Daniel J. O’Connell, M. Ed., Coach, Contributor: Athletics 1974-
When Daniel J. O’Connell, M. Ed. was hired to teach business and math courses for Brewer High School in 1974, he continued an extraordinary career as a teacher and coach and spearheaded multiple efforts to improve the athletic facilities for the School Department and City of Brewer. These efforts have had and continue to have a significant positive impact on Brewer’s student athletes and citizens.
O’Connell, a 1967 graduate of John Bapst Memorial High School, began his professional career in education and his lifelong commitment to students in the fall of 1967 coaching football then basketball and track at Bapst. After obtaining his B.S. in Business Education in 1972 from Husson College, he began teaching business classes. For his athletic accomplishments as a football player and coach while at Bapst, O’Connell, was inducted in 2015 into the John Bapst Athletic Hall of Fame.
O’Connell was hired at Brewer High School in 1974 to teach business and math subjects. During his 20 years as a teacher, he earned his master’s degree in Educational Administration in 1997 from the University of Maine and was also the recipient of the 1990 Brewer High School Distinguished Teacher Award. From 1994 until his retirement in 2007, he served as Brewer High School’s Assistant Principal. Within his 33-year career at Brewer, he served in many athletic capacities from assistant coach at various times for football, basketball and baseball to head coach for several sports including Boys’ and Girls’ Track & Field from 1975 to 1979, Varsity Football from 1987 to 1993, and Varsity Boys’ Basketball from 1976 to 1981. In addition to his career in education, O’Connell has been a baseball umpire for 38 years and continues to umpire several games each spring.
O’Connell developed a deep passion for service to the students and citizens of Brewer. With an eagerness and a vision for improving facilities, grounds and other multiple venues, he has volunteered for over 40 years serving on numerous committees, including the Brewer School Department District Trustees, which have resulted in the improvement of existing facilities and the construction of new facilities within the City of Brewer.
O’Connell was part of a group that created, planned and oversaw the construction of the current Coffin Softball Field and the Heddericg Baseball Field which originally were simply wooded parcels of land behind Brewer High School. Widely regarded as the best high school softball field in Maine, Coffin Field serves as the Maine Principals’ Association site for Northern Maine regional softball championships and state championships. O’Connell along with several other community members embarked on a fundraising effort to secure a new memorial stone for Heddericg Baseball Field and in 2012 rededicated the field in honor of its namesake, longtime Brewer baseball coach Charlie Heddericg (2016 Brewer Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee).
O’Connell was at the forefront of one of the largest construction projects Brewer has ever seen with the construction of the Brewer Community School which replaced five aging elementary and middle school buildings. Opened in 2011, the new Brewer Community School serves students grades Pre-K through 8 and is the largest Elementary/Middle School in the State of Maine. Part of the Community School project included a new, state-of-the-art, track and soccer complex. As chairman of the District Trustees, O’Connell was tasked with completing the athletic component of the school facility project. Under O’Connell’s leadership, a “jumbotron” style scoreboard was erected, funds were secured to increase the original community track surface from 6-lanes to 8-lanes and a large grandstand was constructed for track and soccer spectators. All of these added upgrades to the complex were necessary in order for Brewer to secure hosting opportunities for state track & field meets. Within the track community, Brewer is regarded as “the best” facility to host track meets.
O’Connell was also part of a commission that ensured the transfer of ownership of the five former school facility grounds from the jurisdiction of the school department to the City of Brewer. O’Connell, and the commission, felt it was very important that these grounds remain Parks and Recreation areas for community and youth use. Since this transfer, each of these areas has been developed, or improved, for community use. Additionally, O’Connell was part of a group that renamed the Maple Street Park facility in memory of longtime Brewer youth supporters Shirley “Slip” Corey (2017 Brewer Athletic Hall of Fame Inductee), George Corey, Robert DeBeck, and Louis Morelli. The athletic field at Maple Street Park is now referred to as “Corey, Morrelli & DeBeck Field.”
As chair of the Trustees, O’Connell also oversaw two phases of renovations at Brewer High School that equaled over $12,000,000 between 2013 and 2016. These renovations improved the educational experience for all students at Brewer High School. Athletic improvements included replacement of the 50+ year old gymnasium floor, improved concessions and restroom space for home events and construction of our Athletic Hall of Fame in the main lobby. Dan O’Connell was a major influence in the creation, construction and maintenance of our Athletic Hall of Fame display. Since July of 2019, he is serving as chairperson of the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee. Also beginning in 2019, O’Connell is part of a project whose goal is to replace the Heddericg Baseball Field area with a new, state-of-the-art, multi use artificial turf surface which will enable multiple athletic activities at one time.
Dan O’Connell’s service to the students and the citizens of Brewer have marked a career of servant leadership. His ability to organize people for a common effort, his vision to see the bigger picture and his passion to get the job done have greatly contributed to and continue to impact not only athletics at Brewer High School but recreation in the entire Brewer community. His legacy of service has served as an inspiration to his entire family particularly his younger brother Kevin, former Mayor and present Brewer City Council Member, who nominated O’Connell for Hall of Fame induction.