Ireland native Gerald Adams wins Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship to attend Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business


You can't blame Gerald Adams for feeling like he won the lottery.

Just a matter of months ago, he was weighing attending graduate school or finding a finance job after graduating from college in his native Ireland. With the Irish economy no longer the Celtic Tiger it once was, he knew that the job market would be a competitive one. Then came news that he has been awarded the Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship to Fairfield University, worth about $50,000, and it sealed the deal. He's now pursuing a master's degree in finance at the Charles F. Dolan School of Business.

Ireland is now steeped in a recession, and Adams is right where he wants to be. "Those being laid off are going back to school," said Adams, who grew up near Shannon, Ireland. "Being well-educated as possible is what you need in today's job market. An MBA or master's degree is something critical to have. I have to tell you that I'm so glad to be here with all that is going on."

Adams is the 16th student to receive the scholarship, awarded each year to an MBA or M.S. in finance candidate from Ireland. The scholarship pays full tuition, room, and board as well as medical insurance expenses for the time it takes to complete the degree, usually three semesters.

It is named after the late Fr. Conlisk, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who served the Diocese of Bridgeport, as pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Redding, Sacred Heart Church in Georgetown, and St. Jerome Church in Norwalk.

When the scholarship was created 17 years ago, Irish students graduating from Irish colleges faced a bleak job market. Bringing them to Fairfield for graduate school meant a chance to make contacts with U.S. firms here and abroad. While the Irish economy has grown tremendously since the scholarship's inception, Ireland was hit hard this fall by the historic economic crisis enveloping the global economy.

Adams feels the future of the financial sector might be completely different when he graduates from Fairfield. "We might see pop-up start-ups from people (working in the financial sector) now pooling their Christmas bonuses together, so maybe there will be a job for me here," Adams said. "With Ireland in a recession, there has definitely been a tightening of the job market at home after so much of a boon in the last 10 years."

The youngest of four children, Adams said the scholarship has also meant a lot to his mother, Ann, a nurse, and his father, Gerald, a businessman. "They are pleased I have the opportunity to study at such a good school," he said.

Despite being far from home, Adams has family close by. His older brother Brian had been working for Bear Stearns in New York, and is now working for the defunct investment bank's new owner, J.P. Morgan.

Adams said his roommates "are like family," rounding out his Fairfield experience on a personal level. Kevin M. Conlisk ‘66, the brother of the late Fr. Conlisk and a Fairfield University Board of Trustee member who helped found the scholarship, has also been very welcoming. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that there is a big Irish community here, so that's been a wonderful thing to me," adds Adams.

Adams feels his career prospects are enhanced by earning a degree from a business school in the United States. It will complement his degree in economics and finance from the University of Limerick, which houses one of Ireland's most prestigious business schools.

The opportunity to study in America continues to be viewed as providing a certain cachet to an Irish student's resume, according to Norm Solomon, Ph. D., dean of the Dolan School.

The scholarship has dividends for Dolan graduate students. "The benefit of the scholarship is to bring students to the Dolan School of Business with a diverse cultural and academic background," said Dr. Dana A. Wilkie, the Dolan School's assistant dean and director of Graduate Programs. American students learn a different perspective from Conlisk scholars about how business is conducted in the European Union. Before enrolling at Fairfield, Adams worked in Luxembourg at a global funds firm, an experience he has shared in classes.

Appreciating the "practical learning" approach at the Dolan School, Adams said he is learning a lot from the School's emphasis on providing students with hands-on skills for working in finance and teamwork-building classroom lessons. In a course called "Shareholder Value," for example, Adams and his fellow students work in teams, running a company from scratch, complete with simulations and scenarios, and draft budgets for each fiscal quarter. "That's something I've never done before. You're not sitting down with a textbook at the Dolan School, you're active. In college in Ireland, it was about theory. Not here."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 20, 2008

Vol. 41, No. 144