Public Affairs Photographer Honored for Teaching

National association recognizes more than 20 years in front of a class

October 17 , 2006
By Pam McLaren

Forty years ago, Patrick O’Donnell was a photojournalist student at Cal State Long Beach, snapping photos of baseball and basketball games, theater productions and club events — including an elephant race held down the road at Cal State Fullerton. Little did he visualize what would happen in his future.
Since those collegiate days, he has been on scene with a camera and a smile for the full gamut of photojournalism: city council meetings, groundbreakings, crime scenes and society galas. He has captured the mundane to the amazing: the glee of a senior citizen watching a belly dancer, a UC Davis professor playing for a horde of bees as they cover him from head to toe and Bill Russell spoiling a shot by Wilt Chamberlain at the 1969 NBA championships.
Along the way, O’Donnell has photographed eight U.S. presidents, including Richard Nixon speaking to a crowd at the El Toro Marine Base after his resignation from the presidency. He was there when Lyndon Johnson spoke at UCI’s groundbreaking ceremonies and when candidate Jimmy Carter campaigned through Orange County.
O’Donnell covered President Ronald Reagan speaking at Cal State Fullerton in 1988, and later, as the photographer for Cal State Fullerton’s Public Affairs Office, he traveled to Washington, D.C., with Titan baseball teams to record their celebration as national champions with Bill Clinton, in 1995, and George W. Bush, in 2005.
And for more than 20 years, he also taught other young, aspiring photographers how to capture the moment, the emotion, the news — at Cal State Fullerton and Orange Coast College.
Although he carries a slew of awards for his efforts in the field, this month, O’Donnell will be recognized for his work in the classroom. During the National Press Photographer Association’s 49th annual Flying Short Course on campus, O’Donnell will join four California photojournalism faculty “whose students have set the tone and quality of western newspaper photojournalism for years.”
“Patrick O'Donnell swept onto campus in 1983 and joined our photo faculty with all the passion and intensity of a spot-news photographer on location with a tight deadline,” remembers Dave DeVries, professor of communications. “He seemed to know everybody in the world of photojournalism and they knew him back! Within months of joining our faculty, O'Donnell established a student chapter of the National Press Photographer's Association and organized many student contests.
“Pat taught and led his students with warmth, energy, respect for the profession, passion and compassion. With Pat’s energy the photocommunications program thrived and we graduated some of the best photojournalists in the country,” DeVries says. “O’Donnell left full-time teaching at CSUF in 1990 but remains actively involved with our campus. Pat O'Donnell is a big-handed guy that is universally loved as a big-hearted man.”


Patrick O'Donnell
Patrick O'Donnell