Alumni from several states returned to the Rose Hill campus Saturday, March 31, to participate in Communitas, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ reunion celebration marking its 90th anniversary. The daylong celebration drew more than 100 visitors to the campus to hear scholarly lectures, classical music, and a keynote speech by Peter Quinn (GSAS ’75), author of the novel Banished Children of Eve (Viking, 1994), winner of the 1995 American Book Award.
“This spring weekend in the Bronx has been made more glorious by your presence,” Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, told GSAS alumni. “You are our icons, our pantheons, those who have done well as scholars. It is a great joy to welcome you home, and we ask you to keep us true to our mission–of educating scholars who will go out into the world and make a difference.”
Quinn, a third-generation New Yorker whose grandparents were born in Ireland, delivered the semi-annual Gannon Lecture on “Writes of Passage: Confessions of a Bronx Irish Scribbler.” While working in the 1980s as a speechwriter for former New York Governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo, Quinn said he was inspired to find his own voice in the written word. Reflecting on his struggle to make the transition to fiction, Quinn said that a novelist must make a “leap of faith” to believe three things: that he has something to say, that he has the stamina to get it down on paper, and that he believes people have a genuine interest in hearing it.
“These are not small things to believe,” he said. “Writing involves persistence rather than brilliance. I had a [novelist]friend who told me that you start by making the time. That truth penetrated my cast iron Irish cranium; if writing mattered to me as much as I insisted it did, I would have to carve out the space to make writing not something I did when I felt like it, but something I did the same as brushing my teeth.”
Communitas celebrated the past 90 years of scholarly achievements by GSAS faculty, students and alumni. GSAS has 19 departments that offer 11 doctoral degrees and 16 master’s degrees. It recently added a master’s degree program in elections and campaign management and has applied to the state to establish a master’s degree program in Latin America and Latino studies.