By Judy Bass
CANTON – Decades ago, author Thomas Wolfe wrote a classic novel titled “You Can’t Go Home Again.” For Marc O’Brien, however, that sentiment doesn’t quite ring true.
A 2004 graduate of Blue Hills Regional Technical School who studied Construction Technology, Mr. O’Brien, 34, now an experienced professional carpenter employed by Consigli Construction, which proclaims itself “one of the largest general contractors in the Northeast,” came back to the high school alma mater he still holds dear in July to work on the last phase of a major, multi-million dollar renovation project.
As Mr. O’Brien puts it, “it really did come full circle” for him, with many Blue Hills staff members whom he knew when he walked the halls as a student recalling him and greeting him warmly, appreciating the success he has earned and brought back to Blue Hills with him.
“They remembered me right off the bat,” Mr. O’Brien said with bemusement. “It’s funny how you leave an impression on people.”
Mr. O’Brien, who lived in Norwood when he was in high school and now resides in Foxboro with his wife and two young children, comes from a family that includes several proud Blue Hills alumni. Two of his uncles attended Blue Hills for carpentry, his mother went to the school to learn typing and office skills, and his older brother opted for Drafting / CAD. His father, who attended Canton High School, was a carpenter.
After he graduated from Blue Hills 15 years ago, Mr. O’Brien and one of his uncles, a Class of 2000 member, headed west to Colorado for two years. He then came back to Massachusetts to do custom millwork and fabrications for Mystic Scenic Studios in Norwood for eight years.
Mr. O’Brien was hired by Consigli, the construction project manager for the Blue Hills renovation, in October 2016 and thereby was able to join the carpenters union.
His career began to sizzle. He worked on Holbrook Middle-High School, Lavietes Pavilion, which is a basketball arena at Harvard University in Cambridge, and Stoughton High School, a visually stunning facility he lauds as outstanding.
Now, helping to finish the sweeping renovation at Blue Hills is Mr. O’Brien’s focus as he pitches in to install doors, hardware, and other items on the “punch list” of things that need to be wrapped up before the project is officially done. When he talks about the job, his pride and sense of gratification emerge clearly. This, to him, is definitely not just another assignment.
In fact, the first week that he was on site at Blue Hills last summer “was really a trip,” Mr. O’Brien exults. Thoughts of the good times he had there as a young man playing football and baseball while he grew in maturity and competence along the way flooded back to him. He says he was a good student who never was in too much trouble and that he “absolutely” got what he required from his education at Blue Hills to launch a successful, rewarding career.
Mr. O’Brien says he especially loved working on outside crew during his time in Construction Tech at the school, building projects in Blue Hills’ district towns with his classmates that to this day he gleefully points out to his wife. “It’s an honor to say I built [this or] that [structure],” he explains. Obviously, the pleasure he takes in knowing what he achieved in those bygone days has not dimmed one bit.
Neither has his advocacy for the benefits of a technical high school education. Citing the fact that people who have expensive four-year college degrees frequently can’t get jobs despite their educational background, Mr. O’Brien said, “Trades are always going to be there. There will always be houses and buildings that need to be built. It’s so practical and smart to think that way.”
As for choosing Blue Hills as his high school, Mr. O’Brien emphatically calls it “the best move I ever made, best move in my life.”