In his fall convocation address, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham evoked the University’s 175-year history while revealing plans for a “restless and forward looking institution … in dialogue with the world.”
Father McShane spoke to an audience of faculty and administrators at the Rose Hill and at Lincoln Center campuses on Sept. 19. He reminded audiences of the University’s roots, noting that Fordham founder Archbishop John Hughes had experienced prejudice as an Irish immigrant and founded the institution, in part, as a hand up for the less fortunate.
“He founded the college to help immigrants break out of the cycle of poverty and to become people who could believe that the American Dream could be theirs,” said Father McShane, adding that this continues to be the mission of Fordham today.
The address focused on the past, present, and future. He recalled the first six students greeted by the archbishop in 1841, as well as the 15,500 students attending today. From Archbishop Hughes’ visionary purchase of a 106-acre farm, to the recently completed Fordham Law School building and the soon-to-be renovated Lowenstein Center, the talk covered 175 years.
Father McShane delivered welcome news of the Middle States Association’s accreditation of the University. The Middle States steering committee took a rare step in not issuing recommendations, and waived the need for follow up visits—something that only 33 percent of schools up for reaccreditation achieve.
On admissions and enrollment, Father McShane reported an increase in applications to the University of 5 percent, bringing the total to 44,776 for the three traditional-age undergraduate colleges. The University met its enrollment goals with 2,172 students.
Father McShane didn’t shy away from discussing challenges facing the institution, saying many reflected national and fiscal trends.
In response to what he referred to as the “second phase of the Civil Rights Movement,” Father McShane announced that a Task Force on Diversity created last spring had issued findings, and that the University is working on an October response..
He said the law school, the Graduate School of Social Service, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are “experiencing gains or are in a steady state,” while the Graduate School of Education, the Gabelli School of Business’s graduate program, and the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education face challenges affecting similar schools throughout the region.
And yet, in an environment where 38 percent of the private colleges and universities failed to meet enrollment targets, Fordham continues to fare well. The University has raised $82 million toward a $175 million goal in a new capital campaign aimed at strengthening financial aid. The University has hired 30 new tenure-track faculty. The University’s ranking in U.S. News and World Report rose to 60, and three of the graduate schools placed in the publication’s top 50. Fordham remains a top Fulbright producer, sending nine student winners abroad this year.
Regarding facilities, Father McShane said that the old law school, now dubbed “140 West,” welcomed students after a renovation made space for the Quinn Library, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Gabelli School of Business. A total of 570,000 square feet was added to the Lincoln Center campus. He said future facilities projects are planned for the Rose Hill campus.
Amidst planning for the future, the University will continue celebrate its Dodransbicentennial, which began on June 24 with a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The coming year will be filled with symposia, a football game at Yankee Stadium, and a much larger St. Patrick’s Cathedral Mass that is open to the public, to be held on Sat., Oct. 1.
“It’ll be at 5:30 on Saturday afternoon, so it counts for Sunday,” joked Father McShane.