Fairfield donors and the roots of philanthropy

Fairfield donors and the roots of philanthropy

by Virginia Weir

Many supporters of Fairfield will say when asked that the roots of their desire to give something back were planted in them long before they made their first contribution. Whether the desire stems from their own humble beginnings, or from being witness to the impact that philanthropy can have on others, what seems to be fundamental to these donors’ charity is a sense of gratitude. They also share our conviction that through a Fairfield education, promising young persons can develop potential, and go on to make a difference in the world.

Meet three donors whose gratitude for what they received — in opportunity, in education, in values — is now having an impact on Fairfield students today.

Dorothy Bannow Larson

Dorothy Bannow Larson learned about importance of philanthropy from her father, Rudolph Bannow, for whom the Bannow Science Center is named.

In the 1960s, Dorothy Bannow Larson and her late husband Gil Larson used to come to community forums at the University on Thursday afternoons, moderated by then- President William C. McInnes, S.J. “We enjoyed those talks immensely,” said Larson. “McInnes was a fantastic speaker.”

They got to know each other, and eventually Fr. McInnes approached Dorothy and asked if the University could name a building in honor of her late father, Rudolph Bannow, the self-made businessman and founder of Bridgeport Machines, Inc.

“The University didn’t buy the name; they honored the man,” Larson said. “It was the first building at the University not named after a saint.” Thus the Bannow Science Center came to be dedicated in 1971, and thousands of Fairfield students have since come to know the Bannow name.

Rudolph Bannow came to the U.S. from Sweden at 13, learned to be a patternmaker, and became a foreman at Bridgeport (Conn.) Pattern and Model Works. In 1927 he bought the company with money he had saved and a small loan. Nine years later, Bannow and his partner sold that business and formed Bridgeport Machines, Inc. By the time of his death in 1962, the well-known company, which began with 42 employees, had grown to 700. Bannow’s son-in-law, Gil Larson, took over the company, which was later sold to Textron when Larson retired in 1968. Upon Larson’s death, the University was made the beneficiary of a substantial bequest through a life insurance designation.

Bannow was a well-liked employer, deeply involved in the community, and Dorothy Larson inherited her father’s interest in philanthropy. Now 84, she has lived in the same modest ranch house in Easton for 71 years. Along with Fairfield, she is also involved with the Easton Community Center, and is a board member of the Kennedy Center in Bridgeport.

Education, and science in particular, is also important to her. “Science is connected to industry, which creates jobs,” she said. “My father believed that with experience and education you couldn’t stop a man… One reason that my family is for Fairfield is that we truly believe in private education.”

Larson served as a University trustee in the mid-1980s and received an honorary degree in 1996. She has generously supported the University over the past 40 years, and has included Fairfield in her estate plans. “My father always said you have to give. If you give, you receive. And he was right.”

William McIntosh, P’92, P’86

William McIntosh, P’92, P’86 believes in the importance of scholarships to open up educational opportunities.

“Education for the poor and the disadvantaged, which historically has been minorities, is important,” said William (Bill) McIntosh. “It’s something that the country has to come to grips with, and scholarships are a good way to get there.” Since McIntosh began supporting a multicultural scholarship fund at the University in 2009, he has helped more than 30 students receive financial aid for their Fairfield education.

McIntosh, a life-long Chicago native, appreciates the value of a Jesuit education. He attended Loyola Academy, a Jesuit college preparatory school in Illinois, and graduated from Xavier University with a degree in economics in 1961. Two of his children, Julia (McIntosh) Smith ’86 and David McIntosh ’92, chose Fairfield for their undergraduate education, as did his son-in-law, Jack Smith ’85.

Today, McIntosh’s grandson Sullivan “Sully” Smith ’12 is in his last semester, majoring in biology with a pre-med track, and his granddaughter Mimi Smith ’14 transferred in as a sophomore this semester. His grandchildren give McIntosh ample opportunity to visit campus — especially to cheer on the Stags lacrosse team.

McIntosh worked at Salomon Brothers and Salomon Smith Barney for 34 years as a general partner and managing director. He also taught finance courses at Howard University in Washington, D.C., from 1998 to 2004. McIntosh served two six-year terms as a University trustee between 1991 and 2003, and he has been a generous donor to The Fairfield Fund and a member of the President’s Circle for 27 years.

“At the end of the day, I’ve been very lucky. It’s a responsibility, when you’ve been given so much, to give back,” said McIntosh. “You don’t have to look far to see others not as fortunate — in their families or business. They haven’t had the same opportunities. Education creates more options.”

Kevin Conlisk ’66 and the Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship

University Trustee Kevin Conlisk ’66 and a group of Irish-Americans started a scholarship fund for students from Ireland to earn their graduate degree from the Dolan School of Business.

In 1991, when the Irish economy was struggling, a group of Irish-Americans led by University Trustee Kevin Conlisk ’66 initiated a scholarship to give an Irish-born student an opportunity for a graduate degree in business. “We look for top-notch students who are also good ambassadors for the Irish culture,” with the aim of getting a good job with an American or Irish company when they complete their degree, noted Conlisk.

The Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship is named for Conlisk’s late brother, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who was a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Conlisk’s parents were Irish immigrants from farming communities, with limited education, who came to the U.S. in 1927. His passion for all-things-Irish emanates from his experience as a boy when he spent a summer in Ireland on the family farm, working in the fields “with the cattle, sheep, pigs, and a whole lot of potatoes.” He attended Sunday Masses with his cousins and went to Gaelic football and hurling games.

Conlisk grew up in Fairfield and paid for his education by working part-time jobs all through college. “I often say that going to college was just another job for me, as I could not experience the typical college life as others were able to do,” said Conlisk. “My Fairfield experience came after I graduated and goes on today.”

After graduating in 1966 with a degree in accounting, Conlisk served as an officer in the Navy, later joining Price Waterhouse & Co. and earning a CPA certificate. Today, he is the co-owner and CFO of Alinabal, a diversified manufacturing company in Milford, Conn. He has served as a University trustee for eight years, and received the Alumni Service Award in 2001.

He and his wife Mary Beth are the principal donors to the endowed scholarship. Along with their friends, they also host an annual golf tournament, the “Connecticut Irish Open,” proceeds of which have augmented the scholarship since it was established. “I look for the scholarship to be the legacy that my family leaves Fairfield,” Conlisk said.

When asked what his Fairfield education has meant to him, Conlisk summed it up: “I started out as an immigrant’s son, and today I co-own a manufacturing business employing 300 people. I owe everything to my education, hard work, good partners, and a great amount of ‘Irish luck.’”

Now, he and others are passing that “luck” along to current students, such as Brian Kelly, a recent graduate of the University of Limerick. Kelly is working full-time toward his graduate degree in finance at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, thanks to funding from the scholarship.