The men’s rugby team at Brown is technically a club, but those who are more intimate with the team know that the rugby program is not your average college club team. Rugby is a way of life, and for Brian Moynihan ’81, it was the first stepping stone on his way to a prolific career.
In December, Moynihan was named the CEO of Bank of America. From his beginnings as a Providence lawyer and local rugger — after getting his J.D. from Notre Dame — he joined FleetBoston Financial Corporation in 1993 and worked his way up through the merger with Bank of America.
Jay Fluck ’65, his former coach and the current director of Brown rugby, said he wasn’t surprised by Moynihan’s successes. The two have maintained a friendship ever since Moynihan’s graduation.
“He has what has appeared to be a meteoric rise, and he’s always had that drive, ambition, fire and energy to achieve, and that was readily apparent back at Brown,” he said.
Moynihan, who played football his first fall at Brown, was approached by former football players who had switched to rugby. When they asked him to play that spring, he came out and never stopped.
“It was a great group of teammates,” Moynihan said, “many of whom I keep up with today.”
And his love of the game, the players and the organization has remained strong, playing a crucial role in the continuing success of this storied club. When Brown approached the team about building a new rugby field to give the team its first true home, Moynihan stepped up. He, along with other friends and alumni, raised just under $1 million to build the Brown Rugby Field in 2004, according to Fluck.
Moynihan said many students find college sports rewarding. “I think the ability to provide avenues for people to spread themselves is tremendous, and rugby is one way they can do that. It’s a great sport. It’s a great chance for people to travel and stay involved,”
During his playing days, Moynihan — who played fly half and inside center — was under six feet and about 175 pounds, according to the Wall Street Journal. “Athletically, he wasn’t an imposing guy, but he was very smart and he was deceptively fast,” Fluck said.
What made him excel was his understanding of the game, his ability to teach himself and to set an example for others, according to Fluck. Now at the head of arguably the most successful bank in the country, Moynihan’s days as a leader on and off the field have translated into what he does now.
“The lessons of leadership do transfer — how to motivate people, how to try to get people to do more than a team can do apart,” Moynihan said.
“He probably understood the game as well or better than most,” Fluck said. “He was one of the leaders of the club, he had the respect of all his teammates.”
“You can only win in rugby if you play as a team,” Moynihan said. “I mean, every person has to carry the ball, every person has to tackle, every person has to pass the ball, so you have to work as a team.”
And it was with his team that he won the Ivy League championship his junior year, in the midst of a string of dominant Brown rugby teams.
After having recently seen the film “Invictus,” Moynihan recalled one of the greater opportunities that being on the team afforded him.
“We hosted a team of black South Africans. It was the first team that ever left the country,” Moynihan said. “It was quite fun.” All this, almost 15 years before Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the end of apartheid.
But probably more remarkable than any of his athletic or academic accolades, is that he was just a normal Brown guy.
“He was a real guys’ guy,” said Fluck. “Very bright, extremely energetic, extremely ambitious in all aspects of his life. He was always busy and always active. You saw that in his rugby.”
— With additional reporting by Dan Alexander