Former Penn professor and Penn Museum curator David Bourke O’Connor has died at 84 after a long illness.
O’Connor formerly served as a professor of archaeology and ancient Egyptian history and as a curator of the Penn Museum's Egyptian collection, according to the Penn Almanac. He is survived by his wife, Gulbun O’Connor, former associate ombudsman at Penn; and his daughters, 1996 College graduate Katherine O’Connor and 1993 College graduate Aisha O’Connor.
O'Connor was born in Sydney and first came to Penn in 1964 as both a staff and faculty member. He worked as an assistant curator-in-charge of the Egyptian section of the Penn Museum and an instructor of Egyptology in the department then known as Oriental Studies — now the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
After receiving his Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Cambridge in 1969, O’Connor returned to Penn as an assistant professor and, in 1974, he became an associate professor.
During his time with the Penn Museum, he curated many exhibits — both at the Penn Museum and traveling exhibits. He also led excavations at Abydos and Malkata, according to the Almanac. O’Connor served as research coordinator for the curatorial and research sections of the Penn Museum after winning the Guggenheim Fellowship. His work was often featured in the Penn Museum’s publication, Expedition magazine.
In 1985, O’Connor was honored with a Medal of Merit from Taiwan’s National Museum of History for his curation of a Penn Museum exhibit, according to the Almanac. O’Connor also served as the then-Department of Oriental Studies’ graduate group chair and associate department chair before he became a full professor in 1990.
Throughout his career, O’Connor authored and co-authored many books about ancient Egypt and Egyptology. He also served on Penn’s University Council and chaired its bookstore committee. O’Connor left Penn in 1995 for a position at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, but took the position of curator emeritus at the Penn Museum.