Kathleen Sullivan Connell was born in Newport, Rhode Island, the only daughter of Lawrence and Margaret Sullivan. She attended St. Mary’s School and St. Catherine Academy, graduated magna cum laude from Salve Regina University with a BS in Nursing, and then earned a master’s degree in International Relations from Salve.
Kathleen has been connected with health care for most of her adult life. After graduation, she joined the Visiting Nurse Service and worked in the local neighborhoods with the sick and elderly. She then became an educator, teaching health at the local middle school where she established the first health care curriculum in the Newport public school system.
In 1960, she married Gerald Connell and had three children, Larry, a colonel in the United States Army, Kelly, a pre-school instructor for the Head Start program, and Kathleen, a practicing attorney.
Kathleen assumed the position of Rhode Island State Director of the American Association of Retired Persons in 1999 following a long career in public service, education, and health care. Prior to joining AARP, Kathleen was the coordinator of governmental relations at Brown University’s Northeast and Islands Regional Educational Laboratory.
Her career in public service included three terms as Rhode Island’s Secretary of State, a term in the Rhode Island Senate, and sixteen years of elected service in local town offices. During that time she was a leader in numerous education and health care initiatives and in issues affecting women. She served as vice chair of the Democratic State Committee and was appointed to the Credentials Committee for the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta in 1988.
Throughout her career, she has been a champion for causes that promote issues concerning health care, including long-term care, better pay for nurses, and improved nursing education. As Secretary of State, she assumed a leadership role on the issues of voter education and parity for women. Today, as state director of AARP, she continues to fight for access to quality health care for all citizens.
Kathleen has served as a member of numerous organizations and committees in the health care field. She was a founding director and past president of Shake- A- Leg, a national organization for the treatment of spinal cord injuries; and she has served on the board of directors of the Visiting Nurse Association of Newport and on the board of incorporators of Delta Dental.
Kathleen has been active with the Japan-America Society/Black Ships Festival as president and now as president emeritus. She is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including: a citation from the consul general of Japan; the John E. Fogarty Humanitarian Award; the Salve Regina University Alumna of the Year Award; and the Juliette Low Award from the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island.
Kathleen represented The Newport Foundation as a platform speaker at the “Apocalypse Now” Conference in Moscow in 1992, a convocation that featured the Dali Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev as the keynote speakers. She maintains an interest in international affairs and serves as a member of the U.S. Naval War College Foundation.
– Spencer W. Viner, Esq.