Temple University Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor will serve his final term and step down as chair on July 31, 2019. He will be replaced by trustee Mitchell Morgan, the namesake of Morgan Hall, the Board announced on Tuesday.
Morgan, whom the Board named vice chair on Tuesday, will assume his new role on Aug. 1, 2019. O’Connor will continue as a trustee.
O’Connor, who joined the Board in 1971 as the youngest trustee in university history, has served as chairman for nearly 10 years. He is one of the university’s most philanthropic — and controversial — figures.
During his tenure as chairman, the university grew in student population to more than 40,000 students and began construction projects like the $170 million library and 27-story Morgan Hall. O’Connor led the Board through several university leadership changes, like a national search to replace President Ann Weaver Hart and former President Neil Theobald’s resignation.
“[O’Connor] is the most amazing person in the world,” President Richard Englert told The Temple News. “He and his wife believe in the Temple University vision, and let me tell you, just about every time I talk to him he asks, ‘What are we doing for students?’”
A university spokesperson declined to specify why O’Connor is stepping down as chair, deferring to the university’s press release.
During the meeting on Tuesday, O’Connor thanked the Board for its “time and advice” during his tenure as chairman. Other trustees clapped after the Board voted to approve O’Connor’s final term.
“Without you, we could not have moved forward as we have and I thank you for the opportunity to be your chairman for this period of time,” O’Connor said.
Morgan, the chairman-elect, is a 1980 Beasley School of Law alumnus. Morgan has been a trustee since 2002 and is the chairman of the facilities committee. He is the founder and CEO of Morgan Properties, an investment and apartment management firm based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
“[Morgan] has done an outstanding job running our facilities committee, and of course, he and his wife Hilarie have been very, very generous to Temple University,” Englert said, adding that it will be a “smooth” transition.
Marina Kats, a university trustee, said she is sad for O’Connor’s departure.
“I think he wants to have a succession in place,” Kats said. “He said, ‘It was 10 years, and now it’s time for somebody new to step up to the plate.’”
O’Connor has made several donations to the university during his tenure. Last year, O’Connor provided a seven-figure donation to build O’Connor Plaza and renovate Founder’s Garden.
The naming of the plaza was met with criticism last year by several students who cited his connection to former university trustee Bill Cosby, who was sentenced to three to 10 years in prison last month for sexually assaulting a former university employee in 2004.
In 2005, O’Connor represented Cosby in a civil suit brought by the former employee, Andrea Constand. Cosby’s deposition and the settlement Constand received from the civil suit was a prominent part of Cosby’s criminal trial in April. O’Connor was listed as a potential defense witness, but the defense did not call him.
In response to his ties to Cosby, members of the student organization Feminist Alliance disrupted a Board meeting in March and were escorted out of Sullivan Hall. The organization has organized several protests against the naming of the plaza.
In April, O’Connor expressed interest in meeting with the Feminist Alliance.
This story is developing. Please check back for more updates.