Four long-time members of the Bishop O'Connell faculty retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, after a combined 123 years of service and dedication to our school community. Their contributions to the O'Connell story are legendary, and we wish them nothing but the best in their next endeavors!
Bill Carpenter '76 (science teacher – 38 years) – Mr. Carpenter is one of three brothers who graduated from Bishop O'Connell High School. After studying biology and education at William & Mary, he returned to his alma mater to share his love for nature and wildlife with the newest generation of Knights. During his tenure, he also coached wrestling for 29 years, football for 22 years, and was even a substitute cross country coach for one year. His four children are also O'Connell alumni, graduating between 2001 and 2009. What's next for Mr. Carpenter? "I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up," he said. He hopes to be able to continue to travel and focus his energy on conservation and awareness of eco-systems in peril.
I don't remember much from my high school days, but I do remember Mr. Carpenter's passion in the classroom as my biology teacher, and on the athletic fields. I appreciate your dedication and perseverance in having such a big impact on me and on so many lives over your 38 years. – Class of 1984 Alumnus
Tommy Orndorff (assistant athletic director – 33 years) – Coach Orndorff is a graduate of West Virginia University, where he studied journalism. He began his career as a sports writer, before joining O'Connell as the communications/publications director and head softball coach in 1985. Since 1991, Orndorff has served as the school's assistant athletic director, meticulously managing all 27 teams' schedules and game day management. He is equally adept behind a camera, having masterfully captured student life during his tenure. Amassing more than 770 wins over his 33-year tenure at head coach of the Lady Knights softball team, he is only one of two travel coaches named to the Amateur Softball Association's Hall of Fame. "It has been a good run," Orndorff recently said to the Arlington Catholic Herald. "I love sports and athletics, and coaching softball. It's been the best of all worlds for me."
Coach Orndorff made me want to work harder, play with more grit and value teammates. These are lessons I've carried with me through college, career, and with my family. – Class of 1995 Alumna
Patrice Connolly (religion teacher – 27 years) – Mrs. Connolly came to O'Connell as a 9th and 12th grade religion teacher in the fall of 1979, with the encouragement of Fr. Mark Pilon who was teaching religion at the time. Her name was Patrice Connelly when she arrived, but this is where she met her husband, Joe Connolly, who taught AP calculus and physics. They were married in 1982, and she only had to change one letter in her name! When their son was born in 1985, Mrs. Connolly became a stay-at-home mom, returning to the classroom in 1997. That fall her husband was diagnosed with cancer, passing away in early December after a 31-year career at the school. "The O'Connell community was incredibly supportive and we grieved together," said Mrs. Connolly. "Our son graduated from O'Connell in 2003, and this place has truly been a home to the Connollys!"
Mrs. Connolly began as a 9th and 12th grade religion teacher, but eventually transitioned to teaching mostly juniors and seniors. During her career at O'Connell, she served as a student council and yearbook moderator, and even had a short stint as a freshman cheerleading coach. She has also served as a member of the school's talented photography team, working closely with Coach Orndorff to cover school activities with dedication and care. "It has been my great privilege to share the beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith with my students," she said. "One of my great joys has been teaching the sons and daughters, nephews and nieces of my former students. I thought it best to retire before their grandchildren started to enroll and lower my class load to my own grandchildren, ages 4, 3, and 1." She is looking forward to seeing what God has in store for this next phase of her life.
I'll never forget the last day of Morality class, junior year, when Mrs. Connolly told us to close our books. She looked at us intently, and told us she taught us everything we needed to know to choose the good. We could never claim ignorance. I knew she was right and I felt the yoke of my faith, ever so gently, tethering me to our beloved a God and all His plans for me. – Class of 1982 Alumna
Mary Lou Wentzel (English teacher – 25 years) – Mrs. Wentzel first became involved at Bishop O'Connell as a PTO volunteer during the time her three children attended the school. "After getting to know many of the teachers, students and their parents, I knew this was the school where I wanted to teach," she said. Unfortunately, there were no openings in the English department initially, so Mrs. Wentzel waited it out, teaching at Thomas Jefferson for two years before finding the position she wanted at Bishop O'Connell. She taught Freshman English as well as Public Speaking, and has been a dedicated mentor to scores of students over the years who have entered civic speech and essay contests, earning nearly $20,000 in scholarships and prize money.
Mrs. Wentzel believed in my daughter, gave her the chance to challenge herself, became her mentor throughout--not to mention being her public speaking coach. Our daughter was honored and grateful to have her as her teacher, mentor, and someone she could confide in. – Class of 2019 Parent