As it turns out, I was beginning my fundraising career more or less at the same time I was beginning my friendship with Wallace Carroll and his family, particularly his wife, Le. Wallace was not only our prime mover and shaker in Florida. He was the biggest name among our alumni, primary owner of a publicly held conglomerate including some 40 or so companies that sold everything from shoes to shrimp. For the next 15 years, Wallace invited us to be his guests both at his winter residence in Palm Beach, Florida, which was a wonderful experience and opportunity for us, and his year-round home in Lake Forest, Illinois.
These Florida trips, usually in February and March, were very, very important for our fundraising efforts. Over the next several years in Florida, we received a number of the biggest commitments ever in the history of fundraising at Boston College. It should be noted that we were getting these gifts not from native Floridians but rather from Boston College people who were Florida vacationers, so-called snowbirds. I had the impression that our donors were far more relaxed and less distracted during these visits, more inclined to think seriously about philanthropic interests. Multimillion-dollar commitments followed.
Wallace was kind enough to host us (usually me, Fr. Monan, and occasionally one other person) for 15 years until he had a stroke at his home in Palm Beach while we were staying there [in 1990; he died shortly afterward, at age 82].
The Carrolls could not have been more hospitable, and I always felt privileged to be their houseguest. Their home, which they purchased in the 1950s, was right on South Ocean Boulevard overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. They would normally fly down to Palm Beach in season, from Chicago on Friday afternoons. Many times we arrived at the same time they did, in the early afternoon, and we would sit on the veranda drinking freshly squeezed orange juice while getting an update on our respective endeavors. They usually stayed until Sunday afternoon, when they would fly back to Chicago. After they left, we would normally stay at their house a week or so longer, with the housekeepers and other staff. We were always treated like royalty there.