At this year's Fairfield Awards Dinner in NYC, Thomas J. Fanning Sr. ’78, P’10,’06 will be honored with the Alumni Service Award. Thomas’s most recent post as chair of the Dolan School of Business Advisory Board is just one of countless ways he has given back to his alma mater. He has served on the Trustees Advisory Council, and he has also been a reunion committee chair and volunteer.
“I wish I had more mentors when I was a student, so I give back through time and treasure to embellish the opportunities for students.
— Thomas J. Fanning Sr. ’78, P’10,’06
Further, Thomas is an avid Fairfield admissions advocate, consistently promoting the University in his professional network as founder and co-managing partner of Heritage Strategies LLC, and in his personal life, sharing his alma mater with two children, Tom Fanning Jr. ’10 and Heather Fanning Geyer ’06.
Fanning, a 1978 Fairfield University graduate and certified estate planner, began his career within the I.F.D. division of CIGNA, a $60 billion financial services leader. Recognizing that his high-net-worth clientele desired more sophisticated and focused planning, Fanning partnered with two former CIGNA colleagues in 1990 and established one of the top national life insurance brokerage firms in the country, representing some of America's most prominent families.
In 2002, Fanning's former partnership was acquired by National Financial Partners, a NYSE listed company, where he remained as president until reacquiring his practice and establishing Heritage Strategies LLC in 2009. Subsequently, Heritage Strategies LLC became one of 155 member firms of M Financial Group. M Financial Group is one of the nation’s leading financial service institutions, owning their own reinsurance company while simultaneously partnering with top carriers in the life insurance industry.
Thomas is also a founder and director of Gold Coast Bank and most recently acquired the franchise rights to PDQ for the majority of the Tri-State area. In addition, Fanning serves as chair of the Dolan School of Business (DSB) Advisory Council at Fairfield and believes staying involved at the University and providing mentorship opportunities to current students is what will advance the Fairfield experience into the future.
“I wish I had more mentors when I was a student, so I give back through time and treasure to embellish the opportunities for students. When students ask, “How do I become successful?” I say, “It isn’t easy, but go with your gut.” Everyone will be a lot better if we learn from each other.”
When Thomas was a student at Fairfield he resided in “Northwest” when he lived on campus, and in “The Zoo” when at the beach. He played rugby and varsity baseball, and was a regular at the Stag Her Inn. He said the good memories on campus and with friends were too many to list. But, even back then he and his buddies had an entrepreneurial spirit that couldn’t be beat – Fanning would work at his father’s steel company out on his native Long Island whenever he could, and one of his good friends, Paul Norton, started organizing bands to play music on the beach and gathered at least 1,000 people the first year -- a precursor to the Fairfield tradition now known as “Clam Jam.”
In his role on the DSB Advisory Board over the last four years, Tom takes about 20 hours a month to mentor a number of students and looks forward to the evolution of the advisory board.
“Students have the advantage of the alumni experience,” Tom said. “It’s about accessibility and the next stage of growth. That’s what community is all about.”
Fanning, now a grandfather to two young boys, said that he “just got a feeling about Fairfield,” when he first walked on campus, and that made him decide to attend. “The love, warmth, and security of my own family . . . Fairfield was an extension of that and I was able to apply what I learned in class to my work and life. It was the caring element.”