Pezavia O’Connell holds the distinction of being Princess Anne Academy’s first principal with an earned doctorate and the institution’s first instructional leader of the 20th century.
O’Connell was born in Natchez, Miss., on March 2, 1861, some two months following Mississippi's secession from the Union prior to the start of the Civil War.
Before serving at the Academy, O’Connell earned a bachelor of divinity degree in 1888 from Gammon Theological Seminary, a Methodist Episcopal school in Atlanta, and a doctorate of philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1898.
His time in Princess Anne as the successor to Portia E. Lovett Bird resulted in few discernible changes. Between 1900 and 1902 under O'Connell, the Academy’s enrollment surpassed 100 students, yet no new buildings were constructed and the curriculum remained unchanged.
O’Connell, who never owned an automobile, was known to be frugal. Yet those who admired him said he gave freely of his time to students whom he believed yearned for higher learning and showed great promise.
After his brief stint as leader of Princess Anne Academy, O’Connell moved on to teach at Howard University in Washington and then at his alma mater, Gammon, before becoming head of the history department at Morgan College in 1920. O’Connell Hall, a men’s dormitory, was named in his honor on the Morgan campus in Baltimore.
O’Connell died Nov. 26, 1930 at age 69.
-- KIMBERLY CONWAY DUMPSON