In memoriam: Joseph O’Brien, retired human resources, athletics administrator

Author: Dennis Brown

Candles in the Grotto

Joseph F. O’Brien, a longtime leader in human resources and athletics at the University of Notre Dame, died Saturday (Jan. 23) at his home. He was 95.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, O’Brien attended Cornell University, where he was a member of the basketball team, but left early to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II as a gun captain on the aircraft carrier USS Midway. After the war, he resumed his studies at Notre Dame, graduating in 1949.

O’Brien worked in personnel positions at Oliver Chilled Plow Works and Whirlpool Corp. before returning to his alma mater in 1958 as director of personnel, overseeing staff policies, procedures and benefits packages. He joined the Department of Athletics in 1976, serving as an associate athletic director handling budgets, transportation and ticketing. He retired in 1993.

O’Brien held numerous leadership positions within his profession, including service as president of the Michiana Personnel Association, College and University Personnel Association and College Athletic Business Management Association. He was honored by the latter two with man of the year awards, and at Notre Dame he was recognized by the Alumni Association with the James E. Armstrong Award and by the Notre Dame Club of Chicago with the Moose Krause Award. He also was a recipient of Notre Dame’s President’s Award, given to faculty and staff who have provided many years of distinguished service.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Betty, and is survived by a daughter, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 27) at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart.