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Ralph S. O’Connor Chair in Biology

Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Established in 1973 by the Brown Foundation and Ralph S. O'Connor

The BROWN FOUNDATION, based in Houston, Texas, was founded in 1951 by Margarett Root Brown, Herman Brown, Alice Pratt Brown, and George R. Brown. Herman and George Brown co-founded Brown & Root Inc., a construction company with subsidiary oil, gas, mining, and real estate companies. The foundation supports education, the arts and humanities, health and medicine, and community service. In the field of education, the foundation focuses its support on non-traditional and innovative approaches to the improvement of public education.

Houston entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist RALPH S. O’CONNOR graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1951 with a biology degree. After graduation, Mr. O’Connor headed for Texas and by 1964 he was president of Highland Oil, and later chairman, president, and CEO of Highland’s successor, HRI resources. In 1987 he formed the Ralph S. O’Connor & Associates investment firm, of which he was chairman and CEO. Mr. O’Connor and his wife Becky have had a long history of supporting Johns Hopkins – one that has continued even after his passing in 2019. He was a University trustee, a Presidential Counselor, and the recipient of the University President’s Medal for exemplary service. He further served Johns Hopkins as a member of the Alumni Council and of his class’ 50th reunion gift committee. Mr. O’Connor’s exceptional generosity was instrumental in bringing about the 2002 construction, and recently announced planned major expansion of the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center at Homewood. He also established a sizable scholarship fund for undergraduates at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, along with two professorships in biology and economics which bear his name. Additionally, Mr. O’Connor was vital to the creation of the Walter J. Stark Chair in Ophthalmology in the School of Medicine. He later went on to create the Ralph S. O’Connor Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Fund that offers student-scholar-inventors the means to bring their fledgling ideas through design and development to commercialization.


JAMES TAYLOR, Ralph S. O’Connor Professor of Biology and Professor of Computer Science at the Johns Hopkins University, passed away on April 2, 2020.  He was one of the original developers of the Galaxy platform for data analysis and with his group continued to work on extending that platform. He also led his group in working on understanding genomic and epigenomic regulation of gene transcription through integrated analysis of functional genomic data. James received a PhD in computer science from Penn State University, where he was involved in several vertebrate genome projects and the ENCODE project. Before coming to Hopkins in 2014, he was an associate professor in the departments of biology and mathematics and computer science at Emory University.