James Connelly, Distinguished American

James W. Connelly is president of Jim Connelly & Associates. He joined the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame, was a member of the Board of Directors and became the Vice President beginning in 2014. Originally from Turtle Creek, PA, Connelly is a successful entrepreneur, having owned and operated many businesses, including restaurants, hotels, telecommunications, real estate ventures, motivational speaking and life coaching.

After graduating from high school, he completed a two-year military service, becoming a Signal Corp specialist. Returning to civilian life and between recessions and strikes at his hometown’s factories, he relocated to California and secured a position as a room clerk at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. His performance caught the eye of the hotel owner, and Connelly’s acceleration began. He became the general manager of the $100 million hotel, a position he held for 10 years. During this time, he earned the trust and friendship of entertainers, captains of industry and political figures.

While exploring new business opportunities, Connelly was invited by the chairman of Shearson Lehman to join the Wall Street firm. He was the first non-college graduate accepted into the firm’s management program and graduated from the New York Institute of Finance in the top 10 percent of his class. He was one of the highest performing investment bankers for the next five years.

Because of his experience and innate ability to lead people, Connelly founded and is president of International Leadership, an educational forum available to officers of companies desiring to become more successful leaders. This process includes individual coaching and team counseling in the areas of personal leadership skills such as goal setting, time management, building a plan of action and self-motivation. At the request of President Ronald Reagan, Connelly facilitated Leadership Goal Setting for the California Governor’s conference and the President’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities held at Stanford University. Connelly was the keynote speaker for the Volunteers of America Midas Touch program for gifted inner-city children, sponsored by TRW and the Los Angeles Rotary Club. Additionally, he served as a consultant to the board of Hughes Aircraft for many years and as the director of the Marina City Club. He also was president of the Cal-Neva Hotel and Casino.

Since 1985, Connelly has been caring for a dear friend, Donna Jones, who suffered a severe head injury as a result of a snowmobile accident. Despite the medical community’s prognosis that there was little hope for her to have an independent life, Connelly was determined to give his friend every opportunity to regain as much independence as possible. He put together a team of special people dedicated to bringing quality to her life, and she does live a full and independent life. The success of the story is documented in a book written by Connelly entitled, “One More Sunset,” a compelling story of survival through commitment, trust and love.

Connelly has made a career of helping people. He is a contributor to the University of Notre Dame and resides with his wife, Kate and daughter, Katy Clare, at the edge of the Notre Dame campus.