Thomas M. Feeley Fund

A Giving Legacy ~ An Interview with Thomas M. Feeley, Salem State Statement, Winter 2020

March 16, 2021

In addition to earning a Salem State business administration degree in 1968, Tom Feeley and his classmates also initiated and grew Salem State’s first Business Advisory Council, which unites local business and nonprofit leaders who provide valuable guidance to Salem State's Bertolon School of Business.  Feeley went on to pursue a successful career as a financial advisor and managing partner of the CPA firm Feeley & Driscoll, P.C. in Boston. A longtime dedicated donor, Tom and his wife Joan made a transformative $500,000 unrestricted gift in support of the 10,000 Reasons Campaign.  In a Salem State Statement magazine article highlighting the couple's philanthropy, Tom shared his passion and vision for their support of the university:  

WHY DO YOU GIVE? My wife Joan and I believe that higher education is the economic stepladder for first-generation students. They are a thoroughly diverse population looking to better themselves and their families through learning. Joan and I are proud to support their goals, and making an unrestricted gift ensures we are helping support the students in the areas where funding is most urgently needed. We hope the process of learning is instilled in them, and that they develop a lifelong thirst for knowledge. It’s a gift we can carry through our lives.

HOW DID SALEM STATE PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR LIFE AND CAREER? It taught me to love learning, and how to compete academically. My professors were extremely instrumental in my academic life and my personal growth.

DO YOU REMEMBER MAKING YOUR FIRST GIFT TO SALEM STATE? I remember being part of the second class of graduating business students. We knew in the ’70s that it was, and still is, incumbent upon alumni to give back to the school that contributed to their success. When I think about how the state only supports 34 percent of the university’s budget, it makes alumni contributions imperative. I encourage everyone to consider making an unrestricted gift—it provides the flexible funding needed to ensure the university’s priorities are fulfilled.

Who is going to tell you the truth (when you don’t want to hear it)?

March 16, 2021

by Jim Ansara, Co-Founder & Director, Build Health International ~ October 2020

How a key advisor helped me build a billion-dollar business by telling me what I did not want to hear – and pushing me to do what I did not want to do.

CEO’s, especially founders, tend to live in a protective bubble. Unless you crash and burn, you are typically told how brilliant you are, how good and visionary you are at your job, and you can start to believe the hype, thinking you are truly “gifted.” As you rise up the ladder of business success, it is increasingly difficult to find people to tell you the truth. Consciously or subconsciously, they want to please you by saying what they think you want to hear. You can easily end up surrounded by “yes” men and women.

One of the most underrated, but essential elements, in successfully growing a business is having outside advisors to push you to do the things you want to avoid and tell you the blunt truth, even when that feedback is inconvenient or not in the advisor’s best interest. For twenty years, as Founder and CEO Shawmut Design and Construction I was lucky enough to have that person who told me the truth, especially when I didn’t want to hear it. That person was Tom Feeley.

I first was introduced to Tom in 1982 when Shawmut Design and Construction incorporated and became a small carpentry contractor. I was twenty-five and trying to move forward by surviving each day in business. Tom was building his CPA firm, Feeley & Driscoll, which was quickly becoming one of the New England’s largest and most successful independent CPA firms. 

I met Tom as I was attempting to buy an old mill building in Roxbury, MA for $65,000 and applying for my first bank loan. To this day I have no idea what the bankers saw in me or my fledgling company. We met for the first time in my woodshop, which was a makeshift, burned-out corner convenience store next to the Shawmut T station (hence the name). It had a tiny office in the back with no windows, the only lighting provided by a string of temporary light bulbs in yellow plastic cages. I had woodworking equipment everywhere, but no dust collection system. Before the bankers came, I remember clearing a path through shin-deep sawdust and wood chips to the tiny back office.

The bankers and I talked for an hour, and then they asked to look at my balance sheet. Not knowing what a balance sheet was, I handed them my checkbook – the sum of my recordkeeping at the time.

As the bankers got up, dusting themselves off and handing back my checkbook, they told me not only that they would not only give me a $65,000 loan to buy the new building, but they would also give me a $25,000 line of credit for working capital. I was stunned. This was pre-Google, so having no idea what to do with a line of credit, I had to make a number of calls to understand this meant they would give us actual money to use. In addition to the obligatory personal guarantee, the only other condition they required was that I hire a CPA firm that would help us organize our bookkeeping and accounting. They gave us three firms to choose from, all of which had construction experience.

Over the next month, we interviewed each of the three firms. The first two CPAs had been low key, almost soothing. This was no big deal to them. In their eyes, Shawmut was a tiny company and all we had to do was actually dot the I’s and cross the T’s – for this, they would charge $10,000 annually. Then we met Tom Feeley.

Tom was anything but soothing. He was loud, animated, aggressive, and outspoken. He spent an hour and a half telling us all the things we were doing wrong or not doing. He said that we were headed for catastrophe, but he could help us save the company. He finished by saying he would give us a break in the first year and only charge us $25,000 but after that it would be $50,000.

This passage excerpted from an article published on LinkedIn October 2020, click here to read the rest of Jim's article.

Bidding Farewell to a Mentor

March 16, 2021

by Justin Amico, Partner at BDO USA, LLP ~ Published on LinkedIn February 2020

Today we said goodbye to the mentor of many, Tom Feeley. He built the Navy Seals of Accounting Firms FEELEY & DRISCOLL and is regarded as the best. His clients included him in every decision and is well known for his reputation as the best business advisor. His legacy will continue through all the lessons we have learned from Tom. He positioned many of us to succeed through his direct, honest consistent feedback and for that I am grateful. We may have been insulted by the delivery and his strong personality, but we are better professionals because he cared.

Tom could have been a very good NFL coach for his ability to stand up to anyone with conviction and squeeze every ounce of effort out of the team. Tom did not like to lose. You were a better player because of Tom, and you wanted to be on his team.

I am very fortunate to have received some solid advice from him last week but like many, will miss him forever. The Tom Feeley stories, ethics and behaviors will live on — RIP Tom Feeley and thank you from all of us!

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