Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cancer claims beloved Pasco educator Art O'Donnell

Arthur O’Donnell, 67, worked as an actuary, a math teacher and a principal.

Arthur O’Donnell, 67, worked as an actuary, a math teacher and a principal.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Arthur O'Donnell was a math genius.

Just ask Jessica Meek. As a student at Hudson High School, Meek said, her geometry teacher offered only one way to solve a problem, a method that didn't really help.

So she turned to Dr. O'Donnell, a math teacher turned principal, for advice.

"Within five minutes he had me mastering it," recalled Meek, now an assistant principal at the school. "He was a great guy. … It's people like him who inspired people like me to take this path."

Similar memories flowed Thursday (Jan. 2, 2014) as word spread that Dr. O'Donnell had died early that morning at 67. The longtime educator, known affectionately as Dr. O to his students and staff, succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

The illness caught Dr. O'Donnell and his family by surprise.

In generally good health, he had a small stomachache in early November that a couple days of Tums didn't dispatch. So his wife, Renee, suggested consulting a doctor. A scan for ulcers revealed the aggressive disease.

For more than three decades, Dr. O'Donnell made his mark in Pasco County as a school leader. He started his career in the late 1960s as a 22-year-old actuary turned math instructor at Gulf Middle School.

He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming Gulf High principal in 1974. He later served in the district office as a math specialist before returning to the principal's post at Hudson High for 13 years and then Ridgewood High for five years until his retirement.

"Art was a man of integrity, a man that treated people fairly," said Chip Wichmanowski, a friend and former fellow principal.

Mike Asbell, who worked as an assistant principal with Dr. O'Donnell for 11 years, called his friend and mentor a "genuine people person" who led by example, not by fiat.

"We used to joke he was the kind of person who could call you in and chew you out for something you screwed up, and you would walk out and say thank you," said Asbell, now principal at Bayonet Point Middle School. "He didn't tear you down. He went that extra step. He helped you fix it."

Asbell recalled much laughter in staff meetings, something many other colleagues shared in their postings on a Facebook page honoring Dr. O. Students also shared fond remembrances.

One former student, Eddie Addis, wrote how Dr. O'Donnell turned his life around when he was going "nowhere fast," showing Addis the "right way and helped me get there." Another student, Heather Cox, wrote about Dr. O'Donnell's willingness to work through problems and help students achieve their education needs.

"His heart was at the school. His heart was helping kids," Asbell said. "Unfortunately, they threw the mold away when they made Art O'Donnell. There's never been another principal like him, and there never will be."

Meek suggested that Dr. O'Donnell's influence can be seen daily at Hudson High, where many in the faculty are also alumni. He instilled that type of loyalty and family atmosphere, she said.

Dr. O'Donnell's retirement focused on his own family, his son David said, calling his father his "best friend."

"I'd call him every day. They live close. I'd always shoot over there," he said. "Any time they did anything, he always called me for an invite. … He was real supportive."

He kept busy doing housework, treating his wife, Renee, like royalty until he couldn't any longer, David O'Donnell added. "They're nuts about each other."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at jsolochek@tampabay.com.

.Biography

Arthur O'Donnell

Born: Jan. 18, 1946

Died: Jan. 2, 2014

Survivors: Wife, Renee; daughters Jennifer Troxell, Melissa Turncliff and Courtney O'Donnell; son, David O'Donnell; and five grandchildren.

Viewing will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Morgan Funeral Home, 6025 Trouble Creek Road, New Port Richey. The funeral will be at noon Monday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 5340 High St., New Port Richey.

Cancer claims beloved Pasco educator Art O'Donnell 01/02/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 2, 2014 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs

    Bucs

    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]