A native Victorian, Michael loved to fly kites as a youngster and, as a result, earned the nickname of “Benj” - short for Benjamin Franklin. That nickname has stayed with him his whole life and he is still called “Benj” today by his close friends.
Michael got his start in rugby at age 20 while attending University of Victoria. In 2011, he was inducted into the University of Victoria Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the 1970-71 men's rugby team that won the Vikes first Rounsefell Cup in team history, their fourth consecutive Barnard Cup and the Pacific Northwest Intercollegiate conference title in the same season.
He went on to play for UBC while attending Law School and finished his rugby career at James Bay Athletic Association (JBAA) where, at the age of 37, he finally hung up his cleats. He began an illustrious career in sport administration in 1979 as Director and then President of the JBAA, the oldest athletic association in western Canada and perennial BC Rugby Union First Division Champions.
During the 1980s, he was President of the Vancouver Island Rugby Union and BC Rugby Union and was responsible for the development of rugby throughout BC. In 1987, he became Vice-President of Canada’s World Cup rugby team working towards Canada’s participation in the first Rugby World Cup slated for Australia/ New Zealand.
From 1990 to 1995, Michael was Vice Chair, Board of Governors, 1994 Commonwealth Games – the largest sporting event ever staged in Victoria. In 1991, he brought his passion for sport to the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame (GVSHOF) and, as Chair, was responsible for implementing the first home of the GVSHOF at Saanich Commonwealth Place. In 2009, he was recognized as an Honourary Life Member for his contribution to the organization.
In early 2000, Michael became Director, Canadian Rugby Union – Rugby Canada and in 2001, he was elected Vice-President responsible for implementing a business plan for Rugby Canada to enable Canadian rugby teams to compete internationally on a sustained basis.
In addition to Michael’s many sporting achievements, he has served his community with distinction in many capacities including Honourary Chair, Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Greater Victoria 2009; President, BC Government House Foundation 2010 to present; and, Chair, Greater Victoria Hospital Foundation’s Capital Campaign 2001-2004 and Chair, GVHF Board of Directors 1997 -2001.
Michael has been recognized many times for his outstanding leadership, commitment to sport, and his exemplary citizenship and public service in support of the community. His numerous awards include 1997 Victoria Sports Person of the Year and 1999 Victoria Citizen of the Year. In 2002 and 2012 he received Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Medals and, in 2012, the Vice-Regal Commendation from the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
Michael “Benj” O’Connor is truly a deserving individual to be inducted into the Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame.
SPONSORED BY RUGBY CANADA