Joseph E. Connolly

June 5, 2020

Joseph E. Connolly

His Funeral Mass will be made available through ZOOM, on Friday, June 12th at 10 a.m. 

Zoom ID: 745-456-9017

Joseph E. Connolly – of NYC, formerly of Woburn, unexpectedly June 5th. Beloved son of the late P. Joseph and Kathryn M. (McNaney) Connolly. Loving brother of Judy Dinneen, her husband James FX Dinneen of Duxbury, Kevin P. Connolly, his wife Sharon McKeon Connolly of Woburn and Kathleen Ruane, her late husband William L. Ruane Jr. of Belmont. Longtime cherished partner Francois Farges of Paris, France. Truly devoted uncle of James J. Dinneen, his wife Jacklyn Dinneen of Duxbury, Brian P. Dinneen, his wife Kathryn Dinneen of Duxbury, Mark T. Dinneen, his wife Elizabeth Dinneen of Boston, Michael F. Dinneen of Duxbury, Allison C. Ruane, Matthew W. Ruane and Kristen P. Ruane all of Boston, Patrick C. Connolly of Cambridge, Maura C. Connolly of San Diego, CA and Christopher C. Connolly of Seattle, WA. Also survived by great nieces and nephews Vail, Boden, Heidi, James and Eryn Dinneen as well as many friends. At this time, services are pending and will be updated Monday. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Joe’s memory to the Woburn Public Library, 45 Pleasant Street, Woburn, MA 01801.

Please know that this written tribute should be free of the word, “awesome” – after all, friends, to use the word appropriately, it must be attributed to something that will leave you “full of awe” and that, in life, is rare. This rumination was one of many from US Commissioner Joseph Edward Connolly. He was one of a kind and his passing on Friday, June 5, 2020 at the age of 69 will leave a gap in the lives of many both here in the US and abroad. Joe Connolly was a devoted son, brother, partner, uncle, and great-uncle. He was a true intellectual and scholar, specializing in the areas of Isamic Banking and Global Finance. He was a historian, a linguist, and an etymologist (which is why the word “awesome” was quickly eliminated from the vocabularies of his relatives after its popularization in the 1990s). He was an internationalist, a banker, and a patron of the arts and libraries. Joe was an educator and mentor, a brilliant writer, and a voracious reader. He was a life-long Democrat who loved to incite his most liberal friends and relatives by playing “the role” of a conservative in his communications. He was quick-witted, hilarious, and, in true eldest-child-form, a complete and utter tease. Joe was deeply faithful and an extremely generous person. He never forgot his hometown of Woburn, Massachusetts despite his worldwide travels and residences abroad. He recognized all that Woburn gave him in his life and he sought to repay the community at every possible turn. 


Joseph E. Connolly was born on June 15, 1950 in Woburn to Patrick Joseph (“Joe”) Connolly and Kathryn McNaney (“Kay”) Connolly. To his delight, Joe was the oldest of four children who grew up across the street from Woburn Memorial High School. He thrived at WMHS serving as student council president. Joe studied as an undergraduate at Cornell University, departing Ithaca in 1972 with a BA (with highest honors) in Government and History. The very next year he enrolled at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Business Administration. He graduated in 1975 with an MBA in International Finance and Marketing. Over the next thirty years, Joe’s professional life took the form of working in international banking. He would start his career with the Continental Illinois National Bank in Chicago before working for the First National Bank of Boston, Moody’s Investor Services, the Fitch Investor Service/EuroRatings Ltd., and Citigroup/Citicorp/Citibank. These positions would keep him primarily between the cities of New York and London for twenty years time. The year 2000 would find Joe in Zurich working for the Union Bank of Switzerland before making a significant career shift in 2003. Joe’s post at the Richmond American International University in London would launch a nearly twenty year career in education.


Joe was a trustee and guest lecturer at the Richmond American International University in London until 2010. His experience at the university inspired him to seek and secure other visiting professorships at the American University in Cairo, Fordham University, the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausees, and the Sorbonne. He was on the Advisory Board of Scholar Rescue (which supports scholars whose lives and work are threatened in their home countries) and a published author.


In 2012, Joe was elected to the position of Trustee and Director of the Board of the Association of MBA Schools.  In that same year, he was named Commissioner for the Public within the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. In this role, Commissioner Connolly performed (re-)accreditation visits to institutions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, DC as well as American institutions abroad that are classified as Delaware corporations.


Joe – with a full plate professionally – still made time for boards, causes, and people near and dear to his heart. He was an active member within the Harvard Clubs of New York, Boston, and London. At the Harvard Club of New York, Joe served on the Library Board and the Arts and Architecture Board. He continued to be an advisor for the Scholar Rescue fund. He was a benefactor of public libraries in Duxbury, Massachusetts as well as his beloved Woburn. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to the Woburn Public Library (45 Pleasant St. Woburn, MA 01801) in memory of Joe. 


Joe never boasted about his professional record and was able to put his work aside while spending time with friends and family. We remember him as a loving, curious, trouble-maker who sometimes even signed off on his famous, over-the-top correspondences as “Joey Badass.” Joe is survived by his sister Judy Dinneen, and her husband James FX Dinneen of Duxbury; his brother Kevin P. Connolly, and his wife Sharon of Woburn; and his sister Kathleen Ruane of Belmont; his longtime cherished partner Francois Farges of Paris, France; his nephew and dear friend James J. Dinneen, and his wife Jacklyn of Duxbury; his nephew Brian P. Dinneen, and his wife Kathryn of Duxbury; his nephew Mark T. Dinneen, and his wife Elizabeth of Boston; his nephew Michael FX Dinneen of Duxbury; his niece Allison C. Ruane, his nephew Matthew W. Ruane and his niece Kristen P. Ruane all of Boston; his nephew Patrick C. Connolly of Cambridge; his niece and favorite correspondent Maura C. Connolly of San Diego, CA; and his nephew Christopher C. Connolly of Seattle, WA. Joe is also survived by great nieces and nephews Vail, Boden, Heidi, James and Eryn Dinneen as well as many friends. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, services will be private; however, there is an online guestbook at Lynch-Cantillon at 

Oncle Joe – “Joey Badass” – your career, your manner, your life was “awe-inspiring” (your preferred term) if not truly awesome.


Service arrangements pending, please check back soon.


39 Entries

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  1. I recall seeing my friend Joe around 1st and 53rd during the New York pandemic lockdown. He was buying veggies or fruit from the outside vendor. Since I was riding the bus, I could not get to say hello. It was the last time I saw him. I did try to call him a few times, but he rarely answered the phone. I, myself, had a few losses in 2001 followed by devastating losses of loved ones in 2021, so I lost touch.

    I was getting to call friends and reconnect now that the weather is nicer outside, with the sun finally shining brightly. To my dismay, after calling both his now disconnected numbers, I find myself here to absorb the bad news.

    A most gentle person you were, my friend. Gone too soon.

    My condolences to Joseph’s family and friends. He shall be missed.

  2. I first met Joe in Chicago in 1996 during the Democratic Convention. I am saddened to hear of his passing. He was a kind, exuberant man. My condolences.

  3. Francis Felser

    To the family and friends of Joe:

    I am so sorry for your significant loss. I had the wonderful pleasure of working with Joe at the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. He was such a wonderful man and so incredibly bright. He also spoke about Francois and he was so proud of his nephews and nieces. You have my sympathies.

  4. My deepest sympathy to all the Connolly and Dineen family members. Joe was a fun and interesting person to be with. Every Couple of years, I’d get an email from him saying “I’ll be in Woburn, let’s go out to lunch”. In fact he was going to come up in March but then the pandemic came and his doctor made him quarantine himself. I’ll miss his surprise visits and political emails. May he Rest In Peace.
    Carol Donovan

  5. Kathleen O'Doherty

    Joe and I met several times over the years at the Woburn Public Library where he always expressed his love and affection for the institution. I would like to express my sincere condolences to his family and large circle of friends. May your memories give you peace and comfort.
    Kathleen O’Doherty, Director Emerita, Woburn Public Library

  6. Philip Valende

    I am saddened to hear of Joe’s passing. He was my neighbor in both Woburn and Manhattan and we spent time together on Sunday nights in our local restaurant in NY. May he rest in peace.

  7. I’m so sad to hear of this loss. I had the pleasure of getting to know Joe while I was living in Paris. We met many times over coffee or a drink and discussed Democratic politics. He was great company and I enjoyed our time together. Thoughts and prayers to his friends, family and partner.

  8. Jerry Kobylski

    Thanks Joe for being an “awesome” person and friend. Your intellect, positive and caring demeanor, love of life and people, ability to always ask the tough questions to discuss, and so much more, were always an inspiration for me. Thank you!

  9. I am deeply saddened to hear of Joe’s passing. I met Joe in 2012 and am very lucky to have known him. He was such a kind person and I will always fondly remember our discussions on all sorts of topics, especially books and Ireland. Every time we saw each other, he brought me a book or two that he thought I might like. I have a whole section of my bookshelves dedicated to him.

    To those closest to him, my heartfelt sympathy and deepest condolences go out to you. Joe was an exceptional person and kind friend and he will be truly be missed.

  10. Mike O'Sullivan

    I had the pleasure and honour to know Joe through London, Paris and Zurich – though we always spoke about Ireland. A kind, interesting and generous man he introduced me to the Dineens. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam.

  11. Joe, Your life was so generously shared with the world. The author of your obitutary described your contributions to society brilliantly.
    Christine Butts Murphy class of ’68. Sincere condolences to your family and friends near and far.

  12. Heather Perfetti

    On behalf of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, I send condolences and prayers for peace and comfort for all who knew and loved Joe. He contributed so much to MSCHE but most importantly he was a friend to all who knew him. Our hearts are heavy and he is already missed, but his imprint on the Middle States region will continue to shine in so many ways through the contributions he made while a Commissioner. Rest In Peace, Joe. ?

  13. Jean Ricketts

    My most heartfelt condolences to Judy, Kathleen, and the entire Connolly, Dinneen, and Ruane families. A bright light has gone out, but so many lovely memories. I so enjoyed re-connecting with Joe during this past year and will treasure the always-fascinating conversations we had, as well as a truly memorable dinner at Neary’s in November. I was looking forward to hosting him for dinner at my home on his next trip out to Princeton. RIP Joe.

  14. Michael OSullivan

    To the Connollys and Dineens
    I met Joe at an event in the Irish embassy in London, a long time ago. Our paths crossed in Zurich and then in Paris where I live. I always thought of him as a close friend, an Irishman, someone who introduced me to the wider Dineen family (and even to Michelle Obama before she was famous!). A kind, interesting and engaged man – Paris and Ireland will celebrate him, Mike O’Sullivan.

  15. Robert O'Connell

    Joe was a brilliant, kind, and generous guy with a terrific sense of humor.

    Heaven is now a much more interesting place.

    Rest In Peace. You are missed.

  16. While Joe and I were only acquaintances at Harvard Business School , our careers in Europe caused our paths to cross frequently. I had the pleasure of spending time with Joe and François on many occasions in Paris, London and Zurich. Joe’s quick wit and his encyclopedic knowledge of business and society will be missed! Deepest condolences to François and to the Connolly family.

  17. We might believe that Joe is at rest, but I want to imagine that Joe is busy planning his next great Christmas Eve extravaganza. Too many memories to count. We are all poorer for losing him but richer for having had the privilege of knowing him.

  18. Barbara Van Gelder

    I feel like a piece of my youth has been amputated without anesthesia. I spent many nights at the Connollys in high school and when we came home for holidays during college. More recently Joe and I reconnected when he found himself in DC or I happened to be in one of the many cities he called home. He was a kind soul, a keen mind and a citizen of the world. I will miss him. RIP to my co-editor

  19. Richard Labbe

    Judy, Kevin, and Kathleen, so very sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. It was so nice to see him again at our 50th reunion. Joe for all his accomplishments never forgot his Woburn roots. I will always remember those Christmas parties. Rest in peace my friend.

  20. Funeral Directors

    Thank you, “Big Brother,” for your stellar and steadfast, lifelong friendship, which can never be replaced. You were a fabulous mentor and counselor, and the memories of the many travels and occasions we shared will be cherished always. May God’s eternal light shine upon you and give you peace; and may God’s grace provide comfort and strength to your family and loved ones.

    Lawrence E. Gill

  21. Stephen Swymer

    Joe was a great guy. In high school he was one of those people that got along with every group. He had such energy and compassion.

  22. Richard Greenleaf

    I was stunned and saddened to learn of Joe’s death. I well remember the bright arc of is time at Woburn High School, and the love and pride his family held for him and his remarkable life. Please know of my prayers and best thoughts at this time of remembrance, grief, and thankfulness.

  23. My deepest condolences to Judy and all the Connolly’s. Joe was my best pal and I will treasure the many memories from our dinners in Neary’s- our shared love of great books and stories. I loved him so and will never forget him . Mary Leddy Harvard Club NYC

  24. Barbara McGee

    So many wonderful memories of conversations with Joe. I can’t find the words to make you feel better. Sadly, there are none but to know I care very much.

  25. Chip O’Hare

    Joe was one of the brightest and accomplished members of the HBS Class of ‘75. He was articulate and thoughtful in his dialogue in Section D, where his 80 section-mates held him in high esteem, as we all sought to survive the rigors of first year. He also had the thickest Boston accent in the section, which made his comments even more enjoyable to hear.
    While we all dispersed upon graduation, Joe is remembered as a very smart and very nice human being. RIP, Joe!

    Chip O’Hare, HBS Class of ‘75 and proud member of Section D.

  26. Robert F Connolly Jr

    Judy, Kevin, Kathy, the Connolly families, and extended family: My sister and I send our condolences to your family for your loss. We grew up very close to your family and shared your last name. We got to know you very well growing up in Woburn and have many fond memories of all of you. Extremely sorry for your loss and hope that all your good memories will get you through this very sad time. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Sincerely Bob Connolly and Susan Connolly Stark

  27. Ellen (Coakley) Szetela

    Judy,Kevin,Kathleen and Family’s sorry for your loss. Jody was great person, may he RIP. Fond memories growing up.

  28. Our thoughts and prayers with Joe, and especially Judy, Kevin, Kathleen, and Joe’s entire extended family. Joe was a great friend and confidant, for over 50 years.

    Many fond memories, from the Chapter House and “Creeker,” to LaFeber’s gov’t course, late-night “WOCs” at Harvard, the beach at Gloucester, and Durgin Park, Union Oyster, and the No Name. And of course shared times at the always welcoming Connolly home.

    I hope I have this correct … it reminds me of Joe. From the Sigma Chi/Alpha Phi fireplace mantle: “They reap a rich harvest who wisely sow.”

    –David and Deborah Wismer

  29. Mary (Sullivan) VanDeventer

    My sincere condolences to Joes family. I graduated from Woburn High class of 1968 with Joe and knew him through friends. I remember him as a fun loving person. I went to many Christmas Eve parties at his parents home. He always called me Mame, which I thought was funny! I pray for his family now as you deal with his loss. May he RIP, and may you all meet again!?❤️

  30. Marie Pazola Leen

    Joseph, as he liked me to call him, was the person
    whose resume I would refer to when citing the continued usefulness of French in the business
    world. Joseph, my former student at WHS, was
    generous with his time and enjoyed meeting and sharing dinner at some of his favorite Paris restaurants.He was always interesting and full
    of fun.
    My sympathy to his family and friends. I will
    never forget Joseph.

  31. Ercan Kumcu and Pat Lasonde

    Prayers for Joe from Istanbul to Judy, Kevin and Kathleen and their families. Ercan and Pat

  32. Pat Lasonde and Ercan Kumcu

    So happy to have the opportunity to meet Joe, if only tangentially …via two routes – through U. of Notre Dame (Pat via Joe’s brother, Kevin) and banking (Joe was a banker in the Middle East while Ercan (Pat’s husband) was at the Central Bank of Turkey). It was such a pleasure to cross paths with Joe in Woburn, Gloucester and over some very “smart” cocktail parties in Washington, DC and Europe. You are and will always be missed Joe.

  33. Bob and Karen Maguire

    Karen and I are sad to hear of Joe’s passing. He was a good neighbor, friend and classmate. We will never forget his consistent goodwill and generosity. We offer our condolences to the extended Connolly family.
    May he rest in peace.

  34. Carol (MacDonald) Lynch

    To Joe’s Family-
    My sympathy and prayers are with all of you at this time.
    My family has very fond memories of your parents as well as your Brother Joe.
    He always included my Mother in special events to which he also took my Mother.
    Your Mother was so very proud of Joe and her other children.
    Losing a sibling is so difficult but the memories we have of them are something we can always treasure.
    Love to all of you. Carol (MacDonald) Lynch

  35. Joe & Nancy Flaherty

    Judy, Kevin, Katheleen, and the entirety of Clan Connolly we were so very saddened to hear of the loss of your brother, Joe. Elaine and I were reminiscing about him yesterday, and we remembered some, but not all, of his academic and business successes. We also remembered his kindness and affection for our parents, because he never failed to visit 12 Lakeview Terrace every time he found himself in Woburn. Even with all of his accomplishments I believe that his greatest gift was that he could sit and have a great conversation with anybody. From the glass towers of finance in London, New York, and Paris, to the academia at any university, to patrons of the library, with the crowd in the bleachers of Fenway, or the Royal Ascot, or even, I mean especially, the kitchen table at 83 Montvale Ave. When I was very little, I remember following him around when he was working in your yard, so I will always remember him as “keeper of bees,” and “grower of Chinese Lantern flowers.” May God bless his soul. Slan leat, Jody.

  36. Maureen Comeiro

    I am so very saddened to hear that our lifelong friend has passed. So many wonderful childhood memories. My condolences to Judy, Kevin, Kathleen and the family.

  37. Elaine Paradis

    Rest In Peace, dear friend…
    So, thankful you made the trip across the pond in 2018 for our 50th

  38. Lois & Jerry Surette

    to Joe’s family,

    We are so saddened to hear of Joe’s untimely passing. Joe was a special classmate and friend. Please accept our condolences.

    Fondly, Lois and Jerry Surette

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