Ann M. O'Donnell Print E-mail

Ann M. O’Donnell

Visionary, Pioneer and Advocate in Bilingual Education

Lowell- Ann M. (Muras) O’Donnell, matriarch of the Thomas J. O’Donnell family, passed away on Friday December 21, 2018 at the age of 94 surrounded by her family.  A well-respected and dedicated educator and administrator for the Lowell Public Schools, Ann was the Director of the Bilingual Program when she retired on August 31, 2002 at the age of 78.  

Ann was the loving wife of the late Attorney Thomas J. O’Donnell of Lowell, who died on June 22, 1993.  The couple met while working in Houston, Texas and was married on January 7, 1950 in Ann’s hometown of Shiner, Texas. Their four children were raised in Lowell; an immigration destination spanning two centuries where the enduring resolve of Lowell's working class families continues to produce recognized leaders as businessmen, entrepreneurs and politicians.  Ann and Tom cherished their relationships with Tom's Lowellian relatives and in-laws; the late James and Kay O'Donnell, Dr. Brendan and Mary Josephine Leahey, and Thomas and Eileen Casey. 

Born in Shiner, Texas, Ann was the proud daughter of Joseph and Philomena Muras. Joseph was born in Frenstat pod Radhostem, Czechoslovakia immigrated to the United States, met and married Philomena Palitza from Moulton, Texas. He established his own insurance agency, which focused on insuring the European immigrants from Czechoslovakia and Poland who settled in the surrounding towns of Lavaca County in Texas.  Joseph wrote insurance policies that were drafted on a specially made typewriter using Czech characters so his clients could read and understand their insurance coverage.  Ann’s father’s success in bridging a language barrier would undoubtedly influence her later career choice in assisting second language students settling in Lowell.

Ann graduated from St. Ludmilla’s Academy in Shiner, Texas as the class salutatorian.  She attended Incarnate Word College in San Antonio and later transferred to the University of Houston where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Ann began her thirty-five year career in the Lowell Public Schools serving language minority students in 1966, five years as a Title I Remedial Reading/ESL teacher and thirty as the Supervisor/Director of the Transitional Bilingual Education (TBE) and ESL (English as a Second Language) Programs.  She served under seven Superintendents of Schools.

During 1971-72, Ann was the Head Teacher and Acting Principal of the Tenth Street School directing the last year of the TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language Programs) funded by Title I.  With the passage of Chapter 71A of the Massachusetts General Laws, the Lowell Public Schools implemented programs of Transitional Bilingual Education for Hispanic and Portuguese Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in September 1972.  Full TBE Programs for Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese students were instituted in September 1985.  A Bilingual Program for Gujarati students was established in September 1994.

With the dramatic influx of Southeast Asian students into the school district during the 1980s, classroom space was leased in the former Franco American and St. Joseph and Sacred Heart Elementary Schools, the Lowell Boys Club, and the YMCA, resulting in a class action lawsuit brought against the school district.  Ann assisted Project Director George N. Tsapatsaris in developing and implementing the Lowell Public Schools Voluntary Desegregation Plan, which was adopted by the Lowell School Committee in 1987 as a consent agreement.  Bilingual/ESL classes were assigned to the majority of schools; the Parent Information Center was established where enrolling K-8 students were identified, assessed, and assigned; additional staff was hired; and many other initiatives enforced to comply.

Ann established and maintained a MASTER PAC (Parent Advisory Council) to the Bilingual Program as well as Spanish, Portuguese, Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Gujarati Parent Advisory Committees, which assisted parents in understanding District Policies and Procedures.  PAC meetings were often conducted on the weekends in homes, churches and schools in the community. 

A prolific grant writer, Ann co-authored/directed numerous State and Federal Grants which supplemented the School District’s initiatives in educating 3,000 Limited English Proficient Students enrolled in the K-12 TBE Program. She authored/co-authored/directed nine U.S. Department of Education Title VII competitive grants, the first, “HAND-IN-HAND” (MANO-A-MANO), funded a Bilingual Pre-School Learning Center for three, four, and five year old Hispanic, Portuguese, and English dominant students.  It was one of the first Early Childhood Bilingual Programs funded nationwide in 1975.

Project LOWELL, a five year grant funded in the mid 1980s was crucial to the School Department’s efforts in meeting the educational needs of newly enrolled Southeast Asian students.  The Grant funded a Curriculum Coordinator; Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Curriculum Developers; Cambodian and Laotian Parent Liaisons, and other support staff.

Ann assisted in implementing the MICAS (Metropolitan Indochinese Children’s and Adolescent Services) Program, which provided counseling to Asian teens at Lowell High School.

Project IMPACT (Innovative Multicultural Program for Adolescent Career Training was funded for five years (1989-1994), and established the first Career Awareness Course for second language learners at Lowell High.  Projects CARE and CAREERS expanded job learning initiatives to middle school TBE students.

Ann co-authored and directed eighteen grants funded by the Emergency Immigrant Assistant Program, as well as the Transition Program for Refugee Children, and the Refugee Children School Impact Program.

Ann collaborated extensively with the University of Massachusetts Lowell; Middlesex Community College, Salem State College, Leslie College, and the Northeast and Islands Laboratory at Brown University in providing in-service training and courses leading to teacher certification.  The Middlesex Community College Title VII Grant “Step Up” provided a career ladder for district para-professionals in attaining Associates Degrees.

Title VII Project SPINDLE (School Personnel Implementing New Designs in Language Education) was a three-year grant providing substantial support to the School Department in implementing Integrative TBE models in elementary schools.

Ann was a presenter at over two-dozen NABE, MABE, and other conferences/workshops and served on numerous State and District Commissions.

In 1998, Ann was the recipient of the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education Director’s Award. A Certificate of Appreciation was received in 1993 from the National Association for the Education and Advancement of Cambodian, Laotian, and Vietnamese Americans for her support and contribution at its Fourteenth Annual Conference in Boston.

Ann served with the State Advisory Council for Bilingual Education and was appointed by Governor William F. Weld to serve on the Governor’s Council for Refugees and Immigrants.

Reflecting on her career and advocacy for second language learners, Ann credited the teachers and para-professionals who did yeoman’s work at a challenging time when so many children speaking many different languages settled in Lowell seeking the benefit of a good education.  She was proud to be a part of this important work and a member of the Lowell Public Schools.

Ann will be remembered as a loving supporter and cheerleader for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Through example, Ann taught her family the importance of the complementary virtues of frugality and generosity.  To love and know you are loved is the greatest gift a mother can bestow on her children and Ann gave this gift throughout her life.  She will be missed but cherished memories of a life well lived will endure.

Ann is survived by her four children, Thomas J. O’Donnell, Jr. and his wife Gail (Lantagne) of Tewksbury; Debbie A. McLaughlin and her husband Tom of Andover; Mark O’Donnell and his late wife Virginia (Roper) of Lowell; Pam Barry and her husband Kevin of Andover; ten grandsons; T.J. O’Donnell and his wife Kristina of Pelham, NH, Tim O’Donnell and his wife Allison of Waltham, MA, Corry McLaughlin and his wife Morgan of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Tommy McLaughlin and his wife Rachel of Brooklyn Heights, NY, Christopher O’Donnell and his wife Debbie of Atlanta, GA, John O’Donnell of Medford, MA , Michael O’Donnell of Lowell, MA, Kevin Barry and his wife Robyn of Newton, MA, Patrick Barry of Nashua, NH and Michael Barry of Medford, MA; six granddaughters; Erin (O’Donnell) Conners and her husband Phillip of Lowell, MA, Angela (O’Donnell) Moulton and her husband Jeff of Stoneham, MA, Kelly (McLaughlin) Caverly and her husband Chris of East Greenwich of RI, Ashley (McLaughlin) Pohlman and her husband Mark of Medfield, MA, Jacqueline (Barry) Druckman and her husband Matt of Melrose, MA, Lauren Barry of Boulder, Colorado; and twenty great grandchildren.  Ann is preceded in death by her sisters; Dorothy Muras of Shiner, Texas; Rosalie Kowalski and her husband A.J. of Houston, Texas and her brother J.J. of Shiner, Texas. 

The family of Ann O’Donnell would like to express their gratitude to the doctors, physician’s assistants, nurses and CNAs at both D’Youville Senior Care in Lowell and Compassionate Care Hospice of Woburn for their comfort, care and support during this difficult time.

Friends may call at the O’DONNELL FUNERAL HOME 276 PAWTUCKET ST. at Fletcher from 3 to 7 P.M. Wednesday. Relatives and friends are invited to attend her Funeral Mass to be celebrated Thursday morning at the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH at 11 o’clock followed by her burial at St. Patrick Cemetery in Lowell. E-condolences/directions at Those wishing may make contributions in her memory to the Ann M. O’Donnell Scholarship Fund at Lowell High School, c/o the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, 100 Merrimack St., Suite 202, Lowell, MA 01852. Arrangements by Funeral Director James F. O’Donnell, Jr. (978) 458-8768. 


Condolences (7)
  • Barbara and burke Leahey  - Nephew and wife
    Dear Famiy, So sad to hear of your mom's passing - she was a beautiful and kind lady who will be sorely missed. As much as we would love to pay our respects in person, Burke is wheelchair-bound now and it's impossible to move him to Lowell from Duxbury for the service. Prayers and hugs all around, The Burke Leahey Family
  • Rosemary & Bruce Brewster  - Sincere Sympathy
    Sincere sympathy to all the O’Donnell family, on the passing of your beloved qL94dmother & grandmother. Thoughts and prayers to all during this difficult time.
  • Donna yeschanin  - Condolences from Dorothy
    My mom was sad to hear of her friend and roommate passing. The time spent in the nursing home was made easier by Ann and the kindness you all showed my mother. Ann was a lovely lady and we are grateful we had a chance to meet her and her family Donna and Dorothy yeschanin
  • Eileen Casey  - As Smart As She Was Beautiful
    To the O’Donnell Family: I am sorry for your loss. Your mother (and grand and great-grandmother) was a large part of my childhood, and I will forever remember her beauty and graciousness. As a young girl I always admired her calmness and kindness, and as I grew older I continually admired her convictions and actions that helped others to have a more fulfilled life. My mother was an English teacher at LHS and always expressed the deepest respect and love for Ann. Pam and I were classmates, and we both had mothers in the school system. My deepest sympathy, but what a life well-lived, and what a lady!
  • Doris Thibeault
    My deepest sympathy to Mrs. O’Donnell’s family. She had visions and she worked hard to make them a reality. It was an honor being one of her secretaries in the TBE department. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. Rest In Peace Mrs. O’Donnell
  • Arthur & Penny Papakostas
    Dear Todd, Gail, and Family. We were so sorry to hear of Annie's passing. She was always so sweet to us. Always remember the good times the family had with her when you all got together. She left a wonderful legacy. Sincerely, Arthur, and Penny
  • Joanne and Cam Lowe
    So sorry to learn of you Mom's passing; what a great lady she was. We are away and are sorry we cannot make the service but our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Write Condolence
Your Name:
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.