Leading With Gratitude

By Anna Brennan-Curry

When Susan Connelly ’92 speaks about the impact of Saint Anselm College on her life, it comes down to one thing:
the people.

From the admissions guide who first convinced her to give the college a chance, to the friends she made on campus who kept her on the Hilltop, and finally to the professors who mentored her and pushed her into the world after graduation—all of her stories tie back to people.

Susan Connelly '92
Photo by Kevin Harkins

While Saint Anselm College was not her first, or second, or third choice of colleges, once she moved to campus, she quickly became an Anselmian for life. As an English major, she was immersed in the humanities, in the classroom and also as a member of the Abbey Players and as a writer on staff at the Crier. She took leadership roles in both, and also served as an admissions guide, convincing future students to make the Hilltop their home.

“Saint A’s was a place where I found it very comfortable to take risks,” she says. “That risk-taking, while maybe not recognized in the moment, has formed my career, because it was a safe place for me to learn how to be a leader.”

During her time at Saint Anselm College, Connelly built strong relationships with many people but particularly professors Landis Magnuson and Gary Bouchard. Professor Bouchard was relatively new to the Hilltop and served as her advisor. She was close to him and his wife, Donna, and even babysat for their oldest son after he
was born.

“Gary has a wonderful way of wrapping you in comfort while pushing you out the door and saying, ‘You can do more, and you can do better,’” she says.

After graduation, she found work as a reporter, and then moved into corporate communications and government affairs. In the coming years, she would find herself coming back to the skills she honed at Saint Anselm College—most notably, debate and writing.

Connelly kept in touch with her professors, and after she was promoted to her current position as chief communications and public affairs officer at Darden Restaurants, Inc., her first emails were to Bouchard and Magnuson to say thank you.

She also stayed connected to Saint Anselm College, participating in the Boston Business Roundtable, serving on the Alumni Council, and currently as a member of the college’s board of trustees.

“Regardless of how much my life has changed or evolved, I know that when I drive onto campus and walk into the Abbey Church for Mass, I see familiarity and it feels like home,” she says.

Connelly is deeply committed to ensuring that more students are able to find a home at Saint Anselm College. She has supported many scholarships throughout the years and recently made two leadership gifts. The first created the Professor Landis K. Magnuson Endowed Scholarship to honor Magnuson’s retirement. It provides assistance to students in need, with a preference for members of the Abbey Players. The second established the Connelly Challenge in honor of Professor Gary Bouchard, where she is
matching gifts up to $100,000 to the campaign to build a permanent home for the humanities.

Regardless of how much my life has changed or evolved, I know that when I drive onto campus and walk into the Abbey Church for Mass, I see familiarity and it feels like home.

—Susan Connelly ’92

“I wouldn’t have the ability to make leadership gifts without Landis and Gary. Recognizing that and celebrating that and appreciating that, it made sense to me,” she says. “It was a no-brainer for me to be able to say thank you and job well done. You have had such a tremendous impact, and your impact will continue through scholarships. You will be remembered.”

Susan Connelly '92 credits the people she met during her time on the Hilltop for helping her develop the leadership and writing skills to become chief communications and public affairs officer at Darden Restaurants, Inc. 

Past Philanthropy

  • Creating Well-Fed Souls

    Creating Well-Fed Souls

    By Anna Brennan-Curry 


    Robert and Beverly Grappone H.D. ’21

    Robert and Beverly Grappone H.D. ’21 have been pillars of the Anselmian community for years, supporting the football stadium and many other emerging needs at the college. Their greatest impact has been the project that is most personal to them—the founding of the Gregory J. Grappone ’04 Humanities Institute in memory of their son who passed away in 2015.

    After trying two other colleges to find neither was a good fit, Gregory J. Grappone ’04, a Great Books major, found his home at Saint Anselm College. He loved the atmosphere, and the opportunity to have deeper conversations while exploring the great books.

    “A beautiful stage in a person’s life is when they arrive at this school, and know that they can take a road that can lead up rather than down,” says Robert Grappone.

    A love for the humanities was not something unique to Greg, but rather something the entire family shares. Beverly Grappone remembers that all of her family has been touched by the humanities in some way, and that love is carried on to subsequent generations—including the love of theater by Greg’s daughter, Briar.

    “The humanities are way more than sitting and reading a book about Plato or somebody. You can incorporate it into all of your life,” says Beverly.

    It is this love of reflection and great books that gave Robert and Greg a chance to connect during the final months of Greg’s life. While visiting him at his home, Robert noticed a copy of Leo Tolstoy’s “A Calendar of Wisdom,” a collection of daily quotes and reflection from great texts around the world meant to “feed the soul.” The two of them, later adding filmmaker Ken Burns, the honorary campaign chair and a friend of Robert’s, would share the daily page and then their individual reflections via email.

    This daily exercise continues today, and the “Tolstoy Trio” has grown to include 130 people, some reading and reflecting independently, others continuing the conversation via email.

    The humanities are way more than sitting and reading a book about Plato ... you can incorporate it into all of your life.
    - Beverly Grappone H.D. '21

    As a part of the new Humanities Campaign, the Grappones have issued a $250,000 challenge grant to encourage others whose lives have been shaped by their study of the humanities to support the creation of a physical home for the building, one that serves as a visible sign of the central place the humanities play at Saint Anselm College.

    The Grappones believe that building a home for the humanities at Saint Anselm College is something Greg would have loved, not only because of his commitment to the Institute’s mission, but also its future location—the Boiler House, which is currently the college’s print shop. Beverly remembers how much Greg loved fonts and printing, and believes the building’s history makes it a perfect fit.

    Robert and Beverly look forward to seeing a space where students, faculty, staff, and the greater community can gather to learn and explore issues together, and believe that now is the right time.

    “Everyone has been so separate for so long,” says Beverly. “I think people are more thoughtful now after all they’ve been through.”

    The Grappones’ passion for the humanities project became even more clear when Allison Grappone, Greg’s twin sister, asked her father a question: “Would you rather have somebody donate or start a group of their own?”

    After a moment of thought, Robert answered, “It would be just as gratifying to me that if people don’t have the wherewithal to donate, they don’t have to donate, but if they started their own group that would be wonderful. I’d love to see people, on their own initiative, start a circle and do these reflections. Pick their own favorite authors, but make sure it’s noble.”

  • Supporting the Next Generation of Nurses

    Supporting the Next Generation of Nurses

    By Anna Brennan-Curry 


    Chris and Dixie Douville, members of the Class of 1986

    Saint Anselm College has had a profound influence on the lives of Chris and Dixie Douville. Both members of the class of 1986, they met during their time on the Hilltop, where Dixie studied nursing and Chris participated in the joint engineering 3+2 program at the University of Notre Dame. Throughout a whirlwind of moves, children, and busy careers, the college has remained a constant in their lives, and grounds them with a place of peace, community, and inspiration.

    In honor of this connection, and as a tribute to former nursing professor Lucille Lavoie, who passed away last year, the couple recently established the Lucille Lavoie ’57 Nursing Endowed Fund for Innovations in Teaching Excellence. For the Douvilles, the establishment of the fund is a way to honor the Hilltop and the impact Professor Lavoie had on Dixie’s career, as well as inspire others to reconnect and support the nursing department.


    Following a Path of Compassion

    After graduation, the couple married in October 1988, and spent the next two decades moving for Chris’ work living in seven different states. They had three children, but throughout their adventures Dixie’s commitment to nursing remained strong. She worked at a variety of hospitals, big and small, primarily in intensive and cardiac care.

    Today, they call Westport, Conn., home, where Chris is partially retired, and Dixie is a faculty member at Sacred Heart. Dixie often shares stories of Professor Lavoie with her students—in particular, one which involved a clinical experience she had with Professor Lavoie. “We were with a patient in pain who struggled to get comfortable, but I watched Professor Lavoie use therapeutic touch,” she says. According to Dixie, this was not common practice at the time. “To see someone who was trained in that, and for her to do it effectively, and for her to bring calm and comfort to this woman, was probably one of the most impressive things I’ve witnessed as a nursing professional,” she says. “I came to appreciate it even more as I grew in my own practice.”

    According to Dixie, this forward thinking was typical of Lavoie. “[Professor Lavoie] was always ahead of her time. She … always encouraged us to not just think about the physical aspect of caring for the patient, but also the spiritual aspect,” says Dixie. “She reinforced the college’s mission for the integration of the liberal arts, faith and service.”

    "[Professor Lavoie] was always ahead of her time. She ... always encouraged us to not just think about the physical aspect of caring for the patient, but also the spiritual aspect."

    - Dixie Douville '86


    Giving Back to the Hilltop

    With the creation of the Lucille Lavoie ’57 Nursing Endowed Fund for Innovations in Teaching Excellence, the Douvilles hope to not only honor the professor who devoted her life to readying the next generation of student nurses but also support the nursing department’s current needs, and build a foundation for future strength. Already, after the college announced the endowed fund as a part of their 7th annual Days of Giving campaign, the fund has raised more than $58,800.

    The establishment of the fund, however, is just one of many ways in which the couple has given back to the Hilltop. Dixie served on the Alumni Council, and in 2011 joined the board of trustees, where she currently serves as secretary. They also began to support the college philanthropically through a variety of campaigns, from athletics to the nursing program. Dixie and Chris see their support as a way to connect to the many different programs and initiatives of the college.

    “We found a number of needs we have been able to identify with,” says Chris. “We have gotten so much out of the college, even after we left, and hope that others can find their way back as well.”

  • Honoring the Legacy of Ernie Thorne '34

    Honoring the Legacy of Ernie Thorne '34



    Golden Anselmians from the class of 1934 at Alumni Reunion on June 12, 1994. Front row, from left: John Griffin, Dr. John Lepore, Ernie Thorne, John Stiles. Back row, from left: Denis Lynch ’81, Bruce Rizzo ’89.

    When he graduated from Saint Anselm College in 1934, Ernie Louis Thorne became the college’s first Black alumnus. From that time on, he became not only a memorable member of the Anselmian community, but also a vital part of Manchester. At his 70th birthday party, former Manchester mayor Sylvio Dupuis ’56, H.D. ’83 said, “He is one of the few people I know who could have a letter addressed ‘Ernie Thorne, Manchester’ and it would still be delivered to him.”

    Thorne’s path to the Hilltop was a unique one. “As the story goes, in 1930 Ernie’s mother appeared on campus and convinced the monks of the Abbey to admit her son Ernie to the college even though he and his family did not have the resources to finance his education,” says Father Francis McCarty, O.S.B. ’10. “The monks admitted Ernie to the class of 1934 on a complete scholarship.”

    As a student, Thorne was a member of Delta Sigma Mu, serving as the secretary and vice president, and worked as a reporter and contributing editor for The Tower newspaper. He studied history and Romance languages. He performed in a number of school productions and in 1933 directed Amateur Night at the college.

    After graduation, Thorne continued to live and work in Manchester for the rest of his life where he was a well-known member of the community. He worked as a car salesman, driving instructor, and later in life as the bartender and host of the Anheuser- Busch brewery in Merrimack, N.H., where he met many Saint Anselm students. He regularly attended alumni and sporting events at the college and served as the vice chairman of the Order of Golden Anselmians. Thorne passed away in 1995 at the age of 85, and his class ring is held in Saint Anselm’s archives.

    “ Our strong social justice focus of the Catholic intellectual tradition grounds our work and propels us toward empathy and action.”

    — Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D.

    This past summer, Denis Lynch ’81 and Keith Woolley ’82 led the charge to set up the Ernie Thorne ’34 Scholarship Fund for Racial Equality in his honor. This endowed scholarship will provide financial aid and educational opportunities to underrepresented students from Manchester, southern New Hampshire, and California. The idea for the scholarship was in response to the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

    “Denis has been my friend for over 40 years. I believe this long-standing friendship, fostered as students at Saint Anselm, and solidified as alumni, has been enriched by our willingness to engage in open and candid discussions about race,” says Woolley. “We both believe that now is the time for not just passionate dialogue but, more importantly, it is time for action.”

    Lynch agrees. “After attending three global town hall meetings on racial equality and inclusion by my company, Hewlett-Packard, I was motivated and challenged to make a difference in my new community of New Hampshire,” he says. “I believe in supporting this scholarship because I know the gift of a Saint Anselm education will benefit the next generation of black leaders.”

    More than $100,000 has been raised, including generous matching gifts from Hewlett-Packard and a leadership gift from the monastic community. “The monks of Saint Anselm Abbey have designated a gift of $50,000 to the Ernie Thorne ’34 Scholarship for Racial Equality with the hope that others will join in supporting the fund so that the college’s diversity initiatives will be sustained for years to come,” says Father Francis.

    These gifts, according to Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D., president of Saint Anselm College, are important and appreciated for many different reasons. “We are grateful to all our generous alumni, the monastic community, and the Saint Anselm community, who contribute to the college, and these gifts are particularly important at this moment as we feel a new urgency to our commitment to creating a community of inclusion and equity,” he says. “Our strong social justice focus of the Catholic intellectual tradition grounds our work and propels us toward empathy and action.”

    The college will begin awarding the scholarship in the 2021-2022 academic year.

  • Michael Sheehan ’82, H.D. ’11 Fuels Signature Humanities Program by Paul Pronovost '91

    Sheehan Fund Fuels Signature Humanities Program

    By Paul Pronovost ’91

    Michael Sheehan

    For generations of Saint Anselm students, the cornerstone of the curriculum was Portraits of Human Greatness, a two-year program that examined humanity, morality and spirituality through archetypes like the “Warrior” and individuals such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    In 2014, however, after years of work to reimagine the program, a new humanities program was unveiled. In Conversatio, Saint Anselm students consider questions of value, moral choice, and the real significance of human life through a multidisciplinary series of seminars, readings and lectures, and an expansive program of films, concerts, exhibitions and stage presentations.

    Pivoting to a new humanities model was not easy and has required extensive faculty training and continuous learning. The program’s success can be credited to a $500,000 gift from the Sheehan family in support of the college’s humanities efforts. Through the Frederick and Claire Sheehan Endowed Faculty Fund, professors are provided the resources to develop innovative seminars and other learning experiences to help develop critical thinking skills that are the underpinnings of a Saint Anselm education, regardless of a student’s major.

    Dr. Gary Bouchard, a professor in the English department and executive director of the Grappone Institute for the Humanities, says the Sheehan Fund provides the lifeblood to the college’s signature program.

    “Just as the National Endowment for the Humanities helped sustain the Portraits of Human Greatness program by providing opportunities for selected faculty to read and study relevant classical texts together for a full year, the Sheehan Fellows program helps keep Conversatio vibrant by funding a similar opportunity for selected faculty in the program to spend a year reading and studying texts that can then inform or even become part of the curriculum,” he says.

    Rooted in the Benedictine vow that encourages faithfulness to a way of life within community, Conversatio is the foundational shared learning experience for every Saint Anselm student.

    As part of the Fund, a cohort of Sheehan fellows are provided support to develop and discuss new ideas for Conversatio. This year’s Sheehan fellows—David Banach, philosophy department; Dale Kuehne, politics; Sean Parr, fine arts; Aubrey Scheopner Torres, education; and Kevin Staley, philosophy—have been meeting biweekly to read and discuss works together.

    The fellows continuously shape Conversatio, keeping the program vibrant each year. An annual retreat also is held for humanities faculty so those teaching in the program can debrief and review new approaches to continually improve the lessons.

    “As the curriculum in Conversatio becomes less entrenched, faculty need to develop new curricular materials related to the modifications that are made each year,” says Dr. Derk Andrew Wierda, a professor of chemistry and director of the Conversatio program. “The Sheehan Fund helps to enhance the experience of all of our students and the faculty who teach in Conversatio, the common shared learning experience of the college.”

    At a time when many universities are moving away from a focus on the humanities, Saint Anselm’s Conversatio program distinguishes the college in how students are engaged in a variety of topics that might be outside of their comfort zone and in how they are asked to challenge themselves to have a better understanding of people, politics and culture.

    Michael Sheehan ’82, H.D. ’11, managing partner of Allied Sports and former chair of the Board of Trustees at Saint Anselm, says the skills learned through the college’s humanities program will make a difference in life for graduates.

    “By encouraging critical thinking and reasoning, Conversatio helps students define and refine their creativity and to develop lifelong intellectual curiosity. Innovation isn’t solely about STEM; it’s about ideas and concepts and original thinking. Conversatio gives Saint Anselm students, regardless of their major, an important advantage.”

    Over the years, the humanities program has expanded at Saint Anselm and now includes a minor with classes such as “Gender in Music and Literature,” “The Qu’ran, Culture, Conflicts: An Introduction to Islam,” “Shakespeare and Political Power” and more.


    Photo by Jeff Dachowski

  • Elizabeth (LaMalfa) Kelly ’83

    Paying it Forward

    By Anna Brennen-Curry


    Elizabeth (LaMalfa) Kelly ’83Elizabeth (LaMalfa) Kelly ’83 has always lived her life committed to her core beliefs and values—her Catholic faith, her family, and education—not just in speech, but also in action.

    Elizabeth (Beth) arrived on campus in 1979, with dreams of becoming a teacher. Saint Anselm had almost everything she was looking for—a strong liberal arts education rooted in Catholicism, as well as being close to her brother, a student at Merrimack College. At the time, however, Saint Anselm did not have an education department. The college worked with her to solve this problem, and she was able to take additional classes at Notre Dame College in Manchester. She loved her time on the Hilltop—living at Croydan Court, celebrating Bonfire weekend, and ending the week with Sunday night mass at the Abbey Church. In 1983, she graduated with a double major in English and Elementary education.

    After graduation, she moved back to Connecticut to begin working as an elementary school teacher, while also keeping in touch with her friends from the Hilltop. A close friend from Saint Anselm introduced her to her husband, John. Together they shared the same values, as well as a love of sports, which continues today. Eventually, Beth received a master’s degree in remedial reading and language arts from Central Connecticut State University that allowed her to work as a reading specialist. She stayed connected to Saint Anselm, returning to campus for homecomings and reunions, which helped her to stay in touch with friends who lived outside of Connecticut.

    Life changed drastically when, in 1995, Beth and John moved with their infant son, Chris, to Puerto Rico on a short-term assignment with Pfizer. They ended up living in Puerto Rico for 11 years. While there, Beth learned some Spanish, taught kindergarten at the local international school, and served as a religious education teacher at their local parish. John and Beth had two more sons, Thomas and Andrew, and all three grew up bilingual.

    In 2007, the family moved back to Connecticut. Beth reconnected with Saint Anselm and began serving as a member of the board of trustees in 2012, where she has been an engaged and active member, serving on presidential search committees, the student engagement committee, and the facilities committee, which was key to developing the Living & Learning Commons, the Jean Student Center, and the Welcome Center.

    Beth loves to look at the transformations seen on campus—a parking lot that is now the green quad in front of Joan of Arc, as well as returning to the Abbey Church, a place that has always kept her centered. Saint Anselm has changed since Beth graduated, but she believes what hasn’t changed is the college’s mission to be a community that is inclusive and welcoming.

    “My advice to alums would be that if you get the chance, come back to campus, find those friends you lost touch with, and meet them back on the Hilltop,” she says. “Attend a sporting event, come back for a lecture, because when you do that, you reconnect with the school and realize why you chose Saint Anselm College.”

    Five years ago, Beth and John decided to make an additional commitment to the college, and, after her years of experience in the education field, set up the Kelly Family Scholarship Fund to provide ongoing financial aid support to students.

    “High school is a tough time for students,” she says. “They can experience self-doubt as they try to figure out where they are going and what they want to do.” With this scholarship, Beth’s hope is to remove some of the financial burden from their decision, allowing students to create a new chapter in their life.

    Since establishing the scholarship, Beth and her family have enjoyed hearing from the students who received the scholarships, and find their words drive home the importance of giving back. They hope the students recognize that their Anselmian experience does not end with graduation. They should try to stay connected, and when they can, pay it forward.


    Photo by Leah LaRiccia