The most humble man at Fordham finally got his due.
John D. Feerick, aka “St. John the Good,” was feted by alumni, faculty, and friends on April 2 at a raucous, standing-room-only ceremony in the McNally Amphitheatre.
The occasion was the unveiling—23 years after its creation—of an official portrait of Feerick, who was dean of the Law School from 1982 to 2002. It was the first time the painting had been seen in public since it was created in 1991 by artist Franklin Petersen.
Petersen had been commissioned by Feerick to paint portraits of law school professors as part of the University’s 150th anniversary, but when asked to sit for a portrait himself, the famously humble Feerick declined. His colleague, Louis Stein LAW ’26 (for whom the schools’ Stein Center for Ethics and Public Interest Law is named), asked Petersen to surreptitiously observe Feerick in meetings and paint one of him.
When Feerick discovered it, he instructed his staff to lock it in a closet.
On April 2, William Michael Treanor, Ph.D., who succeeded Feerick as dean, joked that he was envious of Michael M. Martin, the current dean of the Law School, for finally getting Feerick to relent.
“I heard about this picture. I didn’t talk to anyone who had actually seen it. I talked to some people who knew of people who’d seen it. So it was like the Loch Ness monster of my deanship,” Treanor said.
Martin lauded Feerick, FCRH ’58, LAW ’61, for his willingness to “take thankless tasks that lesser mortals just wouldn’t touch,” such as chairing state commissions on governmental integrity.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, likewise cracked wise about how little the portrait would resemble Feerick today, noting that “we know John’s goodness is forever young.”
Feerick dedicated the portrait to his family. His parents, both immigrants from Ireland, would have been astonished to see the painting, he said.
“We all grew up seeing ourselves in small black-and-white pictures, usually taken by my mother on the roof of the six-story apartment house where we lived in the Bronx.
“I still have her pictures, and I might indicate they also bear no resemblance to the person here.”