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Founder’s Dinner Celebrates Campaign Milestone


James J. Houlihan, GSB ’74, and James P. Flaherty, FCRH ’69, received the 2011 Founder’s Award.
Photo by Jon Roemer

The spirit of cura personalis was made manifest on March 28 at Fordham’s 10th annual Founder’s Award Dinner. The University community came together at the Waldorf Astoria in New York to honor its most devoted benefactors and brightest students.

The annual event raised $2.2 million for the Fordham Founder’s Presidential Scholarship Fund—the second-largest total in the history of the Founder’s event.

The 2011 Fordham Founder’s Award was presented to James P. Flaherty, FCRH ’69, and James J. Houlihan, GSB ’74, before the dinner’s largest-ever crowd of 980 guests.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, thanked attendees for helping to raise more than $400 million for Excelsior | Ever Upward | The Campaign for Fordham, the University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“Two years ago, when we gathered in this very ballroom, we announced that we had already raised $260 million toward our $500 million goal. We heard that news, and we blinked in amazement, and the world blinked with us—and sometimes at us,” Father McShane said.

“Thanks in large part to your generosity, to the devotion of our Board of Trustees, to the hard work and infectiously faith-filled vision and activity of Jim Houlihan and Jim Flaherty and their companions and colleagues on the President’s Council, I am happy to tell you that in the middle of a crippling economic downturn, we have raised $405 million, or $145 million more than we had two short years ago.”

The evening’s honorees received their awards from Father McShane and John Tognino, FCLS ’75, chairman of the Fordham University Board of Trustees.

Flaherty, an English major who became chief executive for American Express’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, founded Pareto Partners, a London-based firm at which he managed $8 billion in assets. He later co-founded Black Rock Capital and today serves as managing partner of London-based Cannon Capital Partners, LLP.

Flaherty’s connections to Fordham run deep. He counts two children as fellow alumni, and serves as co-chairman for Fordham College at Rose Hill’s portion of the campaign. He has established two scholarships at Fordham—one named for his friend Roy Haviland, a Fordham graduate who was killed in Vietnam, and another for his wife of 41 years, Jane, whom he has known since they were 15 years old.

In accepting his award, Flaherty joked that it was about time Fordham acknowledged the hard work that went into his 2.5 cumulative GPA. He thanked his family members for their support and presence at the event.

“The most dedicated member of the family to Fordham is my wife, who probably loves the place even more than do I,” Flaherty said.

“I thank you for this honor; it’s particularly pleasurable to share it with Jim Houlihan,” he told Father McShane.

“I thank you very much for all the support you give to Fordham,” Flaherty said to the audience. “It makes my job as one of the chairmen of the Fordham College at Rose Hill capital campaign a heck of a lot easier, because the story of Fordham is a pretty easy story to tell.”

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, addresses the guests.
Photo by Jon Roemer

Father McShane responded that Flaherty’s undergraduate GPA had been eclipsed by the tremendous service and dedication he has given to his alma mater.

“You may claim to have a 2.5 GPA on your academic transcript, but those of us who know you and love you know that you have a 4.0 on the transcript of your life, for all that you have done for others,” he said.

Houlihan likewise has deep roots at Fordham. Not only did his mother earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in social work at the University, but the baseball diamond at the Rose Hill campus bears his name. As an undergraduate, Houlihan mixed his love of sports with a passion for service, volunteering his time as a coach for children in the South Bronx.

After graduating from the Gabelli School of Business, he established himself at Houlihan-Parnes LLC, where his successes have repeatedly landed him on Irish America magazine’s Top 100 Business list.

His humanitarian efforts garnered him the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2000. He was instrumental in establishing the Great Hunger Memorial in Ardsley, N.Y., and served as curator for the acclaimed exhibit “The Fighting Irishmen: A Celebration of the Celtic Warrior.”

Demonstrating his love for his Irish roots, Houlihan’s acceptance speech referenced University and family history. Like Fordham founder Archbishop John Hughes, he said, his family came to America from Ireland to pursue their dreams.

“In reading a book about our founder, I couldn’t help but think about my maternal grandmother, Rose Valerie Murray, who emigrated in 1913. She also came from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“She was much like John. She believed in family; she believed in her faith; she believed in the country of her origin; and she believed in her newly adopted country, the United States of America. And like the archbishop, she believed in education.”

After dinner, attendees in tuxedos and gowns watched from tables set with elegant floral displays, as Rachel Buethe and Jake Lowenthal, senior theatre majors in Fordham College at Lincoln Center, sang Jerome Kern’s “I Won’t Dance!”

Before he introduced the 11 Presidential Scholars, master of ceremonies Bill Baker, Ph.D., the Claudio Aquaviva Chair and Journalist in Residence at Fordham, described his experience teaching a joint course between Fordham and the Juilliard School on the business of the performing arts in the 21st century.

“One of my Fordham students, a dancer, turned in a paper for a mid-term. I read the paper and sent her a note, which said, ‘I’ve had a lot of M.B.A. students do studies for me, and this is perhaps the best report I’ve ever read. Have you ever thought about going into business?’” Baker said.

“She came into class and told me, ‘You know Dr. Baker, maybe I can do that. But there’s one thing that I want to do, and that’s dance.’”

Kevin Francisco, a senior finance major in the Gabelli School of Business, thanked the attendees for their support.

“I, like all of you, am mindful of the importance of return on investment, and I want to assure you, on behalf of all the Fordham scholars, your support of this scholarship fund has been, and will continue to be, put to great use,” Francisco said.

“Fordham does not end when I graduate, or when any of us graduate. We will continue to serve the University and all of you, our benefactors, in a positive way.”

The Founder’s Award was established in 2002 to recognize individuals whose lives reflect the University’s defining traditions as an institution dedicated to wisdom and learning in the service of others. Previous awardees include: Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Fordham’s first Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society; former New York Giants owner Wellington T. Mara, FCRH ’37, and Mario J. Gabelli, GSB ’65.


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