John “Jack” Connolly Jr. considers the Institution home.
“Growing up, my first nine years of school I was (in Chautauqua County) all year round,” Connolly said. “I lived with my mom and brother, and then my dad was in the service in World War II. … We didn’t leave Chautauqua until my brother graduated from high school and I finished ninth grade.”
Yet even when Connolly’s family moved to Fairfax, Virginia, during his high school years after World War II, he never stopped visiting his various family members at the Institution. Connolly said after his last year of high school, he spent his summer working full-time as a janitor at Children’s School and giving tennis lessons.
“I think during that summer, I really got to fall in love with the (Institution),” Connolly said.
Throughout his adulthood, Connolly has gone on to philanthropically support numerous aspects of the place he considers home, giving more than $2.5 million to date.
He also generously donated his time. Connolly co-chaired the Chautauqua Fund with his late wife, Marcia Connolly; is a former member of the board of trustees; serves on the Fund’s Planned Giving Committee, is a member of the Thursday Morning Brass; and volunteered for the Challenge, Idea and Promise campaigns.
On Saturday, he stepped down from his 15-year tenure on Chautauqua Foundation Board of Directors.
In recognition of his volunteerism and advocacy for Chautauqua on behalf of many organizations on the grounds during his lifetime, Connolly was awarded the first vic gelb Heart of Chautauqua Service Award on June 22. The award was created in honor of the late vic gelb, who served as director of the foundation from 1995 to 2011, chaired the Idea Campaign and was a respected member of the community.
Connolly said his greatest commitment to the Institution has been with the Chautauqua Golf Club. His dedication takes after his father, John Connolly Sr., whose work at the golf club was considered “immeasurable” by Dave Turnbull, author of Chautauqua Golf Club: One Hundred Years, Two Golf Courses — One Remarkable History.
Connolly’s love for golf goes back to his childhood, when he was a caddy at the golf club in the late 1940s.
“My uncles were both golfers; my dad was a very good golfer,” Connolly said. “So it was natural for me to follow in dad’s footsteps.”
Like his father, Connolly went on to serve as president of the golf club’s board of governors. During one of his three terms as president, the club expanded from a 27-hole course to 36 holes. He also has been involved philanthropically, including donating funds for drinking fountains around the course in 2014, one of which he dedicated to his wife.
Connolly’s philanthropy does not stop at the golf club. He has established numerous endowments benefitting areas that he is passionate about and has supported over many years, such as the Connolly Endowment for Chautauqua, the Connolly Family Fund for Opera, the Chautauqua Golf Club Scholarship Award and Connolly Residence Hall Endowment, among others.
Connolly said that throughout her time coming to Chautauqua, his late wife, Marcia, loved the Chautauqua Opera Company. She passed away in 2008, and in her memory, Connolly and his family gave a major gift to renovate what was then called the Summer School Dorm — now Connolly Residence Hall.
“That was dedicated the summer after her death,” Connolly said. “She had a hand in getting the idea started. … It was totally renovated (and) much more pleasant.”
Connolly said another Chautauqua highlight for him was serving as co-chair of the fund with her. They began serving in 2002 as the first couple to chair the annual fund and were recognized for setting new records in annual giving.
Overall, Connolly said volunteering his time and resources throughout his life at Chautauqua has given him a great sense of pride.
“This is where I come and feel like home,” Connolly said.