The assembly was themed as a lighthearted roast of Mr Connelly. “There has been great admiration both for John Connelly and his contributions to our community,” said Dr. Gary Tocchet, Principal of Regis High School, in his introductory remarks. “As such, we have chosen to ignore John’s wish that we not make a fuss over him.”
(Pictured: Mr. John Connelly '56 addresses the student body during the school-wide assembly held in his honor)
Fr. Anthony Andreassi, C.O. was invited to the stage to read a “missing chapter” from his book on the history of Regis. The text described a fictitious origin of the school’s dress code and connected it to the young, freshmen John Connelly from the fall of 1952. At one point, Andreassi’s reading “cut away” to the stage, where second year English Teacher Brendan Coffey performed a Mr. Connelly-inspired version of Irving Berlin’s “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails”.
Upon the conclusion of Andreassi’s reading, the “Founding Family” (played by Don Allison, Vice President of Finance, and Pat Peelen P’81, Front Office Coordinator) escorted Mr. Connelly to the stage. After bowing to the audience’s standing ovation, Mr. Connelly took a seat at a table on the stage that was a re-creation of Madison Avenue’s The New Amity, a restaurant where Mr. Connelly and Mr. John Murphy, longtime History Department colleagues, had breakfast virtually every school-day morning. The owner of The New Amity was on hand to serve their traditional breakfast orders.
Next, Mr. Brad Serton, Dean of Students, rummaged through a humorous list of items claimed to be found while cleaning out Mr. Connelly’s faculty locker. When asked if anyone had found a missing fedora, the entire student body revealed plastic fedora hats, an homage to the fashionable hats Mr. Connelly has worn throughout his years teaching at Regis.
Following an additional lost chapter from Fr. Andreassi’s book, Mr. Eric DiMichele, who served as the event’s emcee, added his own humorous reflections. Brendan Quinn ’14 then spoke on behalf of the student body. Although sentimental in his words, he, too, shared in the event’s humor.
“I’ll never forget my first quiz in Mr. Connelly’s junior year European History class,” said Quinn. “I got a 0. A flat out 0. When I brought it to Mr. Connelly’s desk, I said Mr. Connelly, to be honest, I don’t think I deserved a 0 on this, to which he responded, I know, son, me neither, but that’s the highest I could go.”
Finally, Dr. Kristin Ross, Assistant Principal, recounted Mr. Connelly’s contributions to Regis. Noted was the fact that Mr. Connelly is the longest serving faculty member in Regis history, and that he has educated students from more than half the graduating classes of Regis.
“John elected to spend over half a century in our halls, contributing to our community and our students in ways that are simply too numerable to count,” said Ross. “He has cared for, and tended to, the intellectual and personal development of Regians during the entirety of his years.”
In early May, the administration informed alumni that Mr. Connelly would be retiring, and invited them to send a word or two to celebrate this milestone. The response was both tremendous and inspiring. Notes flooded in from around the world from Regians who spoke with depth and sincerity of the profound impact Mr. Connelly had—and continues to have—on their lives.
Upon concluding her address, Dr. Ross handed Mr. Connelly a massive binder containing a copy of every alumni message received. After another sustained standing ovation, Mr. Connelly took to the podium to provide his own, final remarks.
Not to be left out of the humorous fun had by the prior speakers, Connelly quipped: “Reflecting on this assemblage, what really makes Regis great, is the ability to award and honor people for the single achievement of not dying.”
Connelly ended his brief remarks with a more serious and sincere tone. “I have this to say to my colleagues, friends, students—past present, all of you here today: with becoming brevity, thank you.”
Before concluding the event, the student body sang the Regis Alma Mater, a final tribute to Mr. Connelly’s 52 years of service to Regis.
Above: John Connelly '56 attempts to quiet the audience of students and faculty after a standing ovation given at the assembly held in his honor.
Above: Dr. Kristin Ross presents Mr. John Connelly with a binder filled with congratulatory notes written by alumni who were taught by Connelly throughout his 52 years as at teacher at Regis.
Above: Mr. John Connelly poses for a photo with his wife, Susan, and his son, Michael '99, following the conclusion of the assembly.