Monday, March 10, 2014

Remembering Dave O'Brien

On March 1, Dave O’Brien passed away after a long fight with cancer at the age of 57. Drexel University lost a professor. Drexel Sport Management lost the one who built up the program. Temple, Long Beach State and Northeastern lost a former director of athletics. Students and faculty everywhere lost a teacher, a mentor, and most of all a friend.

Here are some reflections students of Drexel made of Dave O’Brien:

“Professor O’Brien was an amazing professor. I looked forward to taking more classes with him, because the amount of knowledge he had regarding Sport Law. He always helped me clearly understand anything I had trouble sorting out in my head when it came to the different cases and laws in sports. He liked to joke, and made the class laugh a lot. I enjoyed going to his class, and you can tell how much he cared about every one of his students. I will truly miss him and I wish I had the pleasure of taking more than just one class with him.”
-Jourdan Skirha

“Professor O’Brien was an inspiration to all his students. I honestly would not be on the career path I am today if it weren’t for him. I started out in Sports Management not entirely sure what exactly I wanted to do with my degree when I graduated, but after taking just one term of the many law classes he taught I knew sports law was going to be apart of my future career. I always looked forward to going to class to hear his many stories of being the AD at Northeastern, Temple, and Long Beach State, and being 8 for 8 in winning court cases (which he would never let you forget). Professor O’Brien will truly be missed in the Drexel community, but his memory and the impact he had on his students will live on.”
-Hayley McKnight

“I will never forget Professor O'Brien's smile. Even when he wasn't feeling well he would always walk into class with a smile from ear to ear. One time I brought a recruit to his class who was interested in legal studies. I introduced him to her before class started and he immediately took her under his wing. Throughout the class he made sure to include her or explain things that we had previously talked about to make sure she understood too. This happened to be the class where we were talking about his famous Northeastern vs UMass case, which everyone knows he was very passionate about. The way he provided insight and shared his first hand experiences really made it feel like we lived through the case with him! After class, our recruit looked at me and said, "WOW! Are all of the professors here that awesome?" My classmates and I laughed and said, "Nope, he is one of a kind!" He always had a way of adding comedy to the cases we talked about which is one reason I really enjoyed going to class! He will truly be missed.”
-Ainslie Rhoads

“As a transfer student at Drexel I didn’t have the typical “Welcome to Sport Management!” intro that some of the other students had. I came to Drexel on sort of a blind faith that a school with a great reputation would logically have great professors. Never in my mind did I believe I would meet a person as great as David O’Brien. I first met Professor O’Brien at some sort of sport management introduction event. I was getting something to drink and he just pulled me to the side out of nowhere. We went through the formal introduction tango and after he proceeded to ask me about what I wanted to do within sports. We eventually ended up talking about my hometown area, due his family and friends connection in that area, but I’ve never met someone who had a legitimate interest in a student they didn’t know prior. Sadly I only got to take one sports law class with Professor O’Brien, but it was one of the most intriguing and educational classes I’ve ever taken. Dave O’Brien will always be a highly respected man in the industry, and I personally thank him for the time he shared with me.”
-Zachary Cintron

“Professor O’Brien was one of my favorite professors I had at Drexel.  He taught me many life lessons that were both funny and serious.  There are definitely a lot of stories that I could tell you from my classroom experiences with him but what made the biggest and most lasting impression on me was his dedication to his students.  O’Brien challenged you in every class but did it in a way that allowed you to get the most out of the subject.  He was tough both in the classroom and out but was always willing to help you.  I will always remember the toughness he showed during this past fall term.  He did everything in his power to make it to class even when he wasn’t feeling that well.  He still wanted to be able to teach us.  I hope that I will be able to have the same kind of dedication to my career as Professor O’Brien had.”
-Gregory Monforte

“I can definitely say I was very fortunate to take classes taught by Professor Dave O’Brien and had the luxury to listen to him speak.  Dave was extremely knowledgeable about sport and the law as well as collegiate athletics as a whole.  As a freshman at Drexel, I took Sport Law and NCAA Compliance classes that were taught by Dave.  It was because of him that I have fallen in love with not only law, but with collegiate sport itself.  During those classes, he really made me think and brought the best out of my decision-making abilities in order to be successful in the future and to follow my dreams.  Thank you Professor O’Brien for motivating me to do my best and showing me what I consider my “dream job.”  RIP Dave, I hope you are taking grounders on the infield again up in heaven!”
-Micah Sokolsky

“Professor O’Brien was the heart and soul of Drexel Sport Management. I first met him my sophomore year while taking his Sports Law class. He had an uncanny ability to get the most out of his students. He in each student and pushed our ideas to the limit. He opened my eyes up to different areas of the sports industry that I was not aware of. He was a great leader and better person.”
-Tommy May

“My favorite story about Professor O'Brien was when he told his classes that he was undefeated in the court room.  Although he never really went into more detail than that, I always thought him saying that was one of the funniest thing and it always made me laugh.  It's just not something usually brag about, being sued multiple times, and winning.  For Professor O'Brien however, he was able to make a joke out of it, as he could do with most other things.  Although Professor O'Brien did find the comical side in this story, the fact that he was actually "undefeated" proved to me that he knew about the law and that he was a great professor to learn from about sport law, and law in general.”
-Travis Sheehan

“Professor O’Brien was better than most. I have many moments that I remember, but what really made Dave amazing was how he connected with everyone he met. No matter what the situation or circumstance, he had the uncanny ability to make you feel like you could tell him anything and you never wanted to disappoint him. The thing I have learned most from Professor O’Brien is priorities. He was always a family man first and I can only hope to mimic that when I have my own family. Secondly, he recognized the importance and joy of helping other achieve their dreams. Even till his last days he practiced this and I only hope I can apply those same characteristics as I go on in my life. Professor O’Brien was one of the best and will be missed by all.”
-Michael Proska

"Dave O'Brien was more than just a professor and Program Director to the students of Drexel Sport Management. The man was a leader in the professional world and in the class room; he was a conduit for the growth of everyone around him. I was lucky enough to learn from Professor O'Brien and I want to thank him for his incredible dedication and his contagious personality. Professor O'Brien did not only build this program from the ground up, he was and continues to be the heart of Drexel Sport Management. Thank you, Dave."

-Kevin Murray

“Professor O'Brien always extended a helping hand to students. He helped me gain valuable insight into the inner workings of college athletic departments that helped me form better opinions for different stories I wrote. Most importantly, he taught me how to be a leader. One of the biggest leadership lessons that I learned from him was if you need to tell somebody who or what you are, then you are not what you say you are. If you lead the right way, people will know who you are and what you stand for. He pushed you to realize who you are, understand who you are and live it. The resilience he showed throughout his battle was truly inspiring, and I hope to fight through any challenges that I am faced with in my life as graciously as Professor O'Brien did.”
-Kevin Rossi

“Calling Professor O'Brien a mentor is an understatement. He served as a guiding light, always giving fantastic advice in my collegiate and professional careers. He was a man with extraordinary depth of knowledge in sports law and collegiate athletics, never afraid of using his gift of expert storytelling to supplement coursework.

Among many Professor O’Brien teachings that will stick with me indefinitely, here are two that bubble to the top. First, he was a staunch proponent that, “You’re hired to be fired.” Nothing in life is permanent, there is always a circumstance where one is asked to leave a position or departs on their own accord. It drives home the point that one ought to appreciate the opportunities they have.
Second, his approach to leadership was one of modeling and inspiring through tough love. When an employee makes a misstep, Professor O’Brien would say “Put your arm around them, softly tell them it’s OK, then kick ‘em in the shins.” While comical, it’s a reminder that mistakes will be made, but there should be an expectation that they should not repeat themselves.
In closing, it ought to be noted that Professor O’Brien held the Sport Management Student Union (SMTSU) in high regard, closely following our activities with leadership and faculty advisors. He repeatedly praised the work of the organization in supplementing coursework by bringing students together and connecting them to the industry as a whole.

The loss of Professor O’Brien is a massive one, yet we must take solace in realizing his legacy lives on in the colleagues and students he touched on his journey through life.”
-Kevin Giordano

“One of my favorite moments from having Dave O'Brien in class was his story about Long Beach State Football. We have heard so many stories from him from all of his past jobs but Every time we discussed Long beach state he was sure to remind us that he single-handedly was responsible for creating the careers of Terrell Davis and mike McCoy. The tough decision he made to eliminate the football program sent them on to other universities and helping them make it to the NFL. Could he be joking or is he serious? Either way it is funny every time I think of it because he told every story with such passion, excitement, and decades worth of knowledge. He will truly be missed by us all.”
-Ryan Cuttler

“Professor O’Brien went above and beyond his job description as a professor. Through his lectures, through his anecdotes he engaged, challenged, and stimulated his students. In doing so, he managed to instill virtues of fairness, patience, and humility.”
-Matt Puzio

“I had the pleasure of taking four of Professor Dave O’Brien’s courses during my time at Drexel. Many upperclassmen warned us about what an O’Brien class entailed: long readings, long papers and long written exams that left your hand aching for hours. And wouldn’t you know it; they were right! But the thing about taking those courses is that from all the work we put in, he made sure we got even more out of them. He promoted critical thinking in and out of the classroom, and was always able to get the best out of his students. I will always appreciate how he was able to build up the Sport Management program, as well as everything he did in the scope of collegiate athletics during his career. Thank you, Professor O’Brien.”
-Bryan Fyalkowski

“Professor O’Brien was one of my favorite professors. Professor O’Brien was more than just a professor, however, he was a friend. After almost every class, he would ask me how I was doing and how my internship was going. On other days we would just talk about any current sport topic that was in the media and he would share his opinion on the topic with me. I will never forget the conversations I had with Professor O’Brien and the wisdom he shared with me. I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a sports agent in the future and taking his class definitely confirmed this for me. Other than being a good teacher and a good friend, Professor O’Brien was just a bright light of a human being. In closing, professor O’Brien has taught me life lessons that I will never forget. He stressed never bunting and always swinging for the fences. Thank you, Professor O’Brien for everything. You will be missed by us all!”
-Lindrit Shkodra

It is easy to see the impact he had on every one and everything he touched. He was the heart of the Drexel Sport Management program and the friend and professor of Drexel Students who took his classes. We will all miss you Dave.

I'd like to end with a quote from one of his sons at the burial this past saturday, "being a sports guy let me describe my dad by using stats. He would want me to mention that during the 6.5 years he fought cancer, he had 6 wedding anniversaries with the love of his life, watched 2 of his sons graduate college and one from law school, saw 2 sons get married and won 4 golf tournaments. Those are the stats he would prefer. Shows how competitive he was but also how much of a family man he was." 


Lindrit Shkodra is originally from Diber, Macedonia but lives in Maple Shade, NJ. He is a sophomore in the Sports Management program and is currently the Treasurer of the Drexel Sport Management Student Union. He currently works for KCB Sports Marketing. In the past, he has work experience with Ron Jaworski's Celebrity Golf Challenge and Ridgewells Catering at the 2013 U.S. Open.  Follow Lindrit on Twitter @LindritShkodra.

Connect with Lindrit Shkodra on LinkedIn

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