Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., president emeritus of Fordham, received an Irish Education 100 Lifetime Achievement Award for his service and contribution to the field.
The Irish Voice newspaper presented the award on Dec. 14 in a ceremony at the home of Noel Kilkenny, the Irish Consul General.
Niall O’Dowd, founder and president of the Irish Voice, summed up Father O’Hare’s reputation as he presented the award.
“He is one of the great men in New York society,” O’Dowd said. “Father Joe O’Hare, frankly, is a legend.”
Father O’Hare served as president of Fordham from 1984 to 2003, the longest presidential tenure in University history. During that time, he oversaw the physical transformation of the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses, a 300 percent increase in annual giving, and a significant increase in Fordham’s applicant pool.
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Three Fordham administrators and two trustees also were honored at the Irish Education 100 ceremony:
• Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham;
• John P. Harrington, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences;
• Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center;
• Mark H. Tuohey, LAW ’73, member of the Fordham University Board of Trustees and partner at Brown Rudnick; and
• Michael Cosgrove, GSB ’70, member of the Fordham University Board of Trustees and president and CEO of Mutual Funds, GE Asset Management.
Cosgrove said that Father O’Hare’s contribution to Fordham was crucial in establishing the success that the University enjoys today.
“He has been a visionary in terms of bringing Fordham back to preeminence and allowing the University to develop and take its rightful place as one of the leading Catholic universities,” Cosgrove said.
Before coming to Fordham, Father O’Hare was the editor-in-chief of America, a national weekly magazine published by the Jesuits. He also taught for several years at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines.
Father O’Hare was a distinguished member of the New York ethics community, serving for 15 years on the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
The tradition of quality Irish education is rooted deep in the nation’s history, O’Dowd said. Penal codes enacted by the British in the 18th century forbade Catholic education in Ireland, going so far as to provide a £10 reward for the capture of teachers who instructed the faith.
Irish teachers responded by setting up open-air “hedge schools,” educating whatever children they could gather for a simple wage of lodging and a few potatoes. O’Dowd said this period of history contributed to the great importance Irish-Americans place on education.
“Anyone who came here [to America]post-Famine went through that period of terrible destitution in the Irish education system,” O’Dowd said.
Kilkenny, the Irish consul, commended educators for their role in continuing to educate the nation’s newest immigrants from around the world at a time when immigration from Ireland to the United States has slowed.
“The ethos that was there 100 years ago, that ethos of education and giving, is still here,” he said.
Father O’Hare, who joked to the crowd, said that at his age, they don’t “dust me off and take me out very often.” He spoke warmly of his heritage, both as an Irish-American and as a New Yorker.
“I’m proud of my heritage, and I am proud of being a son of New York,” he said.
Asked what qualities make a great educator, Father O’Hare reflected on a dynamic with both students and faculty that allows people to excel.
“It takes sympathy with students and confidence in the faculty,” Father O’Hare said. “You have to give the faculty a chance to grow. I encourage teachers instead of telling them what’s wrong. Criticism, when given, should be the kind that increases self-confidence, rather than reduces it.”
– Jennifer Spencer