Independent Sector has announced that Brian O'Connell, its founding president and CEO, has died at the age of 81.
O'Connell spent much of his life advancing the issues of the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. Prior to becoming president of IS in 1980, he served as national director of the National Mental Health Association for twelve years, during which time he was the founding chair of the National Committee on Patients' Rights and helped organize CIVICUS: World Alliance for Civic Participation. He then became president of the National Council of Philanthropy and executive director of the Coalition of National Voluntary Organizations, which merged to form IS after nearly two years of planning and preparation, with John W. Gardner serving as founding chair.
O'Connell retired in 1995 and went on to serve on the boards of the Bridgespan Group and the Cape Cod Foundation. He wrote fourteen books, including a memoir, Fifty Years in Public Causes: Stories From a Road Less Traveled, and Civil Society: The Underpinnings of American Democracy.
"Brian O'Connell offered the sector and the nation a wonderful gift, and we would not be where we are today without his vision and leadership," said Diana Aviv, president and CEO of IS, in a statement on the IS Web site. "He was passionate about building the sector and, through his work and insight, advanced research and education that helped to create the next generation of leadership. We will always be grateful for his service to our organization, our sector, and our country."