“She was outspoken, in the best sense of the word, about everything, but in particular about the myriad social inequities spawned by racial discrimination,” said Sharon Rodgers Simone ’67. “I admired her and was a little bit scared by her insights into social injustice. It would take me a few years to see what she already saw in the social structures we were all embedded in. In this regard, she was a leader and a role model for me and many other fellow Marygrovers. She still is.”
Nurtured by the testimony of the Civil Rights movement, Connolly recognized early in life that her passion was justice, and has tirelessly pursued it for those less privileged.
“Marygrove nourished my passion for social justice,” Connolly said. “The message was, ‘No matter how hard you and your families have to work to have you here, you are fortunate to be here and by virtue of that you must give back, you must contribute to the world.”
Taking that message to heart, Connolly has been giving back ever since. In 1985 she became the executive director of the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) of the Boston Bar Association. Under Connolly’s direction, VLP has recruited, trained and coordinated more than 1000 private attorneys to provide free legal services to the poor. With her guidance, VLP has become one of the nation’s preeminent organizations providing pro bono legal services for such basic needs as health care, housing and domestic relations.
“Meg has always been a leader—insightful, committed —with a gift for expressing her ideas in an inspiring and convincing manner,” said Anne Fitzgerald, Connolly’s Marygrove classmate, colleague and friend. “Since her early career days servicing impoverished legal clients in the federally funded Legal Assistance Program, Meg has demonstrated a concern and compassion for those without access. She has dedicated her life to making sure they receive the legal services they need.”
Connolly’s exemplary career as a public servant spans more than three decades. After graduating cum laude from Marygrove in 1967, she earned her law degree from Boston College Law School in 1970.
From that time on she zealously pursued social justice for all. Connolly says it was her sense of outrage that gave her the patience to remain in legal services work for 33 years.
She began her career as a legal services lawyer working as a housing attorney in the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute at Self Help, Inc. in Brockton. During her tenure, she represented public housing tenant organizations and successfully petitioned the Brockton City Council to adopt a Fitness Ordinance, ensuring that low-income renters would have habitable housing certified by inspectors.
In 1973 she became regional counsel to the Office of Economic Opportunity/ Community Services Administration in Boston. In 1976 she became deputy regional director of the Legal Services Corporation of the Boston Regional Office, where she worked with more than 100 evaluation teams to review legal services programs all over the country.
As a long-standing member of the Boston College Law School Alumnae Association, next year Connolly will become the first public interest lawyer to serve as president.
“Marygrove nourished women, as it was a women’s college then,” Connolly said. “It was assumed that many of us would go on to graduate school. When I said I was going to law school, faculty members nodded as if this made sense. This was when only five percent of law students were women.”
“Not only is she an acknowledged leader and expert on pro bono legal services, but she is also a person who inspires others and builds consensus,” said Mary K. Ryan, Connolly’s friend and colleague.
“Meg’s career of providing legal services to the poor gives life to the injunction, ‘Justice, justice, justice shalt thou pursue.’ It has been my privilege to be included in her life,” said her husband, Thomas Saunders.