The following citation was presented at Franklin & Marshall College's Commencement Ceremony on May 11, 2013:
The Richard Kneedler Distinguished Service Award was created to recognize one member of the professional staff each year who consistently goes "above and beyond" what would normally be expected; who has earned the respect of students and colleagues; and who has clearly demonstrated his or her commitment to the mission of the College. Nominations for this prestigious award were accepted from members of the campus community and reviewed by a committee of professional staff.
From among many fine nominees, the committee recommended Russell O'Connell as this year's award recipient.
Mr. O'Connell joined the College's Art and Art History Department in 1988 as the sculpture and print shop supervisor. In 2000 he also became exhibitions coordinator for the Phillips Museum of Art. In his roles, Mr. O'Connell has shown exceptional devotion to students, with whom he has helped conceive, design, construct, and display their art works. He has shown the same dedication to the broader F&M and Lancaster communities. He goes out of his way to find special materials for unconventional projects and schedules one-on-one work sessions for particularly complex projects. Mr. O'Connell regularly looks for ways to collaborate with students on projects that involve other College departments and the Lancaster community.
As a core member of the College museum staff, Mr. O'Connell has used his technical expertise and his understanding of contemporary art trends to contribute to the exhibition program. He mentors and trains student workers in exhibition design, art preparation, and art handling. As an exhibition designer, Mr. O'Connell works to ensure that all artists who exhibit at the College, both professionals and novices, realize their highest aspirations for display of their work.
Mr. O'Connell is responsible for the physical appearance and the condition of the museum galleries. He played a critical role in the museum's renovations during the last two years, and is responsible for several innovations that have made the Phillips Museum of Art outstanding among college museums. Mr. O'Connell worked with Information Technology Services, for example, to ensure the galleries had the Internet and electrical capabilities to accommodate the latest digital art and new media displays.
Mr. O'Connell's knowledge of the College's collections and the conventions of museum displays have contributed significantly to courses and seminars. Mr. O'Connell's work at the Phillips Museum regularly intersects with the curriculum as he assists students in mounting shows in the galleries. He demonstrates dedication and devotion in the museum as well as the classroom. As one student said, "Rus has always been there for us, taking our needs into consideration before his own."
Russell O'Connell, your extraordinary leadership and exceptional service continue to strengthen the Franklin & Marshall community. The College's students, faculty and professional staff benefit tremendously from your enthusiastic dedication and spirit.