Age 38 | President, Generation Green Builders Co.

Matt Connolly overcame a serious mental illness to become successful in construction and real estate, and he’s not shy about educating others about it.

Though schizophrenia first turned his world upside down when he was 19, it wasn’t until 29 that he was diagnosed with the disease and began to get treatment.

After years of alienation from family, friends and community, Connolly got on the road to recovery and began reaching out and re-establishing relationships. His father, builder Tom Connolly, offered him a position with his company in 2004, and he earned a real estate license in 2005 and began working as an agent for Iowa Realty Co Inc. In 2009, Connolly started his own company, Generation Green Builders Co., and in 2011 became president of the Green Building Council of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

Connolly said he has used the five pillars of recovery – medication, therapy, social worker support, family/friends/community and support groups – to maintain his recovery since 2004.

“I give a lot of people hope because I was able to recover so well,” he said. “Life to me is best spent being healthy. The more things you can do to feel good, the better, and being involved in your community feels good. That’s a big part of why I’m involved in the community.”

Though he credits many people as mentors, Connolly holds his father in the highest esteem.

“I would not be in this position, on the right track, if it had not been for my dad,” he said. “He’s always been there for me; he taught me how to be a go-getter.”

Developer Jack Hatch called Connolly “an extraordinary example of how people can beat the disease and then advocate by helping others.”

Connolly said becoming a green builder was a natural move, given the trends in the industry toward sustainability and energy efficiency. He took advantage of industry training through the home builders’ association to increase his knowledge of green building techniques.

Though he and his wife, Jodi, are both small business owners – she runs her own massage therapy business – the couple and their two children, 2-year-old Maliaya and 5-month-old Lane, sit down to dinner together every night at 6:30 p.m. “I go 100 mph every day, but I give equal attention to my wife and children,” he said.

Five reasons he’s a 40:

• Advocates for awareness of mental illness and serves as a role model for recovery.

• Started his own green building company.

• Serves as a leader in green building for the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

• Earned Certified Graduate Builder and Certified Green Professional designations; working toward additional certifications.

• Balances work with time for family and community involvement.

Mentor: Tom Connolly, owner, Tom Connolly Homes

Fun fact: Built the first National Association of Home Builders certified green home in Greater Des Moines.