Liz O’Connell ’61 Remembered with a Multi-million Dollar Scholarship at Greensboro College

November 15, 2022 11:36 am
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Larry S. O’Connell of Sanford has established a significant seven-figure scholarship at Greensboro College through his estate plan to honor the education legacy of his beloved late wife Liz, who passed away in 2016 after a lengthy illness.

The Elizabeth Carrington O’Connell ’61 Scholarship will provide scholarships for business or education majors or those who plan to teach in their major or minor.

Frances Elizabeth Carrington O’Connell was born on August 11, 1939, to Madge Lewis Carrington and Roscoe Carrington, Jr. After graduating from Sanford Central High, like her Grandmother Lucy (GFC Class of 1894), Aunt Bess (Class of 1923), and mother (Class of 1925) before her, Liz went to Greensboro College where she was very active on campus.

In addition to the Writer’s Club, she was a member of the International Relations Club which sought to “educate students about the affairs of the world as well as train them to take their places.” As one of 12 Senior Marshals, which was a true honor, Liz served as an official hostess of the college, ushering at commencement (as a junior), recitals, concerts, and other college-sponsored events. In her senior year, Liz was a senior attendant in the May Court.

In 1961, she graduated from Greensboro College with a major in English and a minor in history. Liz shared her lifelong passion for these subjects by teaching junior high school (middle school) English and history for many years. Her first teaching job was in Wilmington, NC.

On June 30, 1962, Elizabeth married her hometown high school sweetheart Larry O’Connell. From this point on, Liz taught school wherever the couple settled during Larry’s early career in textiles (his undergraduate degree is from NC State University.) She taught junior high students in South Boston, VA, Rocky Mount, VA, and Memphis, TN.

After Larry completed graduate school with a Doctor of Optometry degree from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, the couple returned home to Sanford where they settled and built his optometric practice and their life together. Liz continued to teach school in Lee County at East Lee Junior High until she left teaching to take over the bookkeeping for Larry’s optometry practice. She carried out this role until the couple’s retirement in 2005. As Larry said of Liz, “she was not a math major at GC, but never, ever made a mistake in our books.”

Larry, and others who knew her, lovingly describe Liz as the consummate Southern Lady, “who never had a bad word to say about another human being.” She enjoyed entertaining and welcoming friends into her lovely home, which she designed herself. She was always generous with her kindness, her smile, and her friendliness. Liz never stopped learning and read voraciously her entire life.

Liz’s love of history led to another interest – genealogical research – which inspired the couple to travel widely, especially with several visits to her favorite place, Scotland, the home of her St. Clair ancestors who built Rosslyn Chapel in 1446.

Liz loved her books, she loved her coffee, and she loved Larry, her husband for 54 years. As an alumna of Greensboro College, she was close to her classmates and was fond of, and generous too, GC, and gave generously, in memory of her parents, to help remodel the Alumni Parlor during her 50th Reunion Celebration in 2011; it is still a beautiful room.

In addition to the scholarships that will support a number of GC students each year, Larry’s personal passion for Kwanzan cherry trees (the same kind that lines the tidal pool in Washington, D.C.) is already evident on campus. The Kwanzan trees with a memorial plaque for Liz in between, are situated at the top of the hill next to the historic front steps on West Market Street.

“Our yard was full of beautiful plantings, always in odd numbers, that Liz planted,” Larry recalls. “It would have pleased her to know that Greensboro College will enjoy these beautiful blooming cherry trees each spring.”

“Because we were never blessed with children of our own, it would especially please Liz to know that Greensboro College students in the future will be able to afford their education because of scholarships given in her name.”

Even though Larry misses Liz every day, he is pleased that he has been able to create a legacy through which her name lives.

Greensboro College provides a liberal arts education grounded in the traditions of the United Methodist Church and fosters the intellectual, social, and spiritual development of all students while supporting their individual needs.

Founded in 1838 and located in downtown Greensboro, the college enrolls about 1,000 students from 29 states and territories, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries in its undergraduate liberal-arts program and six master’s degree programs. In addition to rigorous academics and a well-supported Honors program, the school features a 17-sport NCAA Division III athletic program and dozens of service and recreational opportunities. Learn more at greensboro.edu.

Think critically. Act justly. Live faithfully.

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This post was written by Matthew Johnson