As the principal teller of the Fordham story from 1984 to 2003, Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., traveled to 26 countries, made more than 350 speeches, delivered nearly 600 commentaries for WFUV (90.7 FM), published more than two dozen articles, gave scores of interviews, celebrated thousands of Masses, contributed to six books, and wrote countless letters. He has shared the story of the Jesuit University of New York with various groups of people—students and their parents, faculty and administrators, corporations and foundations, government officials, and, of course, alumni—always breathing life into abstract principles, and inspiring others to do the same.
A Selection of Quotations from the Speeches and Writings of Father O’Hare
At a time when religion is so easily identified with fundamentalism, the Catholic idea of relating religious faith and rigorous intellectual inquiry represents a distinctive contribution to our contemporary American society. A university with a religious tradition and a special place for religious inquiry has a distinctive role to play in the whole mosaic of higher education in the United States.
—from “The Catholic Identity of Fordham,” Faculty Convocation, Oct. 23, 1988
Fordham men and women have found in the city rich cultural resources, but also daunting moral and social challenges, soaring celebrations of the human spirit here at Lincoln Center, but also a summons to service in the neighborhoods of the Bronx. These different faces of the city engage the classical Renaissance humanism of Jesuit education, but also the new Jesuit humanism that adds to this classic ideal the urgency of education for justice.
—at Fordham’s 160th Anniversary Gala at the New York State Theater, March 25, 2002
We are not simply in the business of imparting information in our classrooms. We are concerned with the transformation of the whole person, with the development of conscience as well as competence. We would consider our work to end in failure if our students graduated with high levels of technical skill but with hollow hearts and empty spirits.
—from an address to the Annual Teachers Institute of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Spellman High School, March 5, 1985
There are those who have said, and who will say in the days and weeks ahead, that the Jesuits of El Salvador were not disinterested academics, that they had deliberately chosen to insert themselves into the political conflict of their nation. If they had remained within the insulated safety of the library or the classroom, their critics will charge, if they had not “meddled in politics,” their lives would not have been threatened. But such a criticism misunderstands the nature of any university, and most certainly the nature of a Catholic university. No university which identifies itself as Catholic can be indifferent to the call of the church to promote the dignity of the human person.
—from “Six Slain Jesuits,” a homily delivered Nov. 22, 1989, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, New York, during a memorial Mass for the six Jesuits and two housekeepers who were murdered at Central American University in San Salvador on Nov. 16, 1989
Intercultural awareness must be an essential component of a liberal education in the last decade of the 20th century, when markets in Tokyo, New York and London are part of the same international nervous system, when decisions made in Bonn affect workers in Brazil. Education in international awareness means much more than mastering currency rates and tables of tariffs. It must begin with the realization, never to be taken for granted, that other people can feel and think, pray and love in ways that may be unfamiliar to us but are profoundly human.”
—from “Places in the Heart,” a commencement address delivered upon receiving an honorary degree from the Ateneo de Manila University, July 24, 1990
If you ask various Jesuits to sum up in a few words their image of Ignatius, I expect the answers would be various. For my part I have always preferred the image of Ignatius the Pilgrim to Ignatius the Soldier. Ignatius the Pilgrim undertook a journey to seek the will of God, searching to discern what the greater glory of God demanded of him and his companions. Such a search, of course, will always challenge the status quo. What has been and what is can never exhaust the vision of what could be and what should be. It is a spirit that carries some risks with it. The search for what is better can lead to mistakes that might not occur if one was content to settle for what is. One of the successors of Ignatius, another Basque general of the Jesuit order, the late Don Pedro Arrupe, addressed this concern a few years ago. “I do not want to defend any mistakes Jesuits might have made,” Father Arrupe said, “for the greatest mistake would be to stand in such fear of making error that we would simply stop acting.” This is Father Joseph O’Hare, of Fordham University.
—Fordham Focus, WFUV (90.7 FM), July 30, 2000
Teaching ethics is something you’d expect from courses in philosophy and theology. But ethics is an ongoing debate in every department. Beyond transcendent values, all other ethical positions are open to debate. We prepare students for that debate by focusing on applications that are specific to each profession. Perhaps even more important, we seek to engender a habit of moral responsibility to help form individual character that shapes how a person lives an ethical life. In a world of such rapid change, in which there are careers today that didn’t even exist when I was in college, a dependable ethical compass is a very valuable tool.
—as quoted in “Ethics: What’s Right, What’s Wrong in America,” Fordham Magazine, Winter 1999
Through its Jesuit tradition Fordham draws great strength from religious faith, and as a New York institution, the university reflects all of the bristling differences that make the city such an arena of conflict and creativity. With pride Fordham looks back on nearly 50 years in New York, and generations of Fordham alumni, who have served this city, not only as lawyers and executives, but also as teachers, who care for the most important resource and most sacred responsibility of this city, its children, and as social workers who have healed and nourished the city’s needy.
—upon receiving the Tree of Life Award at the National Jewish Fund Dinner, Nov. 30, 1988
You will not find narrow indoctrination at Fordham University, but you will find religious questions and moral values pursued with all the honesty and rigor they deserve.
—from “Fordham and New York,” an inaugural address, Sept. 30, 1984
Each class that leaves Fordham goes forth into a world of opportunity and challenge shaped by historical events and currents beyond control. We, the Class of 2003 (and I include myself, since I am finally graduating today after 19 years of trying to get it right), are leaving Fordham on the threshold of a new millennium, a time of accelerating changes, when familiar guideposts for our journey seem to be overturned and our personal expectations have to be aware of the ways in which violence and terror can suddenly interrupt our lives and shift our understanding of the world. It is a time that will demand creative minds and constant hearts, and I hope that you have learned something of this improbable combination during your years at Fordham.
—from a homily delivered at the Baccalaureate Mass, May 17, 2003
Over the past 19 years, I have learned that to be part of Fordham’s living tradition means recognizing the debt we owe past generations, and the commitment we must have for future generations. We are beneficiaries of a past where we did not labor and trustees of a future we will not enjoy.
—upon receiving the Fordham Founder’s Award, March 31, 2003