On June 28, 2023, we lost a towering figure, Tom Dolan. The depth of his influence on my life has shaped my career, personal philosophy, and most important relationships.
Our story began 23 years ago at Clark University. As a sophomore, I founded the Armenian Students Association to honor our shared Armenian heritage. Simultaneously, Tom, serving as Clark’s Executive Vice President, led a $1.5M campaign to establish the first-ever chair of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark. Recognizing our mutual vision, Tom ushered me into an alliance that would evolve into a lifelong mentorship.
Tom, a master fundraiser, understood the value of engaging Clark’s Armenian community for support. His charisma and tireless efforts resulted in the establishment of the endowed professorship in 2002, with the generous backing of the Kaloosian and Mugar families. Tom, an Irishman with no Armenian lineage, had a profound appreciation for Armenian culture that touched Worcester’s Armenian community deeply.
Our professional relationship continued post-graduation. Tom kept me engaged in Clark’s activities, emphasizing the significance of alumni involvement. In 2009, he recommended I consider a position at Becker College’s Advancement team, a pivotal moment in my life and introduction into working within the field of Higher Education. His influence wasn’t just professional; it was during this period I met my life partner, Caitlin, and my business partner, Erjon.
At our first meeting, Tom handed me an agenda that I’ve framed and displayed in every office I’ve held. Its timeless advice, such as “Raise friends first. Raise funds second,” has shaped my approach to work and life.
Dated January 4, 2010, this agenda Tom prepared for my first meeting ever in higher education holds some of the best advice that continues to serve me well to this day: Raise friends first. Raise funds second. Think long term. Follow-up fast. Team approach, always. Communicate with a capital ‘C.’
Our relationship extended beyond the professional domain. I admired Tom’s personable approach, his remarkable memory, and his ability to connect on a personal level. When a fundraising consulting opportunity arose at a private/public secondary school I was working with at the time (Foxcroft Academy, in Dover Foxcroft, Maine), I recommended Tom, the most experienced fundraiser I knew. True to form, Tom did not disappoint. I received a heartfelt thank-you from the Headmaster for introducing him and his board to Tom. Apparently he entered the meeting fully equipped knowing the names and bio of each trustee. He left an indelible mark in that remote part of Maine, including the Inn Keeper where he stayed while in town, exemplifying his ability to impact every place he visited.
As the years passed by, we kept in touch periodically via hand-written correspondence and the occasional phone call. When my travels took me to Worcester, we would meet up for his favorite meal of the day at his go-to: Goldstar Blvd Diner on West Boylston Street. I remember him telling me that 70% of the most important deals in the Commonwealth were negotiated in the early mornings here.
Here is Tom and I at the Goldstar Blvd Diner in Worcester, MA. Tom is holding a book on Winslow Homer, a memento from our recent adventure. After a consulting project at Foxcroft Academy in Dover Foxcroft, Maine, we stopped in Portland. We visited the Portland Museum of Art, appreciating Homer’s works, and later strolled along Prout’s Neck, the very cliffs that inspired many of Homer’s iconic paintings. Our memorable day concluded with a delightful lunch at the Blackstone Inn.
The passing of his wife, Joan, in 2019, left a void, yet he retained his quick wit and cheerful spirit. Just months before his death, I visited him at his assisted living facility. That visit reiterated the valuable lessons he taught me and the enduring friendship we shared.
Tom treated everyone with equal respect, a trait that was widely admired at Clark. His ‘4 F’s – Family, Friends, Faith, Fortitude,’ along with his insights on fundraising and communication, are cornerstones of my professional ethos.
The final letter from Tom, received shortly after my last visit to him, was a poignant reminder of his enduring influence. His postscript read: “KEEP IT UP. You have NO UPPER limits. You have ALL the ‘right parts.'”
This was the last time I saw Tom, in early February 2023 at his assisted living facility. Despite advice against standing up from his personal caretaker, Tom insisted on standing up for this photo with me.
Reading his obituary and memorial in ClarkNow, I was reminded of just how many others he impacted similarly. He identified and nurtured my potential even when I was unaware of it. His wisdom, friendship, and the ‘Dolan-isms’ have been instrumental in my journey.
If you’re listening, Tom, thank you for the friendship, mentorship, and the countless lessons. Your memory and words will guide me for the rest of my life.