Meet Ralph S. O’Connor

Trustee emeritus and 1951 Johns Hopkins graduate Ralph S. O’Connor was a long-time supporter of the Department of Athletics and Recreation on the Homewood Campus. O’Connor believed that athletic activity makes better students and better people. He played football and basketball during his first two years at Hopkins and noted upon the opening of the on-campus building that bears his name – “since not everyone can play varsity sports, the new recreation center provides superb space for intramural and informal competitions and physical fitness activities. This is an important part of university life.”

O’Connor provided the lead gift for the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, which opened on the Homewood campus in 2002. The 63,000-square-foot facility includes a weight room, fitness room, a 30-foot climbing wall, racquetball/squash courts and an 18,000-square-foot gymnasium that is used for basketball, volleyball and badminton.

The recreation center also hosts campus-wide programming, including Freshman Convocation, the Johns Hopkins Career Fair, the Student Activities Fair and the President’s Senior Toast the night before commencement. The recreation center is the largest indoor gathering space at Homewood and one of the most frequently visited facilities on campus.

In addition to providing the lead gift for the recreation center, O’Connor also provided support for a number of other athletic facilities before his passing in 2018, including the Cordish Lacrosse Center, Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium, the Blue Jay tennis courts and Homewood Field, all of which were constructed or renovated since 2012. His generosity extended beyond athletics, and he has made gifts to establish scholarships and professorships, provided a fund for student entrepreneurs and given art for the Homewood campus.

After graduating from Hopkins in 1951 with a biology degree, Ralph S. O’Connor and a number of his friends headed for Texas, having heard glowing reports of the oil business. Most went as roustabouts, or semiskilled laborers.

O’Connor was soon plunged into the heady world of oil and gas production, including wildcatting – drilling for oil on shrewd speculation. His instincts were so good and his results so impressive that by 1964 he was president of Highland Oil, and later chairman, president, and CEO of Highland’s successor, HRI resources. Also, in the mid-1970s, he was awarded – out of a field of 900 applicants – one of six distributorships offered in the Houston area by the Adolf Coors Company. In 1987 he formed the Ralph S. O’Connor & Associates investment firm, of which he served as chairman and CEO.

Honored many times by professional groups, O’Connor also served on numerous civic and educational boards, and was among the four original partners who acquired the NBA’s San Diego Rockets and brought them to Texas as the Houston Rockets.