Wife of Boston Mayoral Candidate Connolly Hopes to Bring Armenian Flavor to City Hall


By Gabriella Gage

The Connolly family, from left: Meg Connolly and her husband, Boston mayoral candidate John R. Connolly, with children, Clare, Mary Katherine and Edward

Mirror-Spectator Staff

BOSTON — Meg Kassakian Connolly, is more than just the wife of Boston mayoral hopeful, John R. Connolly; she is a clinical psychologist with a passion for issues of mental health and immigration. She is a Harvard graduate and a soccer champ. She is a mother of three. She is also an Armenian-American with a deep appreciation for her family’s heritage.

Connolly grew up in Newton, attending public schools, before going on to Harvard University, where she studied sociology and captained the soccer team.

She has fond memories celebrating holidays with delicious Armenian food and spending time with her paternal grandmother, Mary Kassakian (maiden name Kondrajian,) who instilled in her an appreciation for her Armenian heritage and for the gift of family.

The Kondrajians arrived at Ellis Island from Sivas in 1910, narrowly missing the Genocide, amid the escalating climate of fear — a blessing that her grandmother did not fail to appreciate.

“She would always tell me how lucky I was to know my grandparents,” said Connolly. “There was a great optimism but also a deep sadness that would come across when she would talk about it.”

Kassakian family portrait years after leaving Istanbul at the turn of the century. Meg Connolly’s grandfather, Zareh Kapriel Kassakian, is pictured at left as a young boy.

Mugerdich Kondrajian, Mary’s father, worked hard toward the “American Dream” while also taking time to participate in the building of the new Armenian-American community blossoming in the Northeast. Kondrajian went on to become one of the founding members of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) New York Chapter.

Meg Connolly’s paternal grandfather’s family, the Kassakians, arrived years before the Kondrajians, and also shared the dual appreciation of embracing the culture of their new home while remembering their Armenian heritage. Both the Kassakian and Kondrajian families were involved in the rug business. Kapriel Kassakian hailed from Istanbul originally and in 1906 was involved in the groundbreaking and founding of Holy Cross Armenian Church in Union City, NJ.

Given the history of her family’s involvement in developing the Armenian community in the Northeast, it is no surprise Meg Connolly feels especially grateful for the installation of the Armenian Heritage Park and the Genocide Memorial.

“I’m so proud that Boston has a park that remembers the Armenian Genocide. I was really grateful to know that Councilor [Michael] Ross had advocated strongly for that park and I thanked him. It’s very meaningful to myself and my family that it is being acknowledged and presented in such a beautiful way. I’m going to have a place to take my children to help them learn and understand what happened when they are old enough,” said Connolly.

Bringing Heritage Park to fruition was in large part due to a strong working relationship between Mayor Tom Menino and the Greater Boston Armenian community.

It is exactly this kind of relationship and open willingness to work with others that Meg Connolly said her husband John, will foster if elected mayor of Boston. “John will absolutely continue this relationship and take an interest in the issues that matter to his constituents,” she said.

She also sees other overlaps between her husband’s vision and the issues important to Armenians in the area. “Armenians bring so much to the Greater Boston community. So many people in the community contribute in different ways because of the values they came here with and because they understand the struggles and are very grateful for what they have because of their history. [Armenians] value education so highly, social justice and generosity,” she said.

“The love of education is one reason that I believe John would resonate well with the Armenian community. Education is huge for him as well.”

Groundbreaking of Holy Cross Armenian Church, Union City, New Jersey in 1906, Meg Connolly’s paternal great-grandfather, Kapriel Kassakian, attended as a founding church member.

The couple has three children: Clare, 5, Edward (Teddy), 4, (named after her Armenian uncle, Edward, who died of pancreatic cancer shortly after Teddy’s birth) and Mary Katherine (MaryKate), 2 months, named after Meg’s beloved grandmother.

Clare Connolly is already in the Boston school system.

“Improving the opportunities and quality of education for all people in the city, especially children who are under-served is a huge passion of his as shown by his work on the City Council and his work as a teacher,” his wife said.

John Connolly  had worked as a teacher at the Boston Renaissance Charter School and a school in New York’s Lower East Side.

“John has a real personal investment in the city as a parent with children growing up here,” she added.

Meg Connolly praised her husband’s independence of thought. “He got into this race before Mayor Menino, whom we have a great respect for, announced his departure. I think that shows a real dedication to his vision and ideas and his ability to make difficult decisions and take a stand. He is not bogged down by outside interests or union interests. He isn’t owned by anyone.”

Meg Connolly stressed her commitment to community mental health, issues of trauma facing the immigrant population and the trickle-down effects of exposure to violence.

Young Mary Kondrajian, pictured left, paternal grandmother of Meg Connolly. The Kondrajians arrived at Ellis Island in 1910.

“I would welcome a role as a psychologist taking a huge interest in the intersection of mental health and public health, the experience of the diverse range of immigrants coming to our city and their varied experiences. I would be extremely committed to making sure that our city is as warm and welcoming as possible, taking real time to listen and learn of their experiences whether it be housing, jobs, educational opportunities, mental health service and public health services,” she noted.

She added that with her background she could “bring a real dedication to the interests of Armenians in the Greater Boston area and those in Armenia. I would be really interested in bringing together a trade delegation to see how we might come together and visit Armenia to understand their needs: social, physical, mental health, public health, medical facilities  and infrastructure of the country.”

She is not the only member of the family with ties to Armenia. She said, if her husband is elected mayor, she would also work with John’s uncle, Greg Connolly, a professor of public health at Harvard University, who has worked to curb the smoking epidemic in Armenia, a leading public health issue there.

Voters in Boston go to the polls on November 5.