About the Connolly Center

The J. Lawrence Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship is an interdisciplinary center intended to help students from across campus learn how to turn their creative ideas into successful business ventures.

The Connolly Center is named in recognition of the generosity and support of Leigh and Larry Connolly '79. Connolly is the former CEO of Connolly Inc., a recovery audit accounting and consulting firm. He joined the company in 1979 and went on to earn a MBA from Tulane University and work for Coopers & Lybrand before returning to work for the family business in 1986. Connolly and his sister, Libby Connolly Alexander, grew Connolly Inc. from 30 employees to more than 1,250. In 2012, they sold the company to Advent International.

When, in 2013, Connolly gave $2.5 million to help establish the Connolly Center, he said that he hoped the program would foster successful entrepreneurs, and that, one day, they'd be in a position to give back.

A liberal arts university is the ideal setting in which to foster entrepreneurship. Students are immersed in a course of study that emphasizes analytical thinking, qualitative and quantitative reasoning, creativity and innovation. W&L students recognize good ideas when they come across them and they're great at synthesizing research from a variety of fields. The Connolly Center provides them with the necessary tools to develop business plans that are both executable and fundable, and an extremely supportive alumni community gives their time to help shepherd students' ventures from concept to business plan to launch and beyond.

The Connolly Center is directed by Jeff Shay, the Johnson Professor of Entrepreneurship and Leadership. Associate Professor of Business Administration Drew Hess is an affiliated faculty member. Together, the two teach a variety of entrepreneurship courses including strategic management, technology and entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and the entrepreneurship capstone. In addition, the Center hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Programs like the Entrepreneurship Summit and the Social Entrepreneurship Summit are open to all students regardless of major.

Students who are interested in entrepreneurship gravitate toward the Venture Club, which is a student-run organization dedicated to bringing guests to campus, hosting pitch competitions and networking sessions and providing real world consulting to start-ups and entrepreneurially related firms.