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Uncommon man

University mourns the loss of a constant friend

photograph of William F. Connell '59In a bedside ceremony at his home on August 21, the day before he died, longtime trustee William F. Connell '59 was presented with the Ignatius Medal, Boston College's highest honor, by University President William P. Leahy, SJ.

Connell was only the 10th person to receive the Ignatius Medal. The award honors "persons of uncommon achievement and influence in human affairs whose endeavors are enriched by a religious dimension," in the words of the citation read by Fr. Leahy. It recognizes that a "leader-ship role in advancing the well-being of the human family can be a vehicle for serving God as well."

Connell's leadership role at Boston College included a total of 24 years of service on the board of trustees. He was chairman from 1981 to 1984 and, before his health failed, he was in line for the position again. This past summer, Connell donated $10 million to the Boston College School of Nursing, which will be renamed in his honor. Founded in 1947, SON is the largest Jesuit nursing school in the nation.

The son of an Irish immigrant bus driver, Connell rose from selling newspapers in his youth to the ranks of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, while remaining true to his roots--to his native West Lynn, Massachusetts, the Catholic Church, his alma mater. As a philanthropist, Connell gave millions to charity with little ado. "He made a fortune and gave a fortune away," Boston Globe business columnist Steve Bailey wrote in an appreciation published after his death. A million- dollar gift that Connell contributed without fanfare to his old high school, St. Mary's of Lynn, kept the school afloat, while another million-dollar gift established a Boston College scholarship fund for St. Mary's graduates and students from West Lynn.

Connell was the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Connell Limited Partnership, a Boston-based company that recycles metals and manufactures industrial equipment and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States. He was a behind-the-scenes power broker in Boston and was influential in the 1999 merger of FleetBank and BankBoston.

That year, Connell also joined with a small cadre of Boston businessmen and community leaders to form Operation Team Back, which helped keep the New England Patriots football team from abandoning Massachusetts for Connecticut.

Connell graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a degree in accounting, then served as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Artillery. In 1963, he received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He was a daily communicant at St. Mary's Church in Lynn--"a member of the dawn patrol," as he put it. All six of his children attended Boston College.

Connell died at his home at the age of 63. He leaves his wife, Margot; three daughters, Monica Healey '88, Lisa T. McNamara '89, and Courtenay Connell-Toner '91; and three sons, William C. '94, Terence A. '02, and Timothy P. '03. A funeral Mass was said on August 27 at St. Mary's Church in Lynn. Boston College Chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, was the principal celebrant, and Cardinal Bernard Law presided.

Mark Sullivan

Mark Sullivan is a staff writer for the Boston College Chronicle.

Photo: William F. Connell, 1938-2001. Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert.

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