O’DONNELL, KEVIN (June 9, 1925 - February 29 2012) was president and CEO of SIFCO INDUSTRIES, INC. and served as Director of the Peace Corps of the United States of America.  

Kevin O’Donnell was born on Cleveland’s West Side to Charles and Ella Kilbane O’Donnell. After graduating from West High School, O’Donnell served as a Lieutenant in the US Navy Supply Corps during World War II. O’Donnell continued his education after the war, earning a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College and a master’s degree from Harvard Business School.
O’Donnell stood at a crossroads in March 1965, after the untimely death of his first wife, Margaret Ann “Peg” O’Donnell. They had married in 1949, and his wife Peg had just given birth to their sixth child.  O’Donnell knew that he could continue on the path he’d been on - management positions in Cleveland industrial firms - or he could search for more mission-based work. He remarried in August 1965, to Marion Ellen “Ellen” Boldenburgh Patterson, a widow with two children of her own. In 1966, the newly blended family joined the newly formed U.S. Peace Corps. With all eight children, he and his family embarked on four life-changing years, as O’Donnell was tapped to be the first country director for the U.S. Peace Corps in Korea. O’Donnell was named Director of the Peace Corps in 1971; his Peace Corps service totaled six years.    

Returning to Cleveland and industry, O’Donnell became President, CEO, and Chairman of SIFCO Industries Inc., a steel supplier to the airline industry. His leadership over two decades helped SIFCO to expand into Brazil, China, and Ireland. After retiring in 1994, he founded his own consulting firm, O’Donnell & Associates. 

Kevin O’Donnell also provided leadership to numerous community and non-profit endeavors.  In addition to the National Conference of Christians and Jews and the First Friday Club of Cleveland, he prioritized organizations that supported sobriety, such as the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County and Guest House, which provides addiction treatment for Catholic clergy.  O’Donnell was also active in the CLEVELAND COUNCIL ON WORLD AFFAIRS; his daughter, Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy, served as the Council’s director from 2012 until her death in 2018.  

Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Korea’s Pusan National University each bestowed honorary doctorates on O’Donnell,  and Harvard Business School granted him the 1990 Business Statesman Award.  O’Donnell received the Order of Civil Merit from the president of the Republic of Korea.  The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence presented him with the 1992 Bronze Key Award.  He was chosen as a 2001 WALKS OF LIFE honoree by the Irish American Archives Society and the 2010 Person of the Year by the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland.  He was a longtime member and supporter of St. Malachi Parish in Cleveland.  

O’Donnell had six children with his first wife Peg, who died in 1965:  Kevin Jr., Susan O’Donnell Dicken, Michael, John, Maura O’Donnell-McCarthy, and Neil. He adopted the two children of his second wife, Ellen, who died in 2007:  Megan O’Donnell Patton, and Hugh. He is buried with several generations of O’Donnell ancestors in Saint John Cemetery in Cleveland.

Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan


Article Categories