Connors’s Reign

Jack Connors attained his influence, in part, by sitting on a variety of corporate and nonprofit boards. A lot of them — 29 in all. Yet a few in particular catapulted him to that next level of clout. Here, a chronicle of his rise.

In the late 1970s, Connors approached Boston College president Father J. Donald Monan with a proposition: Connors would host $1,000-a-plate fundraisers for the school. In exchange, Monan would consider Connors for a seat on BC’s board. Connors’s first fundraiser raised $15,000 for BC. His next raised $250,000. He’s been on the board since 1979.

What’s now called the Citi Performing Arts Center was once the Metropolitan Theatre. Back in 1980, it was falling in on itself. Connors convinced one of his clients, Wang Laboratories, to spend $5 million to rename the theater the Wang Center for the Performing Arts. He was thereafter appointed chairman of the prestigious institution. That, says Connors, “was a very big deal.”

In 1991 John MacArthur, the chairman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, asked Connors if he’d like to sit on the nonprofit’s board. Connors said, “I’ve never been sick in my life, and I don’t know anything about medicine.” MacArthur’s reply: “We know medicine. We need someone who knows the town.”

Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals merged in 1994 to form Partners HealthCare System, the 800-pound gorilla of New England healthcare and one of the city’s most important employers. In 1996 Partners asked Connors to serve a one-year term as chairman of the board. He still serves in the role.

Today Connors can dictate his own terms. That’s the case with Camp Harbor View, a summerlong oasis for 11- to 14-year-old inner-city kids that Connors started with Boston Mayor Tom Menino. After explaining the need for the camp, Mayor Menino let Connors oversee the non-profit’s financing and operations. It’s now so successful that it’s had to extend its term to accommodate all the kids on the waiting list.