PROVIDENCE – Brother Francis Kevin O’Connell, O.P., 72, died on November 4, at Rhode Island Hospital, following a serious illness. He was a member of the Dominican Friars (Order of Preachers) of the Eastern Province of St. Joseph and of the Dominican Community of St. Thomas Aquinas Priory at Providence College.
Born Francis Jeremiah O’Connell in New Haven, Conn., on April 20, 1936, a son of the late Jeremiah Francis O’Connell and Agnes Elizabeth (Hines) O’Connell, he graduated from St. Francis School in 1951 and attended St. Mary’s High School for two years. In 1953, he entered the cooperator novitiate of the Dominican Order at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., when he received the religious name Kevin He made his simple profession of vows there on March 1, 1955. In 1956, he was assigned to St. Joseph Priory in Somerset, Ohio, where he renewed his simple profession in 1958 and made his solemn profession in 1961. He was then assigned to St. Dominic Priory in Washington, D.C., where he served as director of the parish Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program. He then served as marketing manager of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (1972-1975) and as a member of the Washington Archdiocesan Pastoral Council (1974-1975).
In 1975, Br. O’Connell was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Priory at Providence College, where he served as a residence hall director for nineteen years. He joined the Office of Financial Aid in 1976, becoming assistant director in 1977 and associate director in 1988, coordinating donor and diversity scholarships.
He was a member of Providence College’s Friar Council # 5787 of the Knights of Columbus (1976-2002) and of the St. Pius X Fourth Degree Assembly. He moderated various student groups at Providence College, and his greatest delight was his service as moderator of the Friars Club (1990-2008), the college’s campus and community service organization that promotes scholarship and the values of the Judeo-Christian heritage through the unique tradition of the Dominican Order. A month before his death, the Friars Club, in celebrating its eightieth anniversary, saluted Br. O’Connell’s dedication by instituting a scholarship in his name. He was caretaker (1993-2004) of the college’s mascot, a Dalmation named Friar Boy V.
At various times, Brother O’Connell was a member of the National Assembly of Religious Brothers, the Provincial Commission for Cooperator Brothers of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, and of the Provincial Council.
His awards from Providence College included The Very Reverend Vincent C. Dore, O.P. Award from the Mal Brown Club, the greater Providence chapter of the Alumni Association (2002), for his manifold contributions to the college while remaining unpretentious in his service, and The Reverend Philip A. Smith, O.P. Award (2005) for serving the college with unusual energy, loyalty, and devotion, while significantly promoting the college’s mission. He celebrated the golden anniversary of his religious profession in 2005.
He was pre-deceased by his parents; his three brothers, John, Robert, and Lt. James of the New Haven Police Department; his brother-in-law Edward Tierney; his nephew, Thomas Venice; and his niece, Christine Venice Beyer. Surviving are his four sisters, Maureen Tierney, Guilford, Conn.; Agnes Venice, Bayside, N.Y.; Karen McHugh, Guilford, Conn.; and Eleanor Sullivan, Salem, Conn., as well as nieces and nephews, and his Dominican brothers.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for him in St. Dominic Chapel on the Providence College campus on November 10, burial followed in the Dominican Friars’ Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to Providence College, Office of Institutional Advancement, 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, R.I., 02918-0001, for the Br. Kevin O’Connell Scholarship Fund.