Joseph Fennessy, chairman of the board of directors of Mount Sinai South Nassau and a trustee of the Mount Sinai Health System, has been chosen as the 2020 “Favorite Son” by the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick.
Fennessy, who was a driving force in the 2018 merger of South Nassau Communities Hospital and the Mount Sinai Health System, will receive the award at the society’s 36th annual Emerald Ball and banquet, to be held at Carltun in the Park, in East Meadow, on Feb. 29.
“The society looks for successful, philanthropic members of the community who are of Irish ancestry in selecting whom to honor,” said Emerald Society President Dermot Kelly. “Joe was an obvious candidate. His charitable works, career accomplishments and commitment to family and faith embrace the spirit of the Favorite Son Award,” he said.
Fennessy gave much of the credit for the Mt. Sinai merger to his fellow board members and South Nassau staff during the years that the hospital was looking for a partner and negotiating the affiliation. But “Joe’s leadership was really instrumental in bringing it to a successful conclusion,” said Anthony Cancellieri, who served as Fennessey’s deputy at South Nassau — a role he is reprising at Mt. Sinai.
“I joined the [South Nassau] board 13 years ago,” four years after Fennessy, Cancellieri said. He described the merger with Mt. Sinai as “probably the most important decision South Nassau made since its founding in 1928.” Fennessy’s “broad perspective and transparency, as well as his extensive knowledge of the health care industry made him invaluable as a leader,” he said.
“When we began looking for a partner, almost all the local providers were interested,” Cancellieri said. As the group weighed each possibility, Fennessy kept the team focused on its objectives, he said.
Fennessy, who has lived in Wantagh since 1983, described his work on the merger as a labor of love, because it will enable the hospital to take a substantial step forward as a health care provider to Long Island’s South Shore communities.
His vision for the merger has been to offer top-quality medical care on the South Shore. “A lot of people feel compelled to travel into Manhattan for high-quality care,” Fennessy said in September 2018, when the merger was announced. “Our vision was to replicate that kind of care right here.”
Fennessy retired as a partner and the chief operating officer of Deloitte & Touche LLP’s Northeast Region — the firm’s largest in the U.S. “I worked for Deloitte for 41 years,” he said. “Deloitte has mandatory retirement at age 62 for its regional managers,” he said, but he wasn’t ready to stop. Because accountants must recertify every year, he has continued to keep his certification up to date since retiring and his accounting acumen and skills fresh by completing continuing education programs, he said.
Of his being named a Favorite Son, “I was honored and I was pleased,” Fennessy said. His family came originally from County Tipperary, and he is proud of his Irish roots. He said he was especially pleased that a portion of the money the event raises will go to two charities that are “very close to my heart.” The first, the Lucille A. Fennessy Pulmonary Research Fund, at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, was founded to honor his late wife, who died of pulmonary fibrosis at age 54 in 2004. The second, Tunnels to the Towers, was established to aid first responders suffering from 9/11-related illnesses. Fennessy’s brother, Tom, died last summer of brain cancer attributable to his work on 9/11.
Besides his hospital work, Fennessy's other passion was basketball, which he coached for the Catholic Youth Organization at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church in Levittown for many years. “I coached girls’ basketball in two stints,” he said.
Now, it is his grandchildren’s turn in CYO play. Watching them is clearly a signal event in his life.
Lest anyone think Fennessy is slowing down, this year, Mt. Sinai South Nassau is breaking ground on a $400 million expansion of its Oceanside campus. And he also expects the hospital to begin construction of a four-storey Southwest Addition, a new central utility plant and a $40 million Medical Arts Pavilion at its Long Beach campus in the coming year.
Fennessy remains active in a number of organizations, including Beta Alpha Psi, the international accounting fraternity, at St. John’s University, his alma mater. And he is an active member of St. James Catholic Church, in Seaford.