James L. O'Donnell

James L. O'Donnell

As a 25-year-old with a take-charge attitude, James O’Donnell in 1970 moved from Santa Monica, Calif., to open a McDonald’s restaurant in Pennsylvania. Back then, the young entrepreneur had no clue that he later would become the face of the McDonald’s franchise in the north country as the owner of 10 restaurants in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. After nearly 42 years he sold his 10 restaurants to McDonald’s Corp. and retired. Martha O’Donnell taught French at Watertown High School for more than two decades.

Mr. O’Donnell is a member of the Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund and was a member of the Jefferson County Historical Society, Samaritan Medical Center board of trustees and Watertown Family YMCA board of trustees. Mrs. O’Donnell is a member of the Thousand Island Arts Center and has served as a member of the Nature Conservancy of Northern New York, the Thompson Park Conservancy and the Jefferson Community College Foundation.


Awarded in the spring semester, the O’Donnell Scholarship is awarded to a second year, full time student. They must be majoring in Business, Math or Science and have at least a 3.5 GPA at the end of their first year. Preference is given to a student who received a Jefferson-Can Scholarship their first year at JCC.