NORMAN — John Skvarla, born in Passaic, N.J., and Donna Connolly, from Austin, Texas, met in 1961 while they were students at the University of Texas in Austin. Donna was completing a Bachelor of Art in English and John was completing a Ph.D. degree in botany. They were married in Austin on Aug. 7, 1963, in Saint Mary’s Cathedral.
In 1965, they moved to Norman where John joined the botany-microbiology faculty at the University of Oklahoma as assistant professor of botany. Donna continued her studies at Oklahoma and earned a degree in library science. She then spent the following 10 years as children’s librarian at the Norman Public Library.
In 1985, she took a position as public library consultant in the Oklahoma Department of Libraries. In 2002, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma Library Association. She retired as head of Library Development in 2004 after 30 years of library service. During the Centennial year in 2007, she was honored as an Oklahoma Library Legend, one of the 100 most prominent librarians in the state.
Donna is an avid quilter and is an American Quilter’s Society Certified quilt appraiser and has traveled locally and nationally appraising quilts, as well as presenting programs on various aspects of textiles and quilt history.
John retired in 2010 as George Lynn Cross research professor of botany after 45 years of service but continues active research at the university, where he has collaborations with colleagues at the University of Texas, Smithsonian Institution, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Scotland), Kew Gardens (London), the University of Stockholm and the Komarov Botanical Institute (St. Petersburg, Russia).
In 2006, he was recognized for his contributions to botanical research at the annual meeting of the American Botanical Society in Vancouver, British Columbia. John also is an enthusiastic fisherman.
Donna and John have traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia and have lived a year in Sweden. They have four children, including Emily of Chicago and Jeanne, currently living in Sicily with her husband Dr. Mark Johnson and their children Lilly and Gabriel. Two children, Matt and Tracy, are deceased.
John and Donna have a house in the Creede, Colo., area where they spend summer and fall months before returning to Oklahoma.