Saturday, August 13, 2022

Engineer Turned Journalist: New York Resident ‘Commutes’ to Ole Miss

The Adirondack Mountains in New York.
The Adirondack Mountains in New York.

Edward Connolly isn’t your normal Ole Miss student – in fact, he wasn’t a normal engineer in his “other” life, either – or at least that’s what I’ve learned concerning the differences between left- and right-brained thinkers.

In his “other” life – as an engineer – Connolly obviously subjugated primarily the left side of his brain – you know, the side that focuses on logic, mathematics and sequencing.

Now, however – as a writer – he’s incorporating more of the right side of his brain; creativity, Holistic thinking, intuition and imagination.

It is said that by activating the power of both hemispheres, a person will be able to retain knowledge better and become proficient in any subject – or in Connolly’s case, profession. Bottom line: I’m in awe of any person who can tap into all of his or her brain’s reserves and change gears at will – to progressively move forward in life – at any age.

Engineer turned journalist, Edward Connolly, is about to wrap up another semester at Ole Miss and head north to the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Photo courtesy of Ed Connolley
Engineer turned journalist, Edward Connolly, is about to wrap up another semester at Ole Miss and head north to the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Photo courtesy of Ed Connolley

Meet Edward ‘Ed’ Connolly – a 70-year-old journalism student at Ole Miss. Classification: Fluid.

“Subjectively I guess you would call me a junior based on the fact that I am taking 400 and 500 level courses,” Connolly said, “but I don’t have a schedule for a graduations date. I’m taking courses more or less electively based on what my advisor recommends me for. Most are junior or senior level and very focused on actively writing, deadlines and the narrative form.”

A former naval VIET Nam Era veteran whose first degree was A.A.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology – Connolly recently retired from his 40+ year engineering position in New York to pursue a journalism degree at Ole Miss – 5 months at a time. As a bonus, Connolly’s wife, Lyn, is also attending Ole Miss – tunneling her energy into music and history – a win/win for team Connolly.

Ed and Lyn Connolly on spring break at Pensacola Beach. Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly
Ed and Lyn Connolly on spring break at Pensacola Beach.
Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly

“I’m just a retired person who decided to change careers after retirement,” Connolly said. “I was an engineer for like 40 years. The funny thing is (as an engineer) I had to do a lot of technical writing and I always wondered if I would be any good at narrative writing which is what I’m interested in; narrative non-fiction feature writing. That’s my bag. At least I know what my bag is,” he laughed.

“Things like keeping up with the technology in the classroom and what the young people in your class are doing – all younger than my youngest kid – and whether or not you can relate to the people in your class; well, those elements I feel like I’ve had great success with,” Connolly said.

Even at 70 years of age, Connolly found it as surprising as it was unlikely that he’d find a mentor at Ole Miss – but that’s exactly what happened. He cites Professor of Journalism Joseph Atkins as being invaluable to him as he switches gears at this point in his life.

“He (Dr. Atkins) taught narrative non-fiction and I’ve taken two of his courses,” Connolly said. “He was so good that I asked him to be my advisor, and he is.”

Ole Miss Professor of Journalism Joseph Atkins. Photo courtesy of Twitter/Joe Atkins
Ole Miss Professor of Journalism Joseph Atkins.
Photo courtesy of Twitter/Joe Atkins

“I also consider Joe Atkins my mentor, which is funny to me because I’m 70-years-old and I have a mentor that’s younger than me,” Connolly added. “I’m not sure people realize if they are being mentored because you don’t hear about that much anymore. But Joe Atkins is definitely my mentor and he’s made a big difference in my life.”

Commuting to and from New York state (Whitehall, New York) based on seasons and available pertinent courses at Ole Miss, the Connollys take advantage of their driving time by sightseeing along their route. A recent trek had them winding through Mississippi following the Blues Trail markers scattered throughout our massive state.

“We always look forward to coming to Oxford, but we also enjoy heading home to the Adirondacks (mountains) in the spring,” Connolly explained. “We always say we get to enjoy two springtimes; one here in Mississippi and one in the Adirondacks.”

The Adirondack Mountains in New York.
The Adirondack Mountains in New York.

The Connollys have three kids who share their studious personalities: Padraig, who works in the World Trade Center in New York City as a vice president at a publishing company; Kieran, who is the Director of Trillium Charter School in Portland, Oregon; and Caitlin, a social worker in Bellingham, Washington. Their son, Padraig, and his wife, Sara, have two children.

“All three of our children have advanced degrees and work in education, social work and marketing – something we are very proud of,” Connolly beamed.

Although not fulltime residents of Oxford, the Connollys keep themselves busy outside of Ole Miss while in our neck of the woods. Both volunteer their time to the Oxford Film Festival and are active in Oxford Newcomers Club and they both enjoy theater in and around Lafayette County. They are also regulars at Rebel softball and baseball games as well as “all Ole Miss home basketball games.”

For Ed, the career change has led to early success as he now finds himself in a position to contribute to several publications in both Mississippi and New York. He now writes freelance under the business name Adirondack Writer’s Studio and can be reached by phone at 518-615-7303.

“I’m probably working as much now as I did when I had my engineering job,” Connolly said. “Working on five or six stories at the same time keeps you busy, but I love it.”

Ed and Lyn Connolly's New York state lake house on Emerald Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly
Ed and Lyn Connolly’s New York state lake house on Emerald Lake in the Adirondack Mountains.
Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly

Playing what is definitely a younger man’s game, Connolly doesn’t exhibit the exhaustion he must be feeling at times – juggling two homes, kids and grandkids, tons of travel and an overloaded writing schedule at Ole Miss.

“Sometimes I’ll be up to two or three o’clock in the morning working on a story and then back up at 6:45 to go to a class,” Connolly mused. “Sometimes I wonder what in the heck I’m doing.”

All we can say to that is Hotty Toddy, sir and keep up the amazing pace that you’ve ordained for yourself and Lyn. I feel I can absolutely speak for the entire L-O-U community when I say; we look forward to your next 5-month sabbatical when you and your big ol’ industrial strength, double-sided brain return to Oxford when we can say, “WELCOME HOME” and “FIRST DOWN – OLE MISS!”

Ed and Lyn Connolly's New York state lake house on Emerald Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly
Ed and Lyn Connolly’s New York state lake house on Emerald Lake in the Adirondack Mountains.
Photo courtesy of Ed Connolly

Jeff McVay is a staff writer and graphic designer for Hottytoddy.com. He can be reached at jeff.mcvay@hottytoddy.com.

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