Skip to Main Content
Make a Difference Giving to Michigan State University

Hometown Help


Growing up in St. Louis, James O’Connor, ’17, knew two things: he wanted to be an engineer and he wanted to work in the automotive industry. The more he looked around at schools, the clearer it became: Michigan State University was the right place for him.

Not only was the College of Engineering the perfect place to continue his studies, being in Michigan would set him up nicely for a career in the automotive industry. 

Many college students change majors or career paths once they get to school. That was not a problem for O’Connor, whose classes only reaffirmed that he wanted to work with cars. “MSU ended up being the most perfect place for me,” O’Connor said. “I never felt more at home anywhere my entire life.”

The problem for O’Connor was affording school. O’Connor was homeless as a teenager. Paying for school wasn’t going to be easy. 

MSU alumni from his hometown changed everything for O’Connor. The Greater St. Louis MSU Alumni Club awarded him a scholarship that made graduating from MSU a possibility. On Give Green Day, alumni clubs all throughout the country fundraise for scholarships like the one awarded to O’Connor. 

O’Connor shared his story with the MSU Community four years ago, when he was still in school. He still had dreams of working in the auto industry.

Today, those dreams are a reality. O’Connor is two years into his professional career. He lives in Hazel Park and took a job at General Motors as a Performance Engineer. There, he’s doing hands-on testing with vehicles, testing new products—whether it’s working on Cadillac sedans or other GM vehicles. “Driving to work every day, I feel foturnate to be with GM and working in vehicle performance,” O’Connor said. 

O’Connor is living what he calls his “dream life” right now, only two years out of school. He is able to travel more—Honduras was his favorite vacation spot of the last two years—and he got himself a 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo to toy around with.

He believes it wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarships from the Greater St. Louis Alumni Club.

“I wake up feeling so lucky every day,” he said. “I don't have to stress over the small stuff that I used to stress over—I’m not worried about heating bills and stuff like that that used to stress me out. The alumni club, may not know, they've given me my entire life. They've given me peace of mind, happiness. No ‘Thank you’ can go far enough in terms of what those scholarships meant to me.” 

O’Connor is one of many Spartans to be impacted by an alumni club scholarship. He is also hopeful he won’t be the last. 

“I have this degree now, and I can start working to become financially empowered,” he said. “Then I can go ahead and pass it along to the next generation of upcoming Spartans.”

Support an alumni club scholarship on Give Green Day

For more, go to

Author: Liam Boylan-Pett