Lt. Col. John F. Manning vividly remembers his first week at Fordham back in 1937. “The first day they rounded us all up and gave us all a stupid thing called a beanie,” said Manning, who graduated in 1941. “You couldn’t get into class unless you wore that thing. God, I hated it, but the Jesuits were trying to instill a sense of discipline in us through those beanies.” While most of the freshmen hated wearing the Fordham-logoed skullcaps, they grew to love the sense of camaraderie that developed that day and the friendships that were cemented throughout the years. “Fordham taught me a lot of things and I am who I am because of Fordham,” said Manning. “All of the fellows I associated with, all four years at Fordham, were top tier – some of the finest men in the United States.
And my professors taught me the fundamentals of subjects like biology – which I haven’t forgotten today – but also taught me life lessons. For that I will always be grateful.” Leo B. Connelly, who graduated in 1951, says he was a nervous 16-year-old when he walked past the wooden barracks on campus that were used by the army during World War II, and into his first class at Rose Hill. “I was nervous because of the anticipation that a lot of guys in our class would be veterans who were much older than I was,” he said. “Sure enough, seating was done alphabetically, as it always was back then, and I was seated between a 25-year-old and a 26-year-old. It was quite a change from high school. But the Jesuits didn’t waste any time on getting us going and we got assignments right off the bat.” To Connelly’s surprise, after the last class that day the veterans went out with the other students. “We got along right away,” he said.
“I’ve wondered if the vets figured that if they wanted help they’d better get to know the kids.” Times have changed, but as Fordham celebrates its 160th year, it does so with a sense of pride that it has aged gracefully. While the beanies and the army barracks are gone, the admiration Manning, Connelly and others have for their professors remains, as do the fond memories of their years at the University. Fordham has maintained its focus on fostering individual growth and a commitment to society without sacrificing academic excellence.
“I was back at Fordham in June and I met quite a few young people who were very motivated and interested in taking advantage of absolutely every opportunity they have at Fordham,” said Manning. “They all were enthusiastic, very positive and said they were there for an education and they felt they were getting a good one at Fordham. I think that really says a lot about the school.” According to John Buckley, assistant vice president for enrollment, the quality of the students who apply and the growing number of applications received each year speak volumes about Fordham. “This is the tenth consecutive year that Fordham has received more applications than in the previous year, which has naturally led to a much greater level of competition in the selection process,” said Buckley. According to the admission office, the application pool increased from 3,763 in 1991 to 10,568 in 2001. The acceptance rate dropped from 76 percent in 1991 to 55 percent this year.
Additionally the average SAT score has increased from 1128 back in 1991 to more than 1180 in 2001. “This year we enrolled 10 presidential scholars who represent the very best students in our applicant pool,” said Buckley. “Fordham competes with Ivy League schools to recruit these candidates, and by enrolling them, we hope they will be leaders within the student body and enrich the greater academic community.” As we begin another academic year, students will go through different rituals than Manning and Connelly did. But the lingering feelings of goodwill toward classmates and professors, hopefully, will be the same for the class of 2005 and for all the graduates throughout Fordham’s next 160 years.