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Father Ryan Reports from West Africa (IV): “Fordham and Nigeria”


Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. is spending a month in Africa, a continent where he previously lived for 26 years. During his time there, he will be blogging about his experiences. Here is his fourth post:

Over the years, many Nigerians have studied at Fordham, most notably in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, but also in nearly every other School as well. What few people now realize is the connection between Fordham and the original coming of Jesuits to Nigeria.

The Catholic Bishops of Nigeria asked for Jesuit professors to help in the foundation of the state-run University of Lagos at its inception in 1962. UNESCO asked NYU and Fordham for academic staff as well. The first Jesuit to come, who had a Ph.D. from Fordham in biology but was teaching at St Peter’s College in Jersey City, was Father Joseph Schuh. A year later two other Jesuits came: Father Joseph Schuyler, who had a Fordham Ph.D. in sociology and was teaching atFordham’s seminary campus in Shrub Oak, N.Y.; and Father JosephMcKenna, who had a Ph.D. From Yale and was the head of the political science department at Fordham.

Schuh returned to St. Peter’s in 1965 but Schuyler remained atUnilag, as it is called, until his retirement in 1986. He stayed another nine years beyond that in pastoral work in Lagos until health reasons mandated his return to the U.S. in 1995. McKenna never actually taught at Unilag –many Nigerians have Ph.D.s in political science–but fulfilled many roles for the bishops and the Jesuits in Nigeriauntil 1984, when he retired back to other Jesuit assignments aroundFordham. In 1997, Fordham University Press published a study he did on varieties of Marxism in Africa and the response of the Catholic Church to that phase in recent African history.

All three Joes did Fordham proud over the years. McKenna’s 1969essay in Foreign Affairs on prospects for peace after the Nigerian civil war, published when the war was still ongoing, drew praise from the federal government of Nigeria at the time.

I arrived in Nigeria with three other Jesuits in 1964, just after I had finished an M.A. in English at Fordham; the degree was awarded in February 1965 while I was in Nigeria. I taught English in a Catholic but non-Jesuit high school in Nigeria in 1964-65. On this trip, I found myself sleeping on Christmas Eve in the same house where I slept on Christmas Eve of 1964. On Christmas Day, I had lunch in a Chinese restaurant with the best student I taught back then, AnthonyAkingbade, now a 61-year-old medical doctor who eventually did his undergraduate studies at Harvard and his medical formation atAlbert Einstein College of Medicine, our Bronx neighbor.


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