Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the 2023 Donor Impact Statement, “Supporting the Whole Student,” published in September. The annual publication highlights the impact of philanthropic support at the university.
John Connolly ’62, Ed.D., says he always appreciated what his Worcester State education did for him. Now, he’s returning the favor with a gift that creates a first-of-its-kind academic enrichment program for the Worcester State community.
A CEO and chairman of several successful companies and a former college president, Connolly recently made a gift to support a new Presidential Lecture Series that each year will bring distinguished speakers to campus to address a variety of contemporary topics. The gift also commemorates Connolly’s late wife, Ingrid, to whom he was married for 57 years.
The idea for a lecture series came about through discussions with President Barry M. Maloney and Tom McNamara, vice president for University Advancement, Connolly said. “I always appreciated the opportunity Worcester State gave me, and we all thought a lecture series would bring the campus community together over an interesting event and a prominent speaker.”
Maloney says the series will have a positive impact on the campus and beyond. “John is a great role model, and we appreciate his commitment to Worcester State,” he said. “This series will bring important speakers to campus which will not only benefit students, faculty, and staff but also bring greater recognition to the university in the broader community as well.”
After graduating from Worcester State, Connolly earned a master’s degree in counseling and guidance from the University of Connecticut, then worked in Worcester Public Schools as a teacher and guidance counselor for several years.
Connolly eventually furthered his education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he received a doctor of education degree. “It was all because Worcester State gave me a very solid education, so that when I would take an admissions exam of any kind, I would crush it,” he said.
He began a career in higher education in the late 1960s when the community college movement was gaining steam. “Community colleges were opening up one a week around the nation,” he said. “I saw it as an interesting opportunity.” His first job at that level was as director of admissions and registrar at Sullivan County Community College in New York, followed by stints at Mercer County and Harford community colleges. He then became president of Dutchess Community College in New York.
Later, Connolly was named president of New York Medical College, a tenure that saw his interests turn to business opportunities in the medical field. He became one of the nation’s foremost experts on identifying top physicians as co-founder and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical, publisher of America’s Top Doctors and other consumer guides to help people ﬁnd the best health care. He and his partner, John Castle, sold that company in 2018 and, with Dr. Dean McElwain, co-founded Castle Connolly Private Health Partners, LLC, a concierge medical company. This fall, Connolly will launch a new medical consulting company, Accel Medical Advisors, LLC.
Connolly says that when he entered Worcester State, he had no idea that he would achieve such a high degree of success in business and education. “I didn’t really apply myself in high school very well,” he said. “I was fortunate to get into Worcester State and, when I did, I thought, ‘Here, I have an opportunity, and I had better take advantage of it. I better work hard and do well,’ which I did.” He says he would encourage any student to do the same. “It’s important for them to strive to get the best grades possible and learn as much as possible in every subject they’re taking,” he said. “And then stay open to opportunities, be flexible, and be willing to take risks on potentially exciting new careers, and just continue working hard.”
Those are lessons Connolly learned at Worcester State, and he still lives by them today.
“I’m 83, and I still work at least half time,” he said. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t work. I only play golf three days a week, so I work the rest of the time,” he said, with a laugh. “It keeps me motivated and invigorated and, hopefully, helps me to stay young.”
Beyond the Classroom
Donor gift supports critical mental health support for students
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the 2023 Donor Impact Statement, “Supporting the Whole Student,” published in September. The annual publication highlights the impact of . . .