The Office of the Vice President for Undergraduate Studies at Syracuse University is a busy place. Its responsibilities include promoting and strengthening undergraduate curricula, instruction, and advising, as well as encouraging development of innovative interdisciplinary, inter-college, and all-University programs. In
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Judy O'Rourke fields a variety of assignments as administrative assistant to the vice president for undergraduate studies. Each year she is involved in the selection of the University's 35 Remembrance Scholars.
the thick of it all is Judy O'Rourke '75, administrative assistant to Ronald R. Cavanagh, vice president for undergraduate studies. On any given day, she might be training a new staff member, helping a student navigate the complexities of a Fulbright Scholarship application, or fielding reporters' telephone calls about the Pan Am 103 tragedy. Chancellor Kenneth A. Shaw recognized her work last year with the Chancellor's Award for Exceptional Service."
She is the consummate professional," Cavanagh says. "We've worked together for more than 10 years, and I haven't seen a project that Judy hasn't been able to handle. I view her as a partnerit's very difficult for me to look at a new challenge without including Judy in my perception of whether we can get the thing done."
O'Rourke has been associated with the University since she came to Syracuse from her native New Jersey in 1971. After graduation she worked in various campus offices, then left SU briefly before returning full time in 1981. She worked for Cavanagh when he was assistant dean and then interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and moved with him when he was named vice president for undergraduate studies in 1986.
A large part of her workand what she enjoys mostis helping students. "Sometimes they come to us with problems, but many times they need help with opportunities," she says. "Last year, a student who wrote a paper with a faculty member was invited to deliver that paper at a conference in Australia. It was a tremendous opportunity, but very few students have the wherewithal to get to Australia for three days. It was fun helping that student find funding to go."
One of the defining moments in O'Rourke's service to SU came during one of the University's darkest hoursthe 1988 terrorist bombing of Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The plane carried 35 students traveling home after studying through SU's Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA), which reports to Cavanagh's office. O'Rourke was assigned to act as liaison between the victims' parents and the University, sharing news her office received in the days following the tragedy and trying to console people who had suffered unspeakable loss. "I've never done anything as difficult in my life," she says. "But the one thing that's not often mentioned is the great deal of support and friendship I receive from these parents. They're amazing peopleit's a privilege to know them."
Each year O'Rourke helps select the University's 35 Remembrance Scholarsseniors honored for their achievements in memory of the bombing victims. "You meet and talk to a lot of really bright, exciting, interesting students," she says. O'Rourke also works closely with the two scholars from Lockerbie Academy who spend their first year of college at SU as part of a program established by the University and the Scottish community. "Working with the two Lockerbie Scholars is one of my favorite jobs," she says. "I'm sort of a surrogate mom, helping these kids come over each year. It's one of the nicer things to come out of a terrible tragedy."
She also co-chaired the committee that planned the University's 10th anniversary commemoration of the students. "That was a challenging time for SU," she says. "We wanted to recognize that these students have been gone for 10 years, while at the same time follow the University's mission to educate. It's not just about loss of life-the families have done a tremendous job improving airline safety. It was an opportunity to show that individuals can make a difference."
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