On Oct. 22, Fordham welcomed four distinguished alumni as the newest inductees into the University’s Hall of Honor.
The Rev. Vincent R. Capodanno, Servant of God; Bob Keeshan, a.k.a. Captain Kangaroo; U.S. Army staff sergeant Robert C. Murray; and attorney Ruth Whitehead Whaley were honored posthumously at a ceremony at Cunniffe House on the Rose Hill campus attended by the inductees friends and relatives, and members the University community.
The Hall of Honor recognizes alumni whose lives have exemplified the ideals to which the University is devoted. In the case of the 2014 inductees, those ideals include a dedication to the world’s vulnerable citizens and extreme courage in the face of danger and adversity.
Father Vincent Capodanno, FCRH ’52, earned the nickname “Grunt Padre” because the Vietnam War Navy chaplain and lieutenant insisted on living, eating, and sleeping in the same quarters as the enlisted men, known as “grunts.” In September 1967, when praying over the wounded and the dead on a Que Son Valley battlefield, he stepped in between an injured U.S. Marine and a machine gunner. A burst of fire riddled the priest with 27 bullets, and he made the ultimate sacrifice. He was 38 years old. Father Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in January 1969, and also received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.
In creating his beloved Captain Kangaroo program, Bob Keeshan, UGE ’51, once said that he operated “on the conviction that [the audience]is composed of young children of potentially good taste, and that this taste should be developed.” That respect and admiration for young people informed all of Keeshan’s work, from his early days as Clarabell the Clown on The Howdy Doody Show, to his own celebrated Captain Kangaroo, to his later work as a children’s author and advocate. As the Captain, Keeshan earned five Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards, and one National Education Award during the show’s nearly 30-year run.
Robert C. Murray, FCRH ’68, spent his early years on Marion Avenue in the Bronx, a stone’s throw from the Rose Hill campus. He entered Harvard Business School after Fordham, but left early to join the Army. On June 7, 1970, Murray was serving as a squad leader with Company B in Vietnam when a member of the squad tripped an enemy grenade. “Staff Sgt. Murray unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his own safety,” reads his Medal of Honor citation, “threw himself on the grenade, absorbing the full and fatal impact of the explosion.” He was 23 years old. Vice President Gerald Ford presented the Medal of Honor to Murray’s family in August 1974.
Long before the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Ruth Whitehead Whaley, LAW ’24, was the first black woman to enroll at Fordham Law School, where she graduated at the top of her class. In 1925, she became the first black woman to practice law in New York. Whitehead Whaley argued before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals many times during her career. She became a recognized expert in civil service law, representing black local government employees in discharge proceedings. In the early 1940s, she served on the New York City Council, and was later appointed secretary of the New York City Board of Estimate, which worked in tandem with the City Council. She served in that post from 1951 to 1973.
The Hall of Honor blessing was followed by a reception and ceremony in Bepler Commons of Faber Hall, where Fordham honored the newest members of the Archbishop Hughes Society, which recognizes benefactors whose lifetime support of the University totals $1 million or more. The ceremony welcomed 25 new inductees–individuals, couples, corporations and foundations, and families–for a total of 153 members.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, referred to those new inductees as “the quiet companion(s) who walked with our students . . . a serene presence in their lives. They know that you love them and care for them. You are very much, I would say, men and women in the Fordham mode.”
Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre in the United Kingdom.