Now, more than five decades later, Ninehan is supporting her old New York City neighborhood, one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, while paying tribute to the lifelong mentor and friend she found at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
Her gift to Fordham’s new Cultural Engagement Internships program—made in honor of the late history professor Anne M. Mannion, Ph.D., UGE ’58—helped make it possible for the Elmhurst Corona Recovery Collaborative to offer a paid internship this year, giving a Fordham student an opportunity to support the collaborative’s efforts to meet the food security, mental health, and other needs of community members impacted by the pandemic.
For Ninehan, who graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) in 1974 and earned a Master of Science degree from Fordham’s Graduate School of Education in 2000, supporting Fordham students is a way to express gratitude for the education she received.
“The people I met, the professors I had: It was a whole world. The elevator doors would open up and you didn’t know who was going to walk out—what new celebrity,” she said, recalling one particular instance during her first year when she attended a lecture by noted anthropologist Margaret Mead, Ph.D., who was teaching at Fordham at the time.
This access to outstanding professors was eye-opening for Ninehan, but it certainly wasn’t rare. She said history professor John F. Roche, Ph.D., who died in 2012, “was really an inspiration,” and Mannion even attended Ninehan’s wedding to fellow Ram William J. Ninehan, FCLC ’93, in 1975.
Ninehan remained close to Mannion, exchanging annual holiday cards with her until she died in 2013, a year after retiring from her 53-year-long career at FCLC. She credits Mannion with not only teaching her about history but also modeling how to teach.
“She was really the most outstanding professor,” Ninehan said. “Her enthusiasm, her love of subject: It all enhanced the pedagogy. You can learn methodology, you can learn classroom management, but if you don’t bring that spark that’s a love of your subject with you, it’s meaningless.”
Never Say Never
Despite her passion for teaching, Ninehan didn’t secure a full-time teaching position until 14 years after earning her bachelor’s degree. In the meantime, she parlayed the part-time job she’d held at Bloomingdale’s as a student into a full-time gig as a personal shopper. Due to her background in history, Ninehan often was assigned to work with foreign dignitaries and political figures, but she said it was “not what I intended to be in my life.”
Finally, while reading the newspaper on the way to work in 1988, she saw a classified ad for a seventh-grade social studies teacher—“just by the grace of God,” she said. “I never used to take the newspaper to work and one day I did.”
“I called when I got to my office and the secretary said, ‘Sister will call you back,’ and I thought, ‘Catholic school?’ And that’s where I’ve been ever since.”
Funnily enough, if it hadn’t been for some insistent advice Ninehan received as a student, her path may have differed. When applying for New York state teacher certification, someone suggested she also apply for New Jersey certification. As a “kid from Queens,” she thought, “I’m never going to live in New Jersey,” but that’s where her teaching career has taken place, the bulk of it at the very first school she found via the newspaper ad: Perth Amboy Catholic School in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
In addition to serving as a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Perth Amboy, Ninehan was a principal there. After an autoimmune disease diagnosis in 2011 prompted her retirement, Ninehan continued to teach part time and volunteer at the school. Due to COVID-19, she hasn’t been able to return to Perth Amboy yet, but she said she helps out however she can.
“I’ve done things like revise the handbook and helped with alumni affairs—things of that nature,” Ninehan said. “Things that are not classroom per se, but school-oriented. So, it’s kept me in the loop.”
A Cause Close to Home
As a faithful Fordham donor for more than 20 years—a milestone that earned her entrance into the University’s Doty Society—and an “Elmhurst girl” who walked to PS 13 and high school, Ninehan didn’t think twice about supporting Fordham’s Cultural Engagement Internships program after learning about it during this year’s Lincoln Center Block Party reunion, held virtually in June. The program offers FCLC and Fordham College at Rose Hill students the opportunity to participate in paid internships at local nonprofits and cultural institutions, like the Elmhurst Corona Recovery Collaborative.
Ninehan is one of several alumni donors who have stepped up to help fund student pay and expand the program. She said that while Elmhurst has “taken quite a beating—economically and physically”—over the years, it “was a wonderful place to grow up,” and it means a lot to her that people are interested in preserving the community and helping the people who live there.
“The fact that an intern can help, it’s a double blessing,” she added. “I can help [a Fordham student]do something that’s meaningful and you could help the community you came from; it just made perfect sense.”
Fordham has meant a “great deal” to Ninehan, and she’s looking forward to a time when she can connect with the Fordham community in person again. (She’ll have opportunities pretty soon: Numerous in-person alumni events are returning this month, and Homecoming, scheduled for Saturday, October 9, will be in person, too.)
“In terms of the guidance I got, in terms of my courses, the influence of the professors, and then the lifetime relationships and the friends I made, the friends I still have, my husband: It’s all Fordham,” she said.
What are you most passionate about?
I am most passionate about teaching.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to go to Fordham, because of my lasting personal relationships and its impact on my career.
What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
Although I have enjoyed visiting many places, my favorite place has always been my classroom.
Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
I couldn’t possibly name just one book; influence or inspiration comes from many and sometimes unexpected sources.
Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Anne Mannion’s love of history and her infectious enthusiasm made her a truly great teacher and role model.
What are you optimistic about?
Despite the many challenges that face us all, with the grace of God, I am optimistic about the future.