Long-time Suffield Academy faculty member Joe Connors passed away peacefully at age 78 in New Jersey on January 27, 2020. After growing up in Tenafly, New Jersey, Joe graduated from Dartmouth and received his M.A.T. and C.A.S. from Wesleyan University. He also attended the Hartt School of Music’s special summer program for directors of musicals. He taught at Loomis Chaffee School in 1964 before arriving at Suffield in the fall of 1965. A member of Suffield’s Department of English for 25 years, Joe chaired the department from 1976 to 1985, directed over 50 plays and musicals, served on the school’s discipline committee, was an adviser to The Suffield Bell, and was a dedicated coach and dorm parent. He was on the Advisory Board to the Suffield-Wesleyan Writer-Reader Conference, served as Coordinator to the Academy’s self-evaluation NEASC accreditation process, and was a reader for both the English Advanced Placement Exams and English Achievement Tests.
I suppose it all has to do with a feeling of somehow making a difference, of helping someone along. I know where our students start and where they finish. We are here and exist to educate, to change our students and instill skills, habits, knowledge, and the ability to think.
Joe helped guide and mentor thousands of Suffield Academy students. He once said in a Bell article, “I came to Suffield Academy in 1965 because they offered me more money. I stayed because I wanted to make students better writers and thinkers.” Joe met his wife Marilyn while in graduate school and they married in 1967. Both passionate about reading and teaching, Joe was joined on faculty by his wife in 1969. For four decades, their self-appointed role on campus was always to help keep decorum and good manners as important parts of the school’s daily routine.
In a self-authored article entitled “One Lives With 21 Brothers Under One Roof!” and originally printed in a 1979 edition of SUFFIELD magazine, Joe aptly described his life and feelings as a member of the Suffield community: “In a dorm one tries to provide a human, humane atmosphere for students who are living away from home and family, while still being able, through rules and examples, to guide adolescents towards maturity. Adolescence under the best circumstances [whatever they may be] is not an easy time. The world of the boarding school is out of the ordinary, not natural. No one has 22 sons between the ages of 15 and 18 living together under one roof in the real world. No one lives with 21 brothers under one roof in the real world. Here, in Pomeroy, one does. A dorm, for a while for some or a long while for us, is home.”
About his career in education, he simply stated, “I suppose it all has to do with a feeling of somehow making a difference, of helping someone along. I know where our students start and where they finish. We are here and exist to educate, to change our students and instill skills, habits, knowledge, and the ability to think.”
Joe Connors arrived at Suffield Academy in 1965 with a love of all things antique and a passion for literature. With a unique combination of delightful humor and absolute decorum, he was from a rare breed of educators who found great happiness in his years at Suffield Academy.
In 2007 Joe and Marilyn retired to Island Heights, where he was a 40-year member of the Island Heights Yacht Club. His hobbies included sailing, reading, architecture, theater, and spending time with his beloved wife Marilyn and their two sons Joe ’86 and Jon ’88, along with their wives Laura and Erin and four grandsons Malachy, Kelty, Jack, and Declan.