Longtime Florida State professor honored by Irish newspaper

James O'Brien, Robert O. Lawton
Distinguished Professor at
Florida State.

James O’Brien, a professor emeritus of meteorology and oceanography at Florida State University and the retired director of FSU’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, has been selected for inclusion in the 2012 Irish Education 100.

The honor is a listing of leading figures in education across the United States deemed to have “Irish blood.”

The listing will appear in a special edition issue of the Irish Voice newspaper — a publication that is distributed to Irish communities across America as well as to universities in Ireland. In addition, O’Brien will be featured in a replica digital edition of the newspaper.

“I only wish my dear mother, who came from Ireland at age 18, was here to learn about this honor,” O’Brien said of the accolade.

O’Brien, a respected Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor at Florida State, has been a physical scientist in oceanography and meteorology for 40 years, modeling time-dependent ocean motions, increasing understanding of El Niño, and applying El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecasts to the United States.

“Jim O’Brien has been one of FSU’s shining stars for years, an international leader in research and teaching who has consistently served as a local leader in Tallahassee,” said Margaret Wright-Cleveland, director of the Office of Faculty Recognition at Florida State.

“Always proud of his Irish heritage, recognition as a distinguished Irish educator is a fitting honor for Dr. O’Brien,” she said.

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Meteorological Society and the Oceanographical Society of Japan.

O’Brien was appointed State of Florida Climatologist in 1999 and served on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology from 1999 to 2005. He has also served on scores of committees with the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Climatic Data Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research. In addition, O’Brien has published hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Now, his inclusion in the 2012 Irish Education 100 sheds light on an aspect of O’Brien’s life that, for years, may have shaped his teaching and character.

“His own ethnic pride may have strengthened his ability to teach and mentor scholars and scientists from diverse backgrounds,” Wright-Cleveland said. “Dr. O’Brien was an early proponent for women to achieve in oceanography and maintains a list of accomplished students from across the globe. This Irishman makes educators of any cultural heritage proud!”