With his wife, Margaret “Posy” Courtney, by his side, two-time Olympic gold medalist Tom Courtney, FCRH ’55, joined the reunion festivities by Zoom from Florida. He took questions from his longtime friend and former Fordham track teammate Bob Mackin, FCRH ’55, who was among those in Loyola Hall.
Prior to the discussion, audience members watched a video of Courtney’s dramatic come-from-behind victory in the 800-meter race on November 26, 1956, at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Courtney—who later said he was proud to be described in the Melbourne newspapers as “The Fordham Ram”—set an Olympic record that day with a time of 1:47.7 before nearly collapsing from exhaustion.
“I was totally, absolutely spent,” he recalled during the reunion event. “All I could think of is, ‘I am in such bad, painful condition, I will never run again.’”
But he ran the next day, and several days later, on December 1, he anchored the U.S. team’s four-man 1,600-meter relay, winning his second gold medal. Because it was the last Olympics not broadcast live on television, he had to call his parents in Livingston, New Jersey, to let them know that he won.
Upon returning to New York, Courtney appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and on December 12, 1956, Fordham feted him with a dinner at Mamma Leone’s restaurant in Manhattan and a parade in the Bronx—from Poe Park on the Grand Concourse to the Rose Hill Gymnasium, where he received a “huge, triple-decked, silver trophy” from Fordham President Laurence J. McGinley, S.J., The Ram reported the next day.
“Few men have worked as hard and achieved such personal fame in such a short time as Fordham’s Tom Courtney,” Ram reporters Ronald Land and Bill Sturner wrote.
The Fordham University Band led the procession through the Bronx, followed by the student body and the Livingston High School band. Wearing his white Olympics sport coat and a straw hat, Courtney rode down Fordham Road in the back of an open-top orange Cadillac—an experience he recounted in his 2018 memoir, The Inside Track.
“That was a lovely time,” he wrote, “and I was in a convertible with my coach, Artie O’Connor,” a 1928 Fordham graduate who offered Courtney a full scholarship and was the first to suggest that he try to make the U.S. Olympic team. “He was very motivational for me. As we went along, he took my losses much harder than I did. He was a dedicated, wonderful man. He loved Fordham and it helped me to love Fordham.”
After the Olympics, Courtney continued to set world records in 1956 and 1957 before retiring from competition. In 1971, he was one of the first five people, including Vince Lombardi, FCRH ’37, to be inducted into the Fordham Athletics Hall of Fame. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University and enjoyed a long career in business, retiring in 2011 as chairman of the board of Oppenheimer Funds.
“Fordham was a wonderful place, and I’m thankful for my experience there—and my scholarship too,” said Courtney, who for many years has been a generous supporter of the University.
Brian Horowitz, FCRH ’10, GSE ’11, head coach of the Fordham men’s track and field and cross country teams, thanked Courtney for his support of the program’s student-athletes.
“Walking into the Lombardi Center each day and seeing the Olympic rings and knowing that you represented Fordham so well is a real inspiration for myself as a coach and for the current members of the team,” Horowitz said. “We hope to continue to make you proud.”
Watch Courtney’s inspiring effort in this clip from Greatest Thrills from the Olympics. Host Bob Considine interviews Courtney, calling his run “the most courageous race I’ve seen in 25 years of sportswriting.”