Alumnus O’Connor ’91 Shares Business Experience with Eberly Students

Posted on 4/2/2015 4:14:50 PM

John O'Connor '91 (second from left) with Dr. Lipinski and students.On March 26, 2015, John Lipinski’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class welcomed back Eberly Class of 1991 alumnus John O’Connor. He spoke about career strategies and how one keeps their eyes open for entrepreneurial opportunities. O’Connor was a marketing major, and his degree has taken him not only across the United States, but also abroad. 

Upon graduation, he joined Philadelphia-based Progress Lighting, and after a brief training period became their national sales representative in California and Nevada. As he developed his skills, he was offered a plum assignment with General Electric. He turned it down to pursue a more entrepreneurial venture with his brother in Hungary, where they were working to grow a new publication in the new post-communism era, the Budapest Business Journal.

Under his brother, O’Connor led the company’s sales efforts and helped to finance the endeavor by selling $1 million worth of advertising in the first year. As their venture grew, the brothers expanded and subsequently launched the Warsaw Business Journal in Poland and the Prague Business Journal in the Czech Republic. All three are still well respected magazines in their respective countries.

After helping to grow the business in Eastern Europe, O’Connor decided it was time to return to the U.S. After a brief stint in the insurance business in Philadelphia, O’Connor moved to the Washington D.C. area and became the sales manager for Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath. In that booming real estate market, O’Connor rose to become the top grossing sales manager for Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath. However, he was unfulfilled.

While in the District, he married Lori (Vetro) O’Connor, also an IUP alumna. He told the class that one night he said to his wife, “I hate this job. Imagine how well I would do if I liked it.” Together they decided to search for a place to raise their family and an industry that would be more in tune with O’Connor’s values. Through a series of events affecting his parents, O’Connor decided that he wanted to pursue a position in the reverse mortgage business, and they decided that Charlottesville, Va. would be the city to call home. O’Connor landed a position with Wells Fargo and began learning the reverse mortgage business.

In 2008, as the regulatory environment in the banking industry was becoming more challenging, many lenders began exiting the reverse mortgage business. O’Connor saw this as an opportunity. Even though many of his mentors in the industry suggested that it was not the best idea, he decided to open his own reverse mortgage business. Today, O’Connor owns his own business and refers to himself both as the branch manager and his adopted television persona, “The Reverse Mortgage Doctor.”

Thanks to his heavy television advertising, he commented that his kids think it is funny how often he is stopped on the street, as he is recognized by many of his neighbors. Starting the American Nationwide Mortgage Company, now the 30th-largest reverse mortgage company in the U.S., has allowed O’Connor to realize not only financial success, but also allowed him to enjoy what is most important to him; his family. As an entrepreneur he has the flexibility to arrange his schedule so he can be involved with his children, Danny, 15 and Katie, 12, and limit his travel away from family. This is a luxury that he did not have as a corporate employee, even though he now operates in 39 states.

John Lipinski

Eberly College of Business and Information Technology