Home to the HBS Leadership Initiative, Connell House (formerly Fowler House) is named for a distinguished business leader and generous HBS benefactor. The three-story, 5,600-square-foot Georgian Revival-style, stucco and brick building was designed by McKim, Mead & White as part of the original 1920s campus plan, but its construction was delayed until 1940. Unnamed for many years, the administrative office building was renovated in the late 1960s under Dean George P. Baker and named for Henry H. Fowler, who served as secretary of the treasury under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 to 1968. In 2003, Dean Kim B. Clark rededicated the building in honor of the late William F. Connell (MBA 1963), whose family’s gift helped establish the HBS Leadership Initiative, a catalyst for cutting-edge research and course development related to leaders and leadership.
William F. Connell (1938 - 2001) was a visionary business leader, known for his strategic skills, ethical standards, modesty, and philanthropic interests. As chairman and CEO of Connell Limited Partnership, he built one of the largest privately owned companies in the United States.
In the 1980s, Connell was working for the Ogden Corporation, a New York-based conglomerate with operations ranging from food service to heavy manufacturing. When the company spun off its shipyard and manufacturing companies in 1985, Connell became the new entity’s CEO, betting against the emerging consensus that US manufacturing was dead. Over the next 14 years, Connell, the son of Irish immigrants, grew his metal manufacturing and recycling operations into a $1 billion enterprise.
As a business leader, Connell provided astute strategic direction while giving individual plant managers independence and responsibility. He made frequent visits to factories and customers across the globe and maintained a tight system of financial controls. A champion of business ethics, he required all employees to adhere to a strict code of conduct.
Connell’s business achievements were matched by his generous support of a broad array of civic and educational institutions in the Boston area. In addition to his giving at Harvard, he actively supported his undergraduate alma mater, Boston College, as well as the Boston Symphony Orchestra; St. Elizabeth’s Hospital; Dana Farber; Massachusetts General Hospital; and St. Mary’s High School in Lynn, Massachusetts, his hometown.
At the dedication of Connell House in 2003, his wife, Margot Connell, noted, “To give back was Bill’s dream.” She said that “family, faith, and education” were at the center of her husband’s life. The Connells were married for nearly 40 years and have six children: Monica, Lisa, Courtenay, Terence (MBA 2013), Timothy (BC Law 2013), and William (MBA 2002) cofounder of the private equity firm High Road Capital Partners.
The Connells’ legacy of support for HBS has had a profound impact at the School and in the world at large. Work supported by the gift has led to the Leadership Initiative’s cutting-edge research and course development, including the 2011 launch of Field Immersion Experiences for Leadership Development (FIELD), a yearlong, first-year MBA course that includes students participating in a week-long immersion experience in organizations across the globe. Most recently, the Connell Family has pledged to support MBA curriculum innovation, in particular the work of enhancing the second year of the program to make it a deeper, more cohesive, and more innovative experience for our students.
A 2001 recipient of the School’s Alumni Achievement Award, Connell framed his philanthropy in simple terms. “If you get lucky, you’re supposed to share,” he once said. “People are rich when they have what they need in the world—a nice family, a good education, the opportunity to participate in the community, to see your children do well. That is rich.”
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