Robert Conti ’51: A Pioneer From Fairfield’s First Graduating Class

Robert Conti ’51: A Pioneer From Fairfield’s First Graduating Class

Pioneers. That’s what Robert Conti ’51, P’90, MD, and his fellow classmates felt like as members of the first class at Fairfield University.
“Initially it was almost a bit of a shock,” recalled the 86-year-old retired radiologist and physician, who lives in Florida with his wife of almost 62 years, Jane. “We were mostly a group of young, relatively untested and immature 17- and 18- year-olds, fresh from high school, meeting with a group of mature, battle-tested veterans who had recently returned from service. But after only a very short time, we easily mingled together, many becoming some of my best friends.”

While Dr. Conti graduated 66 years ago, he has maintained a strong presence at Fairfield University. He established a scholarship in 1994 to provide financial aid to students in the pre-med program with demonstrated financial need. In addition, he has been a longstanding member of the President’s Circle, the Golden Stags, and the Bellarmine Society, and he has served as a reunion chair and an alumni chapter president.
At the most recent reunion, his 65th last June, Dr. and Jane Conti “marveled” at the numerous changes on campus, the new buildings as well as the major improvements in general. But, he said, “the character of the University remains intact.”

While there were a number of individuals who had an impact on a young Dr. Conti at Fairfield, he recalled his biology class with Rev. Francis X. Wilkie, S.J., whom he called “one of the greatest teachers I’ve had and one who probably had the most influence on my life and career.” He added, “He not only taught us what to study but how to study.”

After leaving Fairfield in 1951, Dr. Conti and classmate, John Sacco, headed to Chicago to attend the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University. “We roomed together at our Phi Chi fraternity house and have remained fast friends throughout the years, attending our reunion last June along with our other old friend, Ciro “Cy” Veneruso. I became a radiologist, John an internal medicine specialist, and Cy a psychiatrist.”

After graduating from medical school in 1955, Dr. Conti returned to Bridgeport, Conn., for a rotating general internship at St. Vincent’s Hospital. He thought eventually he would start a family practice, however, he determined he wouldn’t be satisfied with a general practice. Dr. Conti enjoyed all fields of medicine, so what to do? Luckily, it was during the end of his internship that he found radiology encompassed virtually all areas of medicine and his dreams were answered.

“Fortunately, my last month was devoted entirely to radiology with Dr. Robert Russo. He became my mentor and changed my life,”
He was accepted into a radiology residency at the University of Miami‘s Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida. Shortly after, he received his board certification in radiology and went on to eventually form The Radiologists of North Fort Lauderdale, a group that expanded to 13 people by the time he retired in 1995 after 30 years.

“I just loved every day of my practice. I was honored and privileged to work with some of the most wonderful physicians, many of them graduates of the most famous and varied colleges and medical programs in the country.”

Just because he retired didn’t mean Dr. Conti slowed down. Indeed, he and Jane, parents of four grown children, have maintained an ebullient lifestyle filled with various activities.

“I started to play golf again after 25 years and have three holes-in-one; we joined the Coral Ridge Yacht Club, where I have served as fleet surgeon for many years; and I joined a bowling league there.” Besides those activities, Dr. Conti keeps busy attending regular oncology meetings at Holy Cross Hospital, has taken some financial classes and now has 16 grandchildren and two great-grand children.

As for what he would say to the Fairfield graduating class of 2017, Dr. Conti proffered, “I would congratulate them on their success thus far. I would say you have a great foundation; now set your sights on a new goal, work hard to achieve whatever you desire, do not become discouraged by minor reversals, but always remember that love for your God, country, your family and your friends are the most important things in your life. Remember all who have helped you achieve what you have, and give back whatever you’re able to give.” ●F