Mark O’Brien ’95, Esq., jokes that he wanted to be a lawyer from the time he was a kid and realized he would not become the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees.
The summer after his junior year at Siena, the English major interned at O’Connell and Aronowitz, an Albany law firm, where he laid the foundation for a career in the courthouse.
O’Brien began his career as a Florida assistant district attorney in 1998. After prosecuting criminals for two-plus years, he joined a private practice as a defense attorney in Tampa and on January 1, 2003, he opened his own law firm, O’Brien, Hatfield, Teal, P.A. He primarily practices in federal court, trying cases in Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia this past year.
O’Brien established The James M. and Sandra L. O’Brien Family Scholarship at Siena in honor of his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, which was celebrated on Saturday.
Part of O’Brien’s reason for giving back is that he was a scholarship recipient. He received $500 from the Morrell Family Scholarship in 1994-95, supplementing the money earned from his summer job and student loans.
“I’ve always wanted to do this, in part to honor my family, my parents that sacrificed so much for me, but also to pay it forward because of what the Morrells did for me,” O’Brien said.
In O’Brien’s thank you letter to Jim ’66 and Kathy Morrell, which is dated September 2, 1994, he wrote “I hope to be able to act as selfless as you someday and help future needy and worthy Siena students.”
The Morrells are proud that O’Brien, one of their many scholarship recipients, has gone on to a successful career, even though his dream job is held by a fellow alumnus, Derek Jeter H’12.
“It’s kind of like one of your children doing something fabulous,” Kathy said.
Siena’s Morrell Science Center is named for Jim and Kathy. They donated to that project and have also established the Morrell Scholarship for Broadcast Journalism and Communications.
“It validates the word education,” Jim said. “He received and he quite explicitly said that he was willing to consider doing that in the future when he had the opportunity. It’s just so good to think that, through education and example, that we learn.”
Scholarships can be established with a minimum gift of $30,000 payable over five years.