John T. “Jack” O’Connor, who spent more than three decades as a history professor at the University of New Orleans, died on Feb. 17, 11 months after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He was 78 years old.
O’Connor earned his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in 1965. He was an assistant history professor at the University of Wisconsin before joining the history department at the University of New Orleans in 1973. He taught courses in the French Revolution and Napoleon, 17th Century France and the Age of Louis XIV, among others. In 1984, he received the UNO Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.
The main focus of his research was international relations in Europe during the Ancien Régime. A Fulbright fellowship in Paris for two years and other research grants enabled him to work in European archives, including the Foreign Affairs archives at the Quai d’Orsay, the war archives at Vincennes, the Vatican Archives, the Royal Spanish archives in Simancas and many others. An early result of his research was his book, “Negotiator Out of Season: The Career of Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg 1629-1704,” published in 1982 by the University of Georgia Press. Articles and book reviews followed in scholarly journals in Europe, as well as in the U.S. and Canada. His later research interests focused on treason in the early modern era, especially in France and Spain, and on utopian projects for peace in the 17th century. His command of French, Spanish, German, Dutch and Italian was essential to the work he undertook throughout his career. Always open to exploring new perspectives, he travelled to Haiti in 2000. His experiences and contacts there led to articles and lectures on the Haitian revolutions of the 1790s and the achievement of independence from France in 1803.
O’Connor’s favorite non-academic reading consisted of detective novels and cookbooks. Several friends received frequent messages from him featuring recipes. He was initially indifferent to ballet, but his daughter’s career, first as a dancer at American Ballet Theatre and later as a dance photographer, turned him into a dedicated and knowledgeable lover of the art. Some of his happiest days were spent attending ballet performances in New York City and elsewhere. One of his most treasured experiences was seeing his daughter perform with A.B.T at the Palais Garnier in Paris in 1991.
O’Connor is survived by his brother, Dennis L. O’Connor, his sister, Teresa A. O’Connor, his ex-wife, Dolores J. Walker and their daughter, Rosalie O’Connor. No memorial service is planned.