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John O’Donnell

Virginia Military Institute
Economics and Business


John O’Donnell is the No. 1-ranked academic student at Virginia Military Institute with a 4.0 GPA. He has multiple academic disciplines as a ECBU major and mathematics minor with concentrations in financial management and global management. He plans to take the GMAT, GRE and possibly the LSAT, however, he will delay further studies to serve in the United States Army. 

His honors thesis is titled “Poverty, Federal Anti-Poverty Programs, and Local-Level Innovations in Fighting Poverty: The Case of the USA.” He researches the effectiveness of federal antipoverty programs and is conducting empirical analysis on local level antipoverty initiatives. More specifically, the local-level research is centered on the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, in Newburgh, New York. The thesis will provide useful data that will impact the future funding and operations of the center. 

O’Donnell studied at Oxford University: New College with a focus on International Finance in 2017. He has been a part of multiple Honor Societies including Omicron Delta Kappa (2017), Omicron Delta Epsilon International Economics Honor Society (2017), Beta Gama Sigma International Business Honor Society (2018), VMI Cadet Athlete Honor Society (2016) and Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society (2016).

From the Reserve Officers Association, O’Donnell received the Excellent Studies in National Defense Award (2018). He received the Southern Conference Commissioner’s Medal in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He was a member of the Virginia Sports Information Directors Academic All-State team in 2018 and the Southern Conference Academic All-Conference team 2018.


O’Donnell is going to serve in the United States Army as a second lieutenant field artilleryman. He is the three-legged stool winner, which is the most prestigious award at VMI, given to the student-athlete who achieves the highest in Academics, Athletics and Military. He is the captain of VMI Lacrosse.

With VMI Corps of Cadets, O’Donnell served as Regimental S1 Captain in 2018. He was responsible for accountability of the 1701 cadets at VMI, managing the 24-hour guard team and various administrative tasks for the regiment. He was also the Regimental S1 Sergeant in 2017-2018 and Regimental S1 Corporal in 2016-2017.

On the Cadet Superintendent Advisory Committee, he has served as the Operations Officer. He works directly for the superintendent of VMI to develop and implement the specific program and advise him on any issues within the corps. 

He is the Vice Chairman of the VMI Cadet Investment Group, responsible for management of $300,000 and educating group on all investing information. He is the vice president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee. In this role he handles all NCAA player relations, votes on SOCON bylaws and manages volunteer efforts in the local community. He is also the Cadet in Charge for Omicron Delta Epsilon.


O’Donnell has been involved in a variety of events throughout the community. With Goshen in Bloom (2014-present), he helps maintain and improve the aesthetic of Goshen, New York, through planting various plants around the village. With Illuminate Goshen (2015-present), he helps improve the aesthetic and sense of community in Goshen through hanging lights around the village and planning and coordinating various community events. With Newburgh Amory Unity Center (2014-present), he has volunteered to paint before the center opened and help out on some Saturdays when 400-plus children are participating in various programs. He is also the centerpiece of the honors thesis. O’Donnell also participates in Goshen Youth Lacrosse (2012-present) and volunteers with the SAAC and VMI lacrosse team around the Lexington community.


O’Donnell is a four-year starter for VMI Lacrosse. He led the Southern Conference in assists (13) and points (15) for a defensive midfielder in 2018. He also ranked eighth in the SoCon in assists per game in 2018. His current career stats as of nomination time include nine goals, 19 assists, 28 points, 56 ground balls and 30 caused turnovers.