork is a dazzling display of illustration and watercolor paintings and often offers the viewer an up close examination of the environment at our feet.
It was the support and encouragement of her father that undoubtedly influenced her educational and artistic goals.
“I’m not sure he thought I would actually work in the art field,” she added. “Having lived through the Depression and never having a college degree himself, he didn’t embrace the idea of the arts as a career path. However, once I received my degrees, he whole-heartedly supported me in my decisions. I’m not sure that without his encouragement, I would have ever chosen to become an artist.”
O’Connell plans to pay forward similar encouragement through the newly-endowed scholarship. She sees students every day who could benefit from scholarship support and believes her contribution helps fill a particular niche for students who exhibit outstanding illustration skills.