A Lifetime of Learning: John McDonnell Audits Courses at FSU

A Lifetime of Learning: John McDonnell Audits Courses at FSU

Mar 30, 2016

A long and successful career as a developer and project manager at a variety of cutting edge companies left Dover, MA resident John McDonnell with little spare time to pursue his other interests, such as classical music, computer sciences, art, and other subjects.

So when he retired in 1999, he went straight to Framingham State and signed up to audit a music course taught by the former department chair, Josephine Reiter.

“She was just a gem!” McDonnell says. “I took every course she taught and wish there were more.”

Course auditing allows a person to pay a reduced rate to sit in on a class for a semester, without receiving a grade or credit. After Reiter retired, McDonnell began auditing courses in other subjects, such as art, German, oceanography, and film.

“I look for courses that I find useful and interesting,” McDonnell says. “I also look for professors who are engaging, willing to have auditors and don’t ask too much of them.”

After auditing a web page development course with Professor Connie Breuning, McDonnell designed a Web site for his brother-in-law’s company, which is up and running to this day. He supplemented his web development skills with graphic design courses taught by Professor Laura Osterweis in the Communication Arts Department.

“John faithfully attended every class,” says Osterweis. “His motivation and dedication to learning are truly an inspiration.”

McDonnell, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics from Boston College and a Master’s Degree in Industrial Management from MIT, still audits one course a semester to this day. His continued pursuit of education follows a fascinating career that began in the mid-‘50s learning how to program mainframe computers developed by General Electric. Next he worked as a Field Engineer for a small Cambridge firm maintaining equipment flown in U-2 spy planes. One of them was recently featured in the Oscar nominated film Bridge of Spies.

His work on the U-2 included assignments in Texas, Japan, and Turkey, and gave him the opportunity to travel around the world. It was one of the best jobs he ever had. “The experience was thrilling,” McDonnell says. He went on to work at high-tech companies such as Raytheon, RCA, and Digital Equipment. He also co-founded and played major roles in two start-up companies.

His advice to students today is to understand the value of networking, which helped him land many of his jobs. Also, enjoy your work, and deliver the very best products and services you can. Another piece of advice would be that the pursuit of knowledge should not end at graduation.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” McDonnell says of his time auditing course at FSU. “I’ve learned a lot and I’ve had a wonderful time doing it.”

About Framingham State University

Framingham State University was founded in 1839 as the nation’s first public university for the education of teachers. Since that time, it has evolved into a vibrant, comprehensive liberal arts institution offering small, personalized classes on a beautiful New England campus. Today, the University enrolls more than 6,000 students with 58 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences and professional fields. As a State College and University (SCU), Framingham State prides itself on quality academic programs, affordability, and commitment to access for all qualified students.