Grand Design

Grand Design

David Frassinelli stands outside of Fairfield Prep’s Xavier Hall, built by his grandfather’s company, E and F Construction, in 1947.

David Frassinelli stands outside of Fairfield Prep’s Xavier Hall, built by his grandfather’s company, E&F Construction, in 1947.

David Frassinelli M’92 has shaped Fairfield’s North Benson campus. Now he is transforming a church built by his grandfather to create Bellarmine Campus.

There was a priest who invested in and educated my grandfather, which enabled him to come and build these church buildings, and now we are paying it forward with our investment to turn St. Ambrose into a place where people can make a new start and get an education.

— David Frassinelli

In 1939, Local Bridgeport, Conn., newspapers announced the opening of a new church, “on the brow of Boston Ave., one of the choicest locations in the city.” Built by E&F Construction, 1939, founded by Italian immigrants Philip Epifano and Ferdinand Frassinelli, the St. Ambrose Catholic church and rectory were described as “designed in the Lombard style, taken from several of the prominent medieval cathedrals in Northern Italy.”

When the parish closed in 2012, St. Ambrose’s distinctive buildings fell into disuse.

Now, a decade later, the property is undergoing a renovation and will re-open its doors in fall 2023 as Bellarmine Campus, home of the University’s new two-year Fairfield Bellarmine associate’s degree program, offering educational access to underserved students in the Greater Bridgeport area.

Leading the transformation of Bellarmine Campus is the grandson of one of St. Ambrose parish’s original builders: David Frassinelli M’92, Fairfield University’s vice president of facilities, campus and auxiliary services.

“We are making this property useful again,” Frassinelli said, while noting the challenges of a modernization project of this scale. “The buildings have been sitting vacant, and we are giving them a new purpose.”

Since joining the University administration in 2008, Frassinelli has overseen the design and construction of every building and renovation project on the North Benson campus with one goal in mind: to build world-class facilities for the academic and personal growth of Fairfield’s students. “In the past 15 years,” he noted recently, “I’ve added 35 percent to the total square footage of buildings on this campus.”

How much actual footage does that translate to? At 85,000 square feet, the brand-new Leo D. Mahoney Arena (2022) is Frassinelli’s largest – and newest – showstopper on campus, followed by the 80,500-square foot Charles F. Dolan School of Business (2019) and the 70,000-square foot Marion Peckham Eagan School of Nursing and Health Studies (2017).

Factor in every new residence hall and townhouse unit, the Tully Dining Commons, the Kelley Parking Garage, and the 3,500-capacity Rafferty Stadium, and a reasonable estimate is that he has managed the construction of nearly three-quarters of a million square feet of new space at Fairfield.

Frassinelli grew up in the Black Rock section of Bridgeport. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, a master’s degree in finance from Fairfield, and a certificate in construction management from Stanford. His work experience began at E&F Construction and continued at Gilbane Building Company.

As a project manager at Gilbane in the early 2000s, he oversaw the Arrupe Hall addition to Fairfield Prep, which connects Prep’s two original buildings, Xavier Hall and Berchman’s Hall, both constructed in 1947 by his grandfather. He also worked on the renovation of Fairfield’s Nyselius library, originally built by E&F in 1968, after his father, Fred, had taken over the family business.

These multigenerational family construction collaborations continued when he was hired by Fairfield. In fact, more than half of Fairfield’s earliest buildings were built by E&F Construction between the 1940s and early ’70s — including Alumni Hall, the original Campus Center, the first Quad residence halls, and Dolan Hall, where the facilities management offices are located. In the past decade and a half, Frassinelli has maintained, renovated, and modernized them all.

On a recent Morning in his dolan hall office, Frassinelli opened a 100-year-old E&F Construction scrapbook filled with yellowed newspaper clippings from the 1920s and ’30s, and shared the story of his grandfather, Ferdinand.

“[He] was an orphan, and there was a local priest in his village in Italy who took an interest in him,” Frassinelli said. “After working all day as a stonemason, he would visit the priest, who taught him how to write and do math.”

A skilled craftsman, Ferdinand later immigrated to America, settled in Bridgeport, and co-founded E&F with his friend Philip Epifano in 1922. While making a new life for himself, the young entrepreneur never forgot the kindness of the priest who’d instructed him. Once E&F was up and running, Ferdinand began sending money back to the Italian village.


Since joining the University administration in 2008, David Frassinelli has overseen the modernization of Fairfield’s campus with innovative design, technology upgrades, and a commitment to sustainability. A sampling of projects over the past 15 years:


Dolan School of Business

Charles F. Dolan School of Business

  • Early Learning Center (Renovation: 2008)
  • Bellarmine Galleries of the Fairfield University Art Museum (New: 2010)
  • Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Welcome Center & Parking Garage (Renovation/New: 2017)
  • Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing & Health Studies (New: 2017)
  • Charles F. Dolan School of Business (New: 2019)
  • College of Arts & Sciences Media Center (Renovation: 2020)
  • School of Engineering Innovation Annex (Renovation: 2021)
  • Bellarmine Campus (Renovation: Projected Fall 2023)

Community Living

Langguth Hall

42 Langguth Hall

  • St. Ignatius Hall – Jesuit Community Center (New: 2009)
  • Faber Hall (Renovated: 2009)
  • Meditz Hall (New: 2011)
  • 47 Mahan Road (New: 2011)
  • 70 McCormick (New: 2011)
  • Dolan Hall (Renovated: 2011)
  • 42 Langguth Hall (New: 2018)
  • Barnyard Manor Townhouses (New: 2019)
  • Townhouse Complex (Additional Units: 2022)
  • Regis West (New: Projected Fall 2023)
the Leo D. Mahoney Arena

The Leo D. Mahoney Arena


  • Leslie C. Quick Recreation Complex (Renovation/Addition: 2016)
  • Rafferty Stadium (New: 2015)
  • Tully Dining Commons (Renovation/Addition: 2017)
  • Student Wellness Center (New: 2020)
  • Leo D. Mahoney Arena (New: 2022)
A 1939 front-page story in the Bridgeport Post shares news of the construction of St. Ambrose Church and rectory

A 1939 front-page story in the Bridgeport Post shares news of the construction of St. Ambrose Church and rectory

Eventually, Frassinelli noted, “a church was built in my grandfather’s hometown from the donations he’d sent over.”

Gingerly turning the fragile pages of the antique E&F scrapbook, Frassinelli pointed out the many churches, schools, hospitals, and municipal buildings throughout the Greater Bridgeport area that his grandfather built.

“Of course, the construction business in those days was something very different than it is today,” he said. “Whereas a modern construction company manages the project but subcontracts the labor, back then, my grandfather’s company did it all — they dug the hole, made the concrete, laid the brick, and did the carpentry. In 1930, they had a workforce of more than 1,000 people.”

Given the volume of projects built by E&F Construction, Frassinelli can be forgiven for not realizing at first that St. Ambrose Church and rectory in Bridgeport was built by his grandfather.

“When I started working on plans for St. Ambrose,” he admitted, “I honestly didn’t know he had built it.”

The significance of the St. Ambrose property’s history is not lost on Frassinelli. “Think about it,” he said, “there was a priest who invested in and educated my grandfather, which enabled him to come and build these church buildings, and now we are paying it forward with our investment to turn St. Ambrose into a place where people can make a new start and get an education.”


A modern campus isn’t only about innovation and technology, it’s about sustainability. As chair of Fairfield’s Campus Sustainability Committee, David Frassinelli is committed to environmentally responsible building practices and energy resources.

Whenever possible, Fairfield’s facilities are constructed using renewable building materials with low-carbon footprints. The North Benson campus is equipped with energy-efficient lighting, waterconserving bathroom fixtures, and 100-percent green cleaning products. Several buildings boast green screens and vegetative roofs, the nursing school features passive solar components, and the on-campus Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant produces nearly 95 percent of the University’s electricity and up to two-thirds of the school’s hot water heating and cooling supply.

Over the years, this commitment to sustainability has earned the University high marks from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the EPA’s Energy Star combined heat and power award; and even a place on the Sierra Club’s list of “cool schools” when it comes to green efforts.

Visit to learn more about Fairfield’s new academic initiative offering a two-year associate’s degree, serving students from the Bridgeport region.

Other Articles in the Spring 2023 Issue

Letter from the President

Read the Article

Online Learning, Fairfield Style

Read the Article


Read the Article

Play Ball

Read the Article

In Deep Waters

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Colleen (O’Donnell) Thorburn ’97

Read the Article

Alumni Profile: Meaghan Mooney '05

Read the Article

Donor Profile: Robert Dawe '72, MD, Honors Wife Jean Dawe Through Gift to the Egan School

Read the Article

Search Results