March 1, 2014 at 12:53 pm

College Mourns John O’Donnell, Systems Programmer in Accelerator Lab

John Edward O’Donnell Jr., 56, died of a heart attack in his home Feb. 14. He was a Systems Programmer in the Edwards Accelerator Laboratory with the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Ohio University.

“John was a key employee within Edwards,” says Dr. David Ingram, Professor and Chair of Physics & Astronomy. “He was the gas cell guru. He was the go-to operator for the accelerator. He could run a beam when others seemed not to be able to do it. He was a computer expert but one that could help you. He would remember that ‘Dr Lane said …,’ and that is the way we did it.

Inside Edwards Accelerator

Inside Edwards Accelerator

“He was someone that I enjoyed talking to, and I could always get a thoughtful response from John on so many subjects,” continues Ingram. “We would talk about news items. We would talk about BBC Radio programs; he had a computer streaming radio shows, usually BBC comedy shows. He got most of the jokes, but occasionally I had to explain some quirk of the English to him.

“But John was more than just an expert in his field. He was also a person you could turn to for help, as many who knew him in Amesville found. John was a person who brought light to my life, and I am sure to many others. He has added so much to life in Southeast Ohio. I am so grateful that I knew John O’Donnell.”

Don Roth, Systems Administrator in the department, notes that “John shared his skills and knowledge without expecting anything in return.”

“His life was a collection of skills and relationships, and we  have a small piece of him with us, usually a different piece. I will always remember the generous man with the boyish grin on his face when we exchanged terrible puns and jokes.”

“With an analytical mind,” Roth adds, “he often  saw things in different ways than normal folks, and his way of looking at the world is a talent that I will always remember. John was  willing  to give help and guidance with work-related tasks, and always had a smile. I will miss him, and to quote Dr. Ingram, ‘My life is better having known him.’”

O’Donnell was a graduate of Bethel Park (PA) High School, a member of National Honor Society, an exchange student in England, and summer programs at Carnegie-Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh. He attended Ohio University and continued there, working in the Edwards Accelerator Laboratory.

He was active in Amesville civic activities having served on town council, was a volunteer fireman with the Ames-Bern Fire Department, and was a certified paramedic.

A memorial service was held on Saturday, March 1, at the Amesville Grange. Donations can be made to Friends of Shelter Dogs,, the Ohio University Physics Department at 740-593-1712, or the Ames-Bern Amesville Volunteer Fire Department PO Box 89, Amesville, OH 45711.

Please share a memory, a note of condolence or sign the online registerbook at

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