Fairfield University's Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship awarded to 18th student from Ireland


Johnny Paradise

For Johnny Paradise, Fairfield University's Rev. John M. Conlisk Irish Scholarship came at just the right time.

A native of Ireland, Paradise graduated from the University of Limerick with a business degree this past spring, only to meet up with a struggling Irish economy and a 14 percent unemployment rate, the highest the country has seen in 16 years.

Enter Howard Caulfield, a college friend and Fairfield graduate student. He told Paradise about being awarded the Fr. Conlisk Scholarship to Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business in 2009. Paradise didn't hesitate to apply for it.

When the good news came that he had been named the 18th scholarship recipient, Paradise couldn't help but feel humbled. It is awarded each year to an M.B.A. 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 about three semesters since the students are attending full-time. The total grant generally amounts to between $40,000 and $50,000.

"It has taken a huge weight off of my mind," said the 24-year-old from Limerick. "My country is falling to pieces economically. Now at least I have 18 months taken care of." 

University trustee Kevin M. Conlisk '66, is part of a group that instituted the Fr. Conlisk Scholarship at Fairfield University in 1990. The scholarship is named for Conlisk's late brother, a 1954 Fairfield Prep graduate who served the Diocese of Bridgeport. A group of area residents of Irish heritage comprise the committee that awards the scholarship each year. Many of the committee members are of the first or second generation in the United States. When their parents or grandparents immigrated, they had very little education, and they wanted to better themselves and see their children become educated.

When the scholarship was born, 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. Although a then robust Irish economy became known as the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s, it has suffered greatly as the global recession has taken hold.

Paradise noted that attending graduate school in the United States should better his chances of landing a job either at home or, better yet, stateside. An internship on Wall Street - where he calculated risk for QBE Insurance Corporation last year - whet his appetite for working in New York City. "I graduate in January 2012 and I' m going to try my hardest to stay here," said the upbeat son of a telecommunications consultant and a retired nurse.

At the Dolan School of Business, he's enjoying courses taught by Professors John McDermott, Thomas E. Conine and Michael Tucker. "Their knowledge and enthusiasm for the issues is exceptional," he said.

The Bloomberg Terminals and Business Education Simulation and Trading (BEST) Classroom, complete with stock ticker and data wall displaying real time quotes, are two of his favorite learning opportunities. "The Bloomberg terminals give you access to information on any corporation or commodity in the world," said Paradise, who started to read finance books when he was just eight. "If you become Bloomberg certified, you give companies a big reason to hire you."

On the horizon is a trip to Toronto, where he will be part of Dr. Tucker's student team going to the annual Rotman International Trading Competition. He's also contemplating the opportunities that abound for Dolan School students wishing to intern in Manhattan. "I don't imagine I will spend my whole life living in cities," said Paradise, who was born in London, the second of three children. "I could see myself moving to the suburbs later in life when hopefully I will be in the position to devote more time to family and friends. Short-term, I hope I'm able to find a job after graduation doing something I enjoy and that might be the start of something great."

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

Posted on November 3, 2010

Vol. 43, No. 102