James D. Fitzpatrick, better known to many as “Mr. Fitz,” is one of Fairfield’s most beloved staff members, and he is retiring after 51 years of service. His impeccable story is heartwarming to all who hear, and his dedication to Fairfield University supersedes the imaginable.
Arriving at Fairfield University for the first time in 1966, Mr. Fitz entered the campus gates as an eager student, unaware of how long his journey at Fairfield would truly last. After graduating from the University four years later, he immediately began working for Fairfield University on June 23, 1970.
He exclaims how he had “no idea it was going to be a career, but a lifetime experience.”
Over the decades, Mr. Fitz has been director of the John A. Barone Campus Center, in charge of the auxiliary services, including food service, the book store and transportation. He also underwent a 40-year period of overseeing student activities and has worked with many clubs and organizations on campus, including the Fairfield University Student Association.
One aspect of Mr. Fitz that is undeniable by anyone whom he meets is his sincere care for those he works with and the students he encounters everyday. When asked about what a typical day at work looks like for him, he began pondering off questions that concern his daily tasks and focuses. He especially emphasized how he is consistently asking himself, “Are the workers happy?” and “Is there something I can do to make their work experience better?”
“I think one of the constants over the decades has been the way the food service workers have taken care of the students and, in many ways, I think they view them as their children,” he said.
The love expressed in regards to both the workers and students was extremely moving, and his whole attitude encompassed sheer optimism and joy.
When asked what served as the most rewarding experience during his time here at Fairfield, Mr. Fitz did not hesitate to say, “the interactions with the students.” With a huge smile he exclaimed, “I’ve aged over the decades, but the students haven’t.”
Sure, things have advanced in technology and social media, and the layout of the University may be different, but the creativity and inspiration brought upon by the students has remained unaltered for him.
Mr. Fitz shared that he feels a particularly special connection to this year’s senior class. When he was a senior himself, the United States was “knee-deep in the Vietnam War,” he said, reminiscently. There was a political crisis provoking the hatred of both political parties towards one another.
“Really, you could say there is a war raging with COVID-19,” Mr. Fitz said.
Overall, he feels inclined towards ensuring the students’ well-being and connecting with them on a daily basis.
“They invigorate you, they give you a passion for learning,” he said about the students. “[They] provide a breath and a depth for higher education.”
Mr. Fitz has two pieces of advice for new hires at Fairfield University. The first was given to him by Fr. Aloysius Kelley, the former president of Fairfield University, about 30 years ago.
Mr. Fitz shared how he was told, “Jimmy, please remember that it’s all about the students,” and he’s never forgotten that.
His second piece of advice came from himself: “Remember, you can learn just as much from the students as they can learn from you.”
Mr. Fitz’s love for Fairfield is clear. “I would do this job for nothing because I’ve had so much joy working with the students,” he said.
Mr. Fitz is proud to be a Stag, and the people he encounters each day mean the world to him.
It is clear to see that Mr. Fitz has impacted the lives of all those around him throughout his many years here at Fairfield University. His hard work, care for the students and staff and love for the University as a whole has allowed him to flourish and inspire all he encounters. He will be missed dearly at the University, but his memory of being a Stag will live on forever!