The Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., president of Fordham University since July 1, 1984, today announced his intention to retire at the close of the next academic year, on June 30, 2003. “At that time,” Father O’Hare said in a letter to the Fordham University community, “I will have served 19 years in this office, and I believe the time will be right for a transition so that the University can have the benefit of the fresh energy and insight of a new President as it moves into the next stage of its development.” Father O’Hare’s 19-year tenure, the longest in University history, is marked by a significant reform of undergraduate education at Fordham and the extensive development of facilities on both Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx and its Lincoln Center campus in Manhattan. The dramatic increase in Fordham’s applicant pool from 4,500 in 1995 to more than 11,000 in 2002 is traced, in part, to this strengthening of the undergraduate experience at Fordham.
In July 2002, the consolidation of Fordham University and Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., will provide the University with a third campus in Westchester. Paul B. Guenther, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, said, “During Father O’Hare’s historic term as Fordham’s 31st president, we have seen the physical transformation of both the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses, the successful completion of the most ambitious fund-raising campaign in the University’s history, the growth of the endowment from $36.5 million to $271.6 million and a three hundred percent increase in annual giving by alumni and friends. As a result Fordham stands on a much higher threshold for the next stage of its development.”
Since 1984, the University has been engaged in an expansive building program that has seen the addition of approximately 1.1 million square feet of new academic and residential space and the renovation of more than 1 million square feet of existing facilities. The new facilities include additional residence halls at the Rose Hill campus and the completion of the first residence hall at the Lincoln Center campus in 1993. In 1997 the William D. Walsh Family Library, considered one of the most technologically advanced academic libraries in the country, was inaugurated on the Rose Hill campus. The renovation of Coffey Field in 1989, the University’s landmark Church in 1990, and the installation of an artificial surface on Murphy Field in 2000 have enhanced Fordham’s 85-acre campus in the Bronx, long considered one of the loveliest of urban campuses, a favorite location for shooting films and television commercials. Throughout his career, Father O’Hare has been an active voice in Catholic higher education. He is the only person to have served as chairman of both the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU).
In April 1989, Father O’Hare was part of the 18-member ACCU delegation to the Vatican Congress on Catholic Higher Education that was convoked to develop materials for a Pontifical document on Catholic higher education. When the April conference concluded, he was elected to a 15-person international committee of bishops and university presidents who returned to Rome that September to review the revised document, which would be submitted to Pope John Paul II and eventually published under the title Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), in 1990. In his inaugural address of 1984, Father O’Hare called for a greater engagement of the University in the life of New York City. He himself has played an active role in the life of the City, serving on the boards of several institutions and on a number of city commissions.
In 1988, Mayor Edward I. Koch appointed him founding chairman of a new agency that since has been hailed as a national model for campaign finance reform, the New York City Campaign Finance Board. He was reappointed to this position by Mayor Rudolph Guiliani in 1994 and again in 1998. He is currently serving the final year of his third five-year appointment, which will end in March 2003. In 1992, Father O’Hare received the annual Civil Leadership Award from the Citizens Union of New York and was similarly honored by the Conference on Government and Election Reform (COGEL) in 1994 for distinguished achievement in the regulation of government ethics. Common Cause/NY in 1999 presented Father O’Hare with its “I Love an Ethical New York Award” for his ten years of service as chairman of the Campaign Finance Board.
Prior to coming to Fordham in 1984, Father O’Hare had been editor in chief of America magazine, the national weekly journal of opinion published by the Jesuits of North America. He first joined its editorial staff in 1972, when he returned to the United States, after teaching for a number of years at the Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit university in the Philippines. He is the recipient of nine honorary doctorates, including one from the Ateneo de Manila University (1990) and one from the City University of New York (1991). The Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J., former president of Boston College and currently chancellor of that institution, responding to news of Father O’Hare’s announcement, observed, “For the past two decades, Father Joe O’Hare has been one of the most respected among his 27 Jesuit President colleagues. His early years as a Jesuit in Asia gave him a unique perspective on American culture, but his native New York gave him a directness, a maturity and a no-nonsense wisdom in leading that has reshaped the face of Fordham.”