mourns the loss of a constant friend
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
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
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 is a staff writer for the Boston College Chronicle.
Photo: William F. Connell, 1938-2001. Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert.