The school at Fordham from which John Curran, Ph.D., (PHA ’66) received his degree closed more than 30 years ago, but that didn’t stop him from finding a home on campus.
The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, which was named in 2004 in honor of Curran’s parents, has long been a beneficiary of his generosity. Now, his latest gift will allow the center to continue the robust programming that makes it one of the premier locations for studying Catholicism in the United States.
“I wanted to thank Fordham for a great education, and to share in my success. Since the pharmacy school was closed, it made sense to look at another avenue. The opportunity came when Father Massa started up this center,” he said.
Curran came to Fordham from All Hallows High School in the Bronx and went on to earn a master’s of science and doctorate in pharmaceutical economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Armed with the knowledge he gleaned from there and from Fordham, he worked for Pfizer and, later, formed Curran Capital Management. In the business world, he said, his pharmaceutical background gave him a crucial leg up.
“I knew the drugs; I understood the drugs; and I understood the competition,” he said. “I could translate that into making money. A lot of guys became drug analysts working on Wall Street, but they didn’t have half the knowledge base that I had.”
Curran noted that low enrollment at Fordham’s School of Pharmacy, which was one of the reasons it closed in 1972, made for a tight-knit group of classmates. But he harbors no ill will regarding the elimination of his academic home.
“It was a smart, strategic decision by the administration,” he said. “Pharmacy really didn’t fit into the future of Fordham. It made all the sense in the world because there already were enough pharmacy schools in the metropolitan area.”
Curran said he became attracted to the center in 2001 because he agrees with its mission to help the church thrive.
“I think the Jesuits are really the best. They’ve got a realistic grasp of life and the church and everything else,” he said. “They do a fabulous job.”
Gifts such as Curran’s allow the center to pursue multiple initiatives, from major conferences to lectures by leading scholars to an online catechetical program for religion teachers.
With four full-time faculty members, the Curran Center is widely recognized as one of the best places to study in the field, a fact borne out of its recent invitation to join other leading Catholic studies programs at a weekend conference at Notre Dame’s Erasmus Institute.
We’ve moved to the top of the ranks, and that’s largely a result of John’s vision and trust in us to do these things, and to do them very well,” said Mark Massa, S.J., the center’s director. “When you’re talking about flying people in and putting them up and feeding them, it becomes very expensive.”
Father Massa said the center has been able to take a soup-to-nuts approach, using the online catechism tools to work with everyone from ordinary Catholics to Notre Dame academics. Just as importantly, he noted, all of the center’s lectures and panels are open to the public.
“You want to provide a safe place for people to express opinions and I think we’re providing it,” he said. “We want to be one of those places where Catholics do their thinking, and John and Connie Curran make that possible.”