Connors loved life's challenges

by Alexandra Friedman | 11/6/01 6:00am

(Editor's note: This is the sixth in a series of articles profiling the Dartmouth victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy)

In 1975, Kevin Connors Tuck '73, along with his brother, Chris, and two friends, decided to sail around the world. They bought a boat, "The Firebird," and left on their journey.

Off the coast of South America, "The Firebird" sank. Connors and his friends survived for two days on a life raft until they were picked up by a German freighter and taken to safety.

Connors loved a good challenge. He brought this adventurous attitude to all that he did. He would organize cutthroat games of charades at family gatherings, challenge himself with difficult athletic feats and ambitiously follow the stock market, attempting to predict its every move.

"Kevin was always looking for action, excitement or a challenge," his wife Sylvia said. "He loved sailing, but it couldn't be boring sailing, it had to be adventurous."

"Kevin liked to win more than he liked anything," Sheila Connors LeDuc, Connors' younger sister, said.

A vice president at Euro Brokers, Kevin Connors perished in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Connors, 55, was born in Boston and grew up in Quincy, Mass. He grew up in a large family, the eldest of six siblings.

After graduating from Boston College High School, he went to the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. In 1971, he was admitted to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he earned an MBA and began his extraordinary business career.

Upon graduation from Tuck in 1973, he and two classmates decided to move to Manhattan. His good friend and roommate in New York, Don M. Wilson, said it was a spur of the moment decision: "Typical Kevin -- he said, 'Let's just go to New York and find a place to live.'

"So we drove down and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, got the Sunday Times, went through the Real Estate section -- our only criteria being three bedrooms and in Manhattan," Wilson said.

In New York, Connors started out at J.P. Morgan. After proceeding to an executive director at Morgan Stanley, he established his own investment firm, Connors and Cook.

He then operated his own business, Connors and Company, near his Miami home, where he met his wife, Sylvia, and formed a family of seven -- Sylvia had three children from a previous marriage, Karim, Davina and Daniella, and Kevin had two sons, Shane and Terrence.

About three years ago, the family moved to New York, where Connors became a vice president of Euro Brokers.

Sylvia described the move north as successful, saying that "we blended these families and had a wonderful 10 years together."

"Kevin was the epitome of a perfect stepfather," Davina Aryeh, his stepdaughter, said. "He was respectful and treated me so well ... He was a mentor, someone I trusted."

Friends and family all emphasized Connor's adoration of his family life. He loved to plan family activities, yearly vacations and barbecues. The Connors family had a tradition of attending a football game in Boston every fall, where Kevin could meet up with his old classmates. The tradition also ensured a time for his family to reunite each year since the older children no longer lived at home.

Connors always encouraged his family to partake in all of the activities he enjoyed. One time, though, his family surprised him.

Last July, he signed up for a 550-mile bike ride across Iowa. He booked three spots on the trip, certain that at least two family members would want to accompany him, and e-mailed his family to invite them along.

"He was very surprised when no one emailed him back," Sylvia said. "So he went by himself.

"It was good for him, too. He came back very happy. He had liked spending time by himself, she added."

Last summer, he got the family together for a trip to Maine, where they went rock climbing, hiking, sailing and biking. Connors' sense of humor always played a big part in the trips: "He could be so fun and carefree. He could quote 'Dumb and Dumber' and 'Austin Powers' ... he knew the whole Dr. Evil dialogue," Davina said.

"We would always come back from family vacations with hilarious lines from movies that we would repeat incessantly."

Connors was passionate about pushing himself. On occasion, he would bike to work in the morning from his Greenwich, Conn., home all the way to his workplace in New York.

"He did it a few times just to see if he could do it," Davina said. "And he loved it. When most people are starting their day at 8 a.m., he had already gotten up four hours earlier and biked across two states."

Connors was passionate about his work. He loved the competitive aspect of trading, and was a very passionate employee and manager.

"The secret to Kevin's trading success was that he had a healthy skepticism of conventional wisdom, and he took his own counsel," his close friend from the Navy, Bill McCauley, said in a eulogy.

"When everyone else was selling, he'd be standing on his desk, waving his arms, screaming ... 'Buy 'em, Buy 'em.'"

Connors was passionate about knowledge. "He was an adventurer, someone that loved nature and just loved the world and absorbed constantly any knowledge that was out there, to learn," Davina said.

"He wanted to take it all in. He was the type of person that would read books about cancer, about AIDS, bibliographies on political figures; he had such a wide range of interests, definitely a renaissance man, someone who didn't limit his knowledge to any one field, constantly trying to be a better human."

Family and friends learned from Connors' passion, his "play hard, work hard" ethic, his status as "a truly Celtic free spirit," Wilson said. He inspired them.

"Kevin was very, very smart and a real critical thinker," LeDuc said. "He wouldn't just accept something, and I learned from him to be critical of ideas and assumptions that were being expressed ... I got to develop a healthy skepticism that mirrored his."

Finally, his strong sense of patriotism made him the man that he was. "America was a country he was so proud and happy to be a part of," Davina said.

Connors is survived by his wife, Sylvia, two sons, Shane and Terrence, three step-children, Karim, Davina and Daniella, sister, Sheila Connors LeDuc, and four brothers, Christopher, William, Douglas and Russell.