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Use Gifts to Benefit the World, Connors Tells Grads

By Greg Frost, Staff Writer

(5-21-2007) —Local business and philanthropic leader John M. "Jack" Connors Jr. '63 urged the Boston College Class of 2007 to use their tremendous resources to help the less fortunate and, in so doing, to fix a world full of troubles.

"You have been given many gifts. You have been given the gift of life, the gift of health, the gift of love and the gift of a great education," Connors told 3,325 graduates at BC's 131st Commencement Exercises Monday at Alumni Stadium. "The question for you is: Over the course of your lives, what gifts will you give?

"The world is broken, but it is our only world. We need to make it better through thoughtfulness, mutual respect, sacrifice and charity," he said in his Commencement address.

Connors, one of BC's most devoted alumni who has served two terms as chairman of the Board of Trustees, also reminded graduates of the need to bounce back from adversity. Using a baseball analogy, Connors wryly noted that former Red Sox slugger Ted Williams's legendary .406 batting average in 1941 still meant that he was wrong more times than he was right.

The lesson, Connors said, is that there is no problem being wrong every once in a while, and that people are defined by their ability to persevere in the face of setbacks. "I've probably been rejected or had more phone calls unreturned or more requests for appointments denied or lost more new business pitches than anyone in the history of advertising," Connors said. "But you know what? I won, and I won more than I lost because I kept getting up to bat."

Joining Connors in receiving honorary degrees were Jesuit astronomer Rev. George V. Coyne, SJ; Boston anti-violence activist Isaura Mendes; sports journalist Lesley Visser '75; and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Both Connors and University President William Leahy, SJ, drew from the Gospel of Matthew in exhorting graduates to give back to the world that awaits them.

"During your years at Boston College, we have strived to help you examine your values and understand who you are and who you can become," Fr. Leahy told graduates in his welcoming remarks. "Our desire is that you become more and more a light and a leaven for those with whom you will work and live in the future.

"Scripture urges us to bear fruit that will last and reminds that those who have been given much are expected to give much. Talents and gifts are to be used responsibly and for the good of others," Fr. Leahy said. "We do that when we are people of hope and integrity, when we treat others with compassion, respect and honesty, when we both support and challenge, when we serve, not seek to be served.

"Living that way should describe graduates of Boston College. As a Jesuit Catholic university, we seek not only rigorous intellectual development and preparation for future employment but also the religious, ethical and personal formation of our students. In particular, we desire that our graduates use their talents in the service of others and promote the greater glory of God," he said.

Fr. Leahy also used his welcoming remarks to thank graduates' parents and loved ones, praising their "careful attention and unwavering affection" through good times and bad. Connors, a founding partner and chairman emeritus of advertising agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc., listed Fr. Leahy among an influential group of people who had taught him highly prized lessons over the years.

"I learned from your own president, Father Bill Leahy, a lesson that was best expressed by the words of the Hebrew prophet Micah: 'Act justly; Love tenderly; Walk humbly,'" Connors said.

Commencement unfurled under windy, sun-streaked and, most importantly, rain-free skies. Connors noted it was the first time in six days it had not rained in Boston -- clearly a sign of "the power of a Catholic college," he said.


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