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Golden Ram Reflections: Dan and Annette O’Brien

For Dan O’Brien, GABELLI ’68, the keys to success are “work hard, hopefully make good decisions, and have luck on your side.” It’s an outlook that has served him well personally and professionally ever since his undergraduate days at Fordham, where he met a fellow business student named Annette Nicolosi.

“I’ve been very lucky in life,” he says, “including who I married.”

The O’Briens met in the mid-1960s at Fordham’s undergraduate business school in Manhattan, then located at 302 Broadway, and each earned a B.S. from the University in June 1968.

This spring, as they prepare to celebrate their Fordham Jubilee, their first as Golden Rams, they have been reflecting not only on their undergraduate days but also on the shared values that brought them together and inspire them to give back to their alma mater.

An Interborough Connection

Annette grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, part of a large extended Italian-American family; Dan was the oldest of seven children in a large Irish-American family based in Manhattan and New Jersey. They both went to Catholic high schools and were encouraged to attend a Catholic college.

At Fordham, they served together on the student council, but they didn’t begin dating until their senior year. A friend of Dan’s was dating one of the few other women in their class and suggested a double date. Dan asked Annette. “It grew from there,” he says.

That December, Dan started a six-week internship that took him away from campus, but he and Annette stayed in touch by letter, a method that may have added a tinge of romance to their blossoming relationship.

“That’s how the seed got planted and maybe kindled the spirit in both of us,” Dan says. By the time he came back to campus, “in the spring, we were steady.”

They found a lot of common ground, especially in the important role family played in their lives. “We just felt we came from the same kind of background and had the same goals and the same ideas,” Annette says of their connection.

In fall 1968, just a few months after graduating from Fordham, they selected an engagement ring together, and Dan proposed on a bench outside of Tavern on the Green, where they had gone for dinner.

Soon after, Dan, on the cusp of being drafted, decided to try to get into the Army Reserve. He was accepted later that year and served for six years, during which time he and Annette were married—at Annette’s family parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Brooklyn, in December 1969.

“We’ve always been on the same page in terms of where things go. We swim in the same direction,” Dan says of their marriage. “Our strengths and weaknesses complement each other. If we get angry, it doesn’t last. It just works, and we are happy about it.”

Reconnecting with Their Roots, Supporting Students

Over the years, their shared focus on family has been a key to their joy. The O’Briens have four daughters, and the couple hosts an annual Christmas Eve dinner that includes more than 50 family members in their Ridgefield, Connecticut, home.

They also have been running together for about 35 years, and typically compete in three or four half-marathons every year across the country, including ones in Georgia, Florida, and California.

The O’Briens admit that it took them 40 years before they re-engaged with their alma mater—at a time in their lives, Dan says, “when making connections to the past feels important.”

About 10 years ago, after meeting Fordham’s president, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., the couple established an endowed scholarship to help future generations of Fordham students.

“I always felt that I should give back to the school,” Annette says. “I liked being there, and I got a good education. I feel happy about giving back and helping kids, too.”

Like Annette, Dan says he’s “very happy to be reconnected.” In addition to providing scholarship support, he serves on the President’s Council, through which he mentors students and discusses his role as an adviser at J.H. Whitney & Co. in New Canaan, Connecticut.

“There is a great Fordham family throughout the country, and by reconnecting, you feel part of that again,” he says. “They extended their hand to me, and I’m happy to be back.”

—Maja Tarateta


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