Alumni Profile: Jim Stapleton

Submitted by Virginia Weir, Assistant Director of Advancement Communications on November 2, 2012

My education and my career—I owe much of it to Fairfield… There is a real sense of tradition and legacy at Fairfield for my family and I would like to stay involved.

Jim Stapleton ’54

Major: History

Occupation: Attorney (retired)

Why Fairfield…

I attended Fairfield Prep for high school, so I knew of the University as a good Jesuit school. My father died when I was in high school and we didn’t have much money, and my mother told me that I could go to any college that I wanted—as long as it was Fairfield and I lived at home! We used to fondly refer to Fairfield as “200 rolling green acres and two buildings.” Fairfield is a great Jesuit school that offers an outstanding education.

My Experiences…

I started at Fairfield in 1950 during its time as a college for young men. It was a local school in those days, and many of my peers enrolled there. There were no dorms. Any students from out-of-town lived in the homes of nearby families. I played on the basketball team, and one of my teammates boarded with me at my house. There was a sense of community even in these early days. Many of my friends who attended Fairfield became very successful in their personal and professional lives.

Playing basketball is one of my favorite memories.

Because of the strength in my experience at Fairfield, I graduated cum laude and was accepted into law school at Boston College. Fairfield had then, and still has, an excellent academic program.

After Fairfield: A Career in Law

After I graduated from law school, I went to work for the United States Justice Department in Washington and while there earned an advanced degree in law at Georgetown. I then returned to practice with a law firm in Connecticut as a partner and the city attorney for Bridgeport. Later, I served as president of the Connecticut Bar Association and as a judge of the Superior Court. I continue my practice today in my home office as an arbitrator and a mediator on business and commercial matters. With my ten grandchildren and my practice, I certainly keep busy.

As a Fairfield alum, I’ve served the University in many capacities, including the Board of Trustees. For a period of time, I was the representative of Fairfield Prep’s Trustee Board and really got to know the principal, Fr. Jim Bowler, S.J., very well. As a result of our meaningful relationship and camaraderie, years later Fr. Bowler married four of my children.

Influential faculty: Carmen Donnarumma and Mathew McCarthy

There are almost too many influential faculty and mentors to recount after my 12 years of Jesuit education. At Fairfield, I always enjoyed Carmen Donnarumma’s courses; he was a great teacher. Mathew McCarthy, who taught some of my major courses in history and government, was also memorable. As a senior in college, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I’m so appreciative of the time I spent with the Jesuits and other professors who guided me to my calling.

A Strong Foundation

We were required to take courses in theology and philosophy each semester for four years and it served as a strong foundation and gave us a thoughtful approach to life. It was a significant grounding and illuminated to me the importance of values and family at a young age. I hope Fairfield will always require these core courses.

Why I Give Back

My education and my career—I owe much of it to Fairfield. My excellent education at Fairfield served as a basis for my legal education and I’m very grateful. When I started at Fairfield U, the tuition was $450 per year. I worked and lived at home and therefore could afford a great, Jesuit education and I want to give back to Fairfield.

Three of my sons graduated from Fairfield Prep, and three graduated from Fairfield U., and they received a superb education. They have fulfilling careers and went on to advanced degrees. I had a fourth son who was accepted at Fairfield U., but unfortunately died at 18 of leukemia before he could start classes. Currently, I have a granddaughter who attends Fairfield on a volleyball scholarship. There is a real sense of tradition and legacy at Fairfield for my family and I would like to stay involved.

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