John Connolly Sr., 52, remembers his graduation from Massasoit vividly. It was 2004, and he had an equally important engagement to get to that day as well – his son’s graduation from Totland College Nursery School. Having made arrangements to sneak out of Massasoit’s commencement after he walked across the stage, his family members were at his son’s graduation after all, John zipped off to catch his son complete one of his first academic milestones.

“John Sr. and John Jr. both graduated on the same day,” he recalls.

In high school school, John Connolly Sr. never envisioned himself as a college graduate. As a freshman, he discovered that he had a learning disability. He found himself wanting to be done with classes as soon as possible.

“I maybe didn’t adapt to the learning disability as much as I should have then,” said John. “But when a teacher told me, I was going to waste my money going into college, I used that and my disability as a crutch.”

After graduating high school, John tried taking classes at another community college, but struggled to get a strong start.

“I got thrown in with the wolves, and after a semester, I said this was wasn’t for me.”

So John entered the workforce, initially working a couple of blue collar careers, but then finding his niche in business and sales. He stumbled into real estate by mistake in the early ‘90s, having had to sell his great aunt’s home. Joe Spinella, a fellow Massasoit alumnus who would later become his partner at J&J Realty Trust, encouraged him to embark on a real estate career. He was working full time then, but within a few months he changed course and took the steps necessary to become a realtor. In that regard, John has never looked back.

An avid goal setter, John still had one lingering while he was growing in his career at SUCCESS! Real Estate and starting his family – and that was graduating from college. All six of his older siblings had graduated from local colleges and universities, and he would frequently ponder, “how many parents can say all seven of their kids went to college?”

John knew about Massasoit through different sources, and his partner at J&J realty was also a Massasoit alumnus.

“I had heard a lot of good things, and that it was a great step into higher education and for pursuing a four-year degree, which at the time I was interested in,” said John.

He quickly found himself immersed in Massasoit’s business, math, and computer classes, and was bringing lessons he learned in academia into his real working-world. Massasoit professors and instructors would frequently call on John to share his business experiences with classmates.

John spent much of his time studying in Massasoit’s Academic Resource Center (ARC), which offers a full range of tutoring and academic support services and is also home to The Writing Center.

“I can’t say enough about the ARC program. I wouldn’t have, never, ever, ever had made it through college without that program,” said John. “They were what I needed – the guidance. Someone to say, you can do this, you can do it, and study harder.”

In addition to the leadership and management skills he learned, John credits Massasoit with giving him the confidence to pursue all of his career aspirations.

“I would never of had the courage to get into a leadership position, or to be able to get into management, without my degree from Massasoit. My mindset is, I’m a college graduate, I know I can do it.”

John is now a vice president with SUCCESS! Real Estate, where he oversees 268 real estate agents, and owns properties throughout the country. He’s currently finishing the Leadership South Shore program, which develops, connects and inspires a diverse group of experienced and emerging leaders. John also frequently volunteers at a food pantry in Quincy and goes on a yearly humanitarian trip with the Saint Rock Haiti Foundation. He has connected his former classmates and other Massasoit students with opportunities and mentorship programs at SUCCESS!

That spring night 15 years ago might have been a bit rushed for John, but it’s one he will never forget.

“Walking that night, of my college graduation, I’d put that up there with the day I got married and the birth of my two kids. Getting my college degree from Massasoit was a top four moment in my life. You have no idea, for the kid who was always struggling through school, how much it means to me. It helped give me the drive and confidence to get to where I am now.”