A legacy of paying it forward

Mark Connolly spent his career "paying forward" the hand-up that helped him finish college and embark on a lifetime of accomplishments. Now, a scholarship fund in his name will continue to do the same for New Hampshire students

Many people in New Hampshire, and across the country, knew Mark Connolly’s public persona and his wide breadth of accomplishments. He had been a deputy secretary of state; he was a director of the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation known for securing multi-million-dollar settlements – and resigned in protest over the state’s handling of the scandal surrounding the Financial Resources Mortgage Ponzi scheme. (He later wrote a book about that experience). He was a successful business person who ran New Castle Investment Advisors; served on many nonprofit boards and chaired his local planning board; and was a gubernatorial candidate in 2016.

What fewer people knew about him was that he nearly dropped out of college because he could not afford to keep going, and that a “hand up” in the form of a summer job in the Alaskan wilderness was what helped him to complete his degree.

He was 22 years old, and already a New Hampshire state representative. His car had broken down, so he was hitching rides to Concord with a more senior member of the legislature, Elizabeth Crory. Connolly confided to her that he would likely not be finishing his degree at Dartmouth College because he could not afford it.

Elizabeth connected him with her husband, Fred, who connected him with a summer job in Alaska monitoring remote oil and gas well-drilling sites for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The job got him through school, and he worked it for another summer after graduation.

Connolly would pay that forward for the rest of his life – helping others in ways small and large, frequently acting as a mentor to young people and helping to boost their careers, regardless of the career paths they chose.

When Connolly died suddenly, at age 63, his family, friends and community created a scholarship in his name at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

“Mark always took a special interest in helping people with their careers and their advancement. He always encouraged them to do things that would help other people,” said his friend David Wolowitz, who helped to organize the scholarship fund. “He couldn’t have gotten where he got and done what he did without the help of others, and he spent his whole career paying forward the good deeds that had been done for him.”

The Mark Connolly Legacy Scholarship Fund will help students with financial need who are pursuing post-secondary training or education at an accredited career school, community college, college, or university. Preference is given to applicants whose principles and integrity are reflected in social action.

“The thing about Mark was that he didn’t just express his values, he lived his values,” Wolowitz said. “And we really hope and expect that someday, someone who got that hand up from this scholarship will learn about Mark and do something that Mark would be proud of and that will have a beneficial impact on others.”

Terri Lareau, Connolly’s fiancee, said the scholarship will simply carry on the quiet work that Connolly had been doing for decades. “Mark has always quietly given back to people in the community and to friends who have just needed an extra hand. I can think of so many things that nobody else knows about that he has done. It doesn’t take a whole lot to bring somebody up just a little bit, and the smallest thing can change their lives.”

Nearly three dozen individuals and companies have already contributed to the fund.

“Mark would be so humbled to know that so many people wanted to do this,” Lareau said.

The first awards from the fund are scheduled to be awarded in 2020.

To contribute to the fund, visit give.nhcf.org/MarkConnollyLegacy.

For more information about Foundation scholarships and application deadlines, visit www.nhcf.org/scholarships.