Pioneer Profile

Lifelong dedication to higher education

William W. Connellan has spent years being involved with Oakland University

A man smiling with a boat in the background

Pioneer Club

icon of a calendarJanuary 8, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Joan Rosen

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William (Bill) W. Connellan spent many years at Oakland University as a student, a professor of Journalism, and as an administrator. He has seen and been involved in many aspects of the university.

Connellan graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double major in history and political science. You may wonder how he became a professor of journalism. Here is the answer: an internship at The Detroit News between his sophomore and junior years. There, he learned the profession from the best writers, editors and reporters in the field. They saw his potential and taught him well – his editor indicated that the double major was particularly beneficial for a career in the field. He wrote for the paper, he flourished and he proved himself.

In 1970, Bill was chosen to be the assistant to the president at OU and, in 1980, he was named assistant provost. During that period, he also served as acting vice president of Academic Affairs. He would also teach a few classes because he did enjoy interacting with the students as well as with faculty and administrators. Bill has a wealth of information about OU. His knowledge is a treasure-trove for anyone who wants to delve into Oakland's origins and history.

While at OU, Bill’s career took him to the Midwest and the East, filling two visiting positions, one at the University of Michigan and one at Harvard. In 2008, he retired from OU, but not from academia. His career eventually took him to the South, where since 2012, Bill has lived in Florida and continues to be assistant provost at the University of Florida.

An ardent supporter of OU, Bill keeps in touch with many on and off campus. He has been a valuable resource for both faculty and staff as well as a good friend. And, whenever OU has an event in Florida for alumni and friends, Bill has been there.

In the interview for this profile, Bill indicated that he would like his friends in the community to know about his medical condition. In 2017, he was given the diagnosis of "Inclusion Body Myositis" (IBM), which is, as Bill put it, "a cousin of ALS." For almost all who have been similarly diagnosed, the prognosis is daunting – loss of muscle strength, limited breathing capacity and more. But not for William Wesley Connellan. During the first year, his muscle strength improved as did his breathing capacity which is normal almost three years after his diagnosis. His doctors, more than impressed by his extraordinary and unexpected response to the disease, asked Bill to join them at a neurological convention in Geneva, Switzerland to explain to their colleagues how he has managed to improve his health following diagnosis. So, in the fall of 2018, he did go to Geneva even though he broke his leg a few weeks before the trip. "I wouldn't let a broken leg keep me from a few days in Switzerland," he says. He attended the conference, delivered his remarks (with his walker close by) and was proclaimed by some of the attending neurologists, "the voice of the disease." Bill continues to improve and to work at the University of Florida.

He still indulges in his hobbies: bridge, gardening and walking. He walks two to three miles every day.

William Wesley Connellan is proud of his connection to Oakland University, and the Pioneer Club is proud to call him a member and friend.

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