Alumnus honors longtime FDU baseball coach who made his college education possible.
As a young man, Dennis O’Brien’s dream was to play major league baseball. He went to tryout after tryout in the New York metropolitan area, hoping to catch the eye of a team scout. Finally, a scout suggested that he might have better luck attracting the attention of a major league team if he first played for a college program. The scout happened to know Harvey Woods, FDU’s first-ever director of intercollegiate athletics and head baseball coach. The scout gave Woods a call.
Based on the scout’s endorsement, O’Brien, BS’65, enrolled in FDU on an athletic scholarship. “I was the first in my family to go to college,” he says. “My parents couldn’t afford to send me.” During his freshman year, he quickly made a name for himself, tossing back-to-back no-hitters in the same week, an accomplishment remarkable enough to earn him a mention in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.”
But, by his senior year, O’Brien began to understand that his dream of being a professional ball player might not come true. Armed with his FDU degree in accounting, he went to work for Warner Lambert, the pharmaceutical and health care products giant, rising through the corporate accounting ranks and, ultimately retiring as vice president, finance, consumer health care – U.S.
“I had a very enjoyable career,” he says. “I travelled the world.”
In 2001 the O’Briens — Dennis and his wife Adele — endowed the Harvey Woods Scholarship fund because, O’Brien says, “when Adele and I look back and ask ourselves ‘How did we get here?’ the answer is simple. It was that baseball scholarship granted to me by Harvey Woods.”
The scholarship is awarded to students who will be playing Division 1 baseball and are “academically successful, have good character and financial need,” O’Brien says.
O’Brien’s commitment to the sport he loves and his alma mater has not waned. He is a co-founder of the baseball alumni organization, a regular at reunions and serves as a member of the FDU Division 1 Athletics Hall of Fame nominating committee.
Almost 60 years after he threw those back-to-back no-hitters, O’Brien says “I still have a passion for FDU baseball and all it stands for.”