NMU alumnus David O’Connor (BS 1996) received the President’s Leadership Award from the Michigan Irish-American Chamber of Commerce (MIACC) at its annual gala on March 13 in Detroit. Dignitaries who attended included the mayor of County Cork, Ireland. O’Connor is founder, past president and board member of the MIACC. The chamber works to advance the business, culture, education and civic welfare of Michigan citizens of Irish descent. It is part of Irish Network USA.
O’Connor is an IT security analyst at Ford Motor Company. He established the MIACC in 2012, after moving to metro Detroit for a new career opportunity.
“I was a VIP at the Oakland County International Airport when the governor commemorated the first 100 percent green terminal in the U.S. and noticed Asian-Pacific and Chaldean-American chambers represented there,” he said. “It made me wonder if there was an Irish ethnic chamber locally that I could join. I did a bunch of searches and found them in large metro areas like New York City and Boston, but not at all in Michigan. So I decided to start one. It has evolved from a local networking group to an influential organization well-respected by the Irish Embassy. I consider this award from the MIACC a great honor.”
O’Connor also received a surprise proclamation from the Consulate General of Ireland. It commended his distinguished service to the public and support for the Irish-American business community. “Your contribution to growing Irish-American heritage, culture and economic development through the founding of the Michigan Irish American Chamber of Commerce and your tenure as president has been exceptional,” it read.
The honors are impressive, considering that O’Connor at one time did not consider himself “college material.” He lacked direction as a teenager and did not perform well academically until his final two years of high school. But he became the first in his family to go to college when he enrolled as a right-to-try student at NMU.
“I didn’t know what career path I wanted, but it worked out well for me,” he said. “I graduated in four years with a B average and a major in psychology and minor in biology focusing on neuroscience. I still keep in touch with Professor John Renfrew. I worked in his psychology lab on research on the effects of Prozac on aggression in rats. He presented our data in France after I graduated.
“I didn’t do the project for grades, but because I was interested in the topic and John was open to my help. NMU is a student-focused university allowing for unique research opportunities. It’s small enough where you can go above and beyond to add experiences to your resume that stand out. My time there allowed me to grow and develop into a successful business professional and leader.”
It also introduced him to his future wife, Amy Edson (BS 95). They have been married 21 years and have three children. O’Connor later went on to earn an MBA and a master’s in cyber security from University of Detroit Mercy. He applies the latter at Ford, where he was recruited to assist with the last defense against cyber attacks.
“Ford is attacked over a million times a month. Our data is worth a lot of money, so we need to protect it. There are three different levels of defense. If there’s an effort to infiltrate and it elevates to our level, we set up a digital crime scene and investigate what happened so we can prevent it from happening again.”
The phrase “threat hunter” is also part of O’Connor’s title. In that capacity, he searches for vulnerabilities within the company network.