Alumnus Embraced by College as ‘Military Friendly’ 68 Years Ago

After serving in the Combat Engineers Army for three years, Tom O’Connor returned to Keyser, W.Va. in 1946 with his new wife, Thelma, whom he’d met while they were on a double-date with other people. According to Tom, he and Jasper Morris (a future chemistry professor at PSC) had just returned from the war and were wondering if they should enroll in college with the newly created GI Bill, or if at the ripe age of 22, they were already too old to attend college!

Tom and Thelma

Tom and Thelma O’Connor just after WWII ended and around the time they married.

As they sat on the front steps of the Administration Building and watched people they knew heading to class, they both decided that they were just as smart as the students they recognized and if these kids could make it in college, they could too.

After attending Potomac State, Tom continued his education at Wichita University where he earned a bachelor’s degree and at WVU where he earned his master’s degree. “I had as good a caliber of teachers at Potomac State as I had anywhere,” said Tom. “The instructors and staff at the College really worked with us vets whenever we needed help. Even the students helped, tutoring us in math so we didn’t fall behind. The younger students always made us feel accepted.”

Thelma also became involved with the College when she was hired to work with the many vets returning to college after the war. She served in this position for six months before being transferred to the library where she served for 29 years.

After Tom once again returned to Keyser in 1955, he went on to teach math at Ridgeley High School where he coached football, basketball and track as well. He later went on to teach math at Keyser High School where he served as an assistant football coach and the head basketball coach before retiring in 1983.

“I read in the paper that Potomac State was officially named a ‘Military Friendly’ college by Victory Media (a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that serves as a national media entity for military personnel transitioning into civilian life) in Fall 2013. But I can tell you from experience that Potomac State was military friendly back in 1946 when I enrolled after the war,” said Tom.


Tom and Thelma O’Connor in 2013 for the celebration of his 90th birthday.