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Chair Honors a Theological Giant


Legacy of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Lives On at Fordham

Vincent J. Viola Photo by Jon Roemer

Vincent J. Viola
Photo by Jon Roemer

Vincent J. Viola sees the value in service. He has endowed a faculty chair in the name of Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., a “priest’s priest,” who devoted most of his adult life to the service of the University, the church and his country.

Viola, CEO of Virtu Financial, LLC, a Manhattan trading company he founded two years ago, has made a $2 million gift to Fordham to fully endow the Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Chair in Catholic Theology. Two of Viola’s three sons attended Fordham: John graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill in 2006 and is now a research scholar at New York University’s School of Law. Travis is a junior at Fordham College at Rose Hill, and Viola’s other son, Michael, is a senior at Pepperdine University.

“I thought the Dulles endowed chair was the most virtuous way to express my gratitude to Fordham for educating my two sons,” Viola said. “Fordham teaches the bedrock principles of service, and Cardinal Dulles, in my opinion, was among the foremost of balanced Catholic theologians.”

The University hopes to recruit a senior scholar to fill the Dulles Chair in early 2010. The holder of the chair will be based at Rose Hill, and be free to devote proportionally more time to research than many of the faculty in the Department of Theology.

“Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., was a man, a priest and a theologian for whom superlatives are wholly inadequate,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Vincent Viola’s great generosity allows us to honor Cardinal Dulles’ wisdom and commitment to the Church, and for that we are deeply in Vincent’s debt. His gift will allow the University to continue a tradition of scholarly research and teaching in theology that is part of the foundation of a Fordham education.”

A native New Yorker, Viola was educated at St. Cecilia’s elementary school in Williamsburg and Brooklyn Tech High School. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1972, and later from the U.S. Army Ranger school. Viola founded the Counter-Terrorism Center at West Point and served as an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division until 1982, when he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve. His wife, Teresa, is also a New Yorker, born and raised in Middle Village, Queens, in St. Margaret’s parish. They have been married for 27 years. Viola left the reserves as a major in 1993, when his investment career became all-consuming.

“I didn’t prepare for life after the Army,” Viola said. “I started out on Wall Street, as a local trader on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange, which has some similarity to being inside an Army platoon: you have all this information coming at you and you have to focus, to pick out what’s significant and make decisions in real time.”

Viola said he endowed the Dulles Chair because the experience of having two sons educated at the University impressed him with the quality of the education at Fordham, and more importantly, because of the values that are lived and preached at the University.

“Avery Dulles was a generous and inclusive theologian,” said Terrence W. Tilley, Ph.D., professor of theology and chair of the department at Fordham. “He listened to progressives and traditionalists alike and learned from them. In his best-known book, Models of the Church [Doubleday, 1974], he represented diverse voices fairly while both drawing insights from all and critiquing oversights in each. We hope to honor his memory with a theologian fit to hold the Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Chair in Catholic Theology.”

Tilley, president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said in filling the chair, Fordham would seek someone who could speak to both ecclesiastical and academic audiences; a senior professor with “a certain quality of magnanimity.”

“Like Avery, the chair should be a person of the church and the academy; someone who bridges those fields, and who neither falls off the right side of the cliff nor crashes through the barrier on the left,” Tilley said.

In endowing the chair, Viola supports the values he hopes Fordham students will continue to learn at the University.

“They should understand that they are servants to the position and start from that point outward,” he said. “That is the path to true personal growth. Be dutiful to your purpose and know that there is more at stake than your personal development, and that, in fact, your personal development is a byproduct of your dedication.”


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