Frank Carroll ’89, the incoming chairman of the Board of Trustees, remembers vividly his first interaction with trustees at Fairfield University — when he was just a student.
He was a junior at the time, and as a member of student government was petitioning the trustees to raise the annual student activity fee so the student government could do more.
Dorothy Bennett was among the trustees. “She took such an interest in the students,” he said, noting what an impression she and her husband, Carl, made on him at the time. They would go on to found the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies at Fairfield. For his part, Carroll would go on to be FUSA president in his senior year.
After 10 years on the board, Carroll says he’s eager to continue to help lead his alma mater, this time from the other side of the table.
Currently, Carroll is managing director and co-portfolio manager at Oaktree Capital Management, where he specializes in emerging markets equities. He has been at Oaktree for the past 16 years and is no stranger to the world of finance.
Carroll speaks self-deprecatingly of himself and his place on the board to date. “It never occurred to me to join the Fairfield Board. They approached me,” he said. “I thought, there must be others more qualified to do this. My first Board meeting I was completely overwhelmed with pride and fear,” he continued. “I remember looking around the room in awe at the dedication from a group of very successful people.
One of the trustees at the time was E. Gerald Corrigan ’63, a noted financier who was a vice president at Goldman Sachs at that point. “I had no idea he was a Fairfield grad,” Carroll said. “Here’s one of the gods in the finance world, here at this meeting all day and speaking passionately about Fairfield University. I was so overwhelmed. He was talking about Fairfield and Jesuit and Catholic identity,” Carroll recalled. “I was hooked.”
Carroll, who majored in history, credits Fairfield’s Ignatian traditions for helping to make him the man he is today. “I definitely believe the critical thinking of the Jesuits has changed me,” he said. “You’re going to be a good person to start but they instill a sense of integrity and honor. I also think they opened my eyes to the world around me.”
He gives an example from his senior year, when he served as a chaperone for a mission trip to Tennessee. He, another senior chaperone and 10 underclassmen drove to Tennessee to work on houses in Appalachia. “It was an eye opener,” he said of the weeklong trip. “The Jesuit idea of being a man for others, serving others. It never leaves you.”
Helping others comes up when Carroll outlines some of the key challenges facing Fairfield today. Topping the list is the high cost of a college education.
“Affordability of higher education is something we always wrestle with. We’re aware how expensive it is to send a child to college. The board discusses this constantly.” Increasing the diversity on campus is part and parcel of this as well, Carroll said, noting this includes attention by the Board to the work of broadening the ethnic, geographic and economic diversity within the extended Fairfield community.
Getting the message out about Fairfield is another priority for Carroll: “You don’t know how good Fairfield is until you get there,” he said. “We have to work harder and harder to make sure we get kids here, and to get the message out. When people graduate, they have made friends for life. The bond you make at Fairfield seems to be unlike any other university experience. There’s something about the magic that happens on our campus.”
Carroll is excited as well about presiding over the trustees during the University’s upcoming 75th anniversary in 2017. “It’s going to be an exciting time at Fairfield.”
While some might find becoming chairman daunting, Carroll exuded enthusiasm.
“I’m inheriting a very well-run board, with Fairfield on an upswing and growth in our class sizes, while the endowment is at an all-time high,” he said. “The University is doing well. Fairfield is definitely hitting its stride.”
Carroll — married to wife, Susan, with two daughters and a son, ages 18, 16 and 11 — sees his role above all as a facilitator more than anything else. “I’m honored they’ve chosen me. It’s a fantastic position to be in because I’m surrounded by extremely talented people who are volunteering and who simply want to serve the institution,” he says. “It’s the best motivation you could have from a group of colleagues. For all of us — it’s not a job; it’s a passion.”