A Family Man’s Journey: How IU Alumnus Patrick O’Connor Traded in a Life in the Water for One in Sport and Recreation Insurance Management
The clear, glistening water of Royer Pool reflects in Patrick O’Connor’s eyes as he lines up for his heat of the 200 IM. As he takes a quick gaze to his left and right, waiting for the starting official’s gun, he mentally scouts out his competition. Tall, lanky Big 10 swimmers stand imposingly on their starting blocks, framing their race in their mind as they mentally plan out each stroke and flip turn. O’Connor takes his eyes off his opponents, gives his arms a quick stretch, and bends over at the waist to complete his starting position, grabbing a hold of the small protruding extension of the platform. As he closes his eyes, he hears a b a n g and dives majestically into the water as he and 7 other premier collegiate athletes begin the short 2 minute race.
Born into a hard-working, faithful Catholic Irish family, Patrick O’Connor was raised in the pool. After learning how to swim to be allowed to use his neighbor’s pool, O’Connor began to take more of an interest in the sport. “I spent almost all of my time in and around swimming,” he said, and after joining his small local park team, it wasn’t much longer until swim team Indy Athletic Club offered him a spot in their program. As he learned the ins and outs of freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly, O’Connor travelled all across the Midwest, swimming in meets in Kentucky and Michigan as a part of one of the premier swimming clubs in Indiana.
As he devoted the majority of his free time to grueling training regimes and early morning practices, a dream and goal began to form in O’Connor’s mind: the Indiana Hoosiers swim team. Still a few years away from realizing his dream, O’Connor joined the Cathedral High School swim team during his junior year. During his junior and senior years, O’Connor was forced to balance a tough class schedule with two a day practices and meets for both his high school and Indy Athletic. O’Connor’s remarkable work ethic and dedication towards his vision led him to 3 state championships with Cathedral. As he describes the championship meet, O’Connor pokes fun at his decisions even now after a fourth event at the meet ended in a third place finish. “I made a mistake in choosing which events to swim,” he laughs. “They were too close in time.” This desire to always strive for more opened up a path for O’Connor following his graduation from Cathedral as the Hoosiers offered him a scholarship to join world-class coach James ‘Doc’ Counsilman’s nationally recognized team.
During O’Connor’s time at IU, he quickly learned just how much time swimming took out of his life. His schedule quickly alternated between grinding out classes at the Kelley School of Business and busting every ounce of energy remaining in the pool or weight room up to 3 times. “It was the greatest opportunity of my life,” he says of the demanding schedule, “but it was also a totally fulfilling experience.” Although he was part of a team that garnered Big Ten and NCAA titles like Michael Phelps does gold medals, O’Connor is quick to praise what he describes as the most important takeaway of college athletics. It’s the friendships and experiences with his teammates that he believes have had the greatest impact on his life.
Before long, O’Connor’s collegiate career came to a close and he turned to join the business side of the workforce. During his senior year at IU, one of his professors referred him to City Securities Corporation who were looking for someone to fill an opening they had for an insurance agent. O’Connor was offered the job coming out of his senior year, and he took his position as a small part of the firm and transformed it into something incredible. As he worked in everything such as skate park insurance, sports facility coverage, and special risk insurance management, O’Connor launched a 43 year career with City Securities. He was able to travel the country and world, attending conventions and conferences as the Indianapolis representative for his company. With the same drive and passion he devoted to swimming, O’Connor his way to the role of Executive Vice President, a position he maintained until the company rebranded and he became the Senior Vice President of NFP.
Of all the success O’Connor has had in his life, it all comes second to his family: his wife of 39 years in November, his four children, and his one grandchild. “My family means everything to me,” O’Connor insists. “I always want to be somewhere doing something with them.” For a man who had such a successful career in swimming, you would expect him to push swimming to his kids. Surprisingly, though, O’Connor and his wife only wanted his kids to swim for water safety; after that, they could choose if they wanted to pursue competitive swimming. “I never pushed it on my children,” he says, and that is immediately evident as he describes their history in high school athletics. His eldest son began as a football player but then turned to the water, albeit as a rower; his only daughter experimented with basketball and volleyball before ending up as a golfer; his second son was an All-American volleyball player who recently competed at a world championship in Spain; and his third son was an All-State and All-American in lacrosse.
Above all, O’Connor preaches how fortunate he has been to be so lucky in his career as both an athlete and in business as well as with his family. As he credits his faith and belief in treating people right as the key to his success, it’s hard not to smile as O’Connor tells his life story. It’s truly remarkable; who would have guessed that the IU swimmer in Lane 5 during that 200 IM, breaking apart the pool stroke by stroke as he raced in front of his competition, would become the humble, relatable, and kind hearted Patrick O’Connor the community of Northern Indiana knows today.