When Frank Figliuzzi graduated from Fairfield University in 1984, he knew he was destined to be an agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Actually, he had known since he was just 11 years old when he sent a letter to the head of the Connecticut FBI branch to ask about job opportunities.
“I’ll never forget that,” Figliuzzi said, “He said, here’s what you need to do, here’s some information, get back to us in about 15 years.”
In the meantime, he attended Fairfield, majored in English literature and was a Resident Assistant in what is now Jogues Hall. Then, in his second year at the University of Connecticut School of Law, Figliuzzi made good on his sent letter.
He laughed, going on to say he never realized how incredibly competitive becoming an FBI agent was. “I was like, well, okay, when I was 11, this guy told me this is what you should do.”
But, he spent the summer before his last year of law school interning at the FBI’s headquarters in the District of Columbia and found it to be a life-changing experience, “I found it really cool to come to work every day that summer at FBI headquarters, all the flags flying over the building, I’m like, this is incredible.” It’s an opportunity he hopes more Fairfield students will take advantage of.
After that, he was hooked. He applied to be a special agent while finishing up his final year of law school and then went right into the FBI Academy.
He then started to have a real “adventure ride of an FBI career” that lasted for 25 years before he retired as the Head of Counterintelligence.
In this role, he directed all espionage investigations across the government. Figliuzzi said, “That’s a fancy way of saying I was the chief spy-catcher for the United States.”
He was part of countless interesting cases, many that made front-page news, and only some of which he could tell his family about. One of his most memorable is the first anthrax murder in the United States, which then also became the largest hazardous materials crime scene in the history of the FBI.
But, even with this career and the stories he had to tell, he was never looking to write a book, “I was never going to be the guy that wrote the book about his FBI career, I just didn’t want to do that,” Figliuzzi said.
The Trump Administration’s four years in the White House changed that. It was Figliuzzi’s displeasure at what he says was the Trump Administration’s “bureau-bashing” that pushed him to write and then publish, “The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence.” To counteract the Trump Administration’s attempts to discredit the organization.
“The FBI is not perfect, this book does not claim the FBI is perfect, but rather the book says the FBI should be held up as a model of leadership excellence,” he says, going on to say that his book explains both ‘the why’ and the application of the FBI’s model in your own life.
To explain this further, he uses what he calls “The Seven C’s”, the concepts of Code, Conservancy, Clarity, Consequences, Compassion, Credibility and Consistency that structure the book. They are the Bureau’s process of preserving and protecting its values, in a condensed form.
He goes on to say he knows that there are exceptions to this rule, and sees men like James Comey and Peter Strzok, as just that; exceptions. But largely, the FBI provides a leadership model for everyone to apply to their own lives and career.
His focus on these values started first at home, but as a Fairfield alumnus, his experience on campus helped structure these beliefs. “The Jesuit education really emphasized that without values and a moral foundation of beliefs, you really don’t have much going for you,” he said.
Figliuzzi specifically recalls a class he took at Fairfield on morality and law, with Rev. Vincent Burns, S.J.
Burns was both a Jesuit and a lawyer, and thus taught the class on how our laws are based on a system of morality.
“It’s society saying we’re enforcing these morals,” Figliuzzi said, ”That’s what we believe in.”
His philosophy classes also helped push him to ask those larger questions of “Why are we here? What do we stand for? What’s the purpose of life?”
But when talking about his most memorable Fairfield experience, he can’t help but bring up his wife. A proud pair of “Stag Mates,” they met during their senior year and she graduated with a nursing degree in 1984.
“I remember day one of orientation and one of the Jesuit’s gets up in front of us and he looks around with all these fresh faces looking at him and he goes look to your left and look to your right. Some of you are going to end up getting married to each other” Figliuzzi said. He continued to say he just sat there disagreeing and waiting patiently to hear about his class schedule.
He laughs when he tells me that the Jesuit turned out to be right.
“It’s real!” He says, “36 years later, it’s still real.”
If you want to find out more about Frank Figliuzzi’s time in the FBI and his book, he will be presenting “It Can’t Happen Here? – Assessing the Threat of Domestic Extremist Groups” virtually through the Open VISIONS: Expresso Series in affiliation with the Office of Alumni Affairs on Mar. 30 at 7:30 p.m. Students can attend for free, but tickets must be reserved on the Regina A. Quick Center’s website.