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GSS Celebrates the Life of Former Dean Mary Ann Quaranta


If a picture is worth a thousand words, the slideshow playing at the Oct. 1 memorial celebration for Mary Ann Quaranta, D.S.W., (GSS ’50), former dean of the Graduate School of Social Service, said plenty.

There were countless photos with Quaranta and her family, especially her grandchildren, whom she was said to have treasured.

There were plenty of photos with Quaranta and her colleagues.

Then there were professorial photos featuring a very regal Quaranta at conferences and University events, and even a few photos with Hillary Clinton.

“Mary Ann Quaranta was the most elegant person I ever met,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “Now I know you’re going to think I’m being very superficial and only referring to her unerring sense of fashion. But I’m not. Mary Ann Quaranta was the most elegant person in different and far deeper senses. She was a most extraordinary mind, always active and symmetrical. She could figure out a program on the way to work.

“She possessed eyes that enabled her to look on the poor and see in them God’s greatest riches,” Father McShane added. “We at Fordham were blessed to have her as colleague, mother superior, visionary dean and friend.”

Virginia Strand, D.S.W., professor of social work, said Quaranta made each member of the GSS faculty feel special. Photo by Gina Vergel

Quaranta, who died on Dec. 16, 2009, was remembered at a standing-room-only memorial celebration on the Lincoln Center campus. The event included musical tributes and moving speeches from about 18 friends, colleagues and family members.

Among the speakers at the memorial celebration for Quaranta were John D. Feerick, (FCRH ’58, LAW ’61), former dean of Fordham Law and founder of the Feerick Center for Social Justice; Peter B. Vaughan, Ph.D., dean of GSS, Jeanette Takamura, Ph.D., dean of Columbia University’s School of Social Work and Julia Watkins, Ph.D., the executive director of the Council on Social Work Education.

Quaranta was the dean of GSS for 25 years and provost of Marymount College from 2000 until 2004 before being named special assistant to the president for community and diocesan relations.

Hailed for transforming GSS into a nationally prominent school of social work that consistently received high rankings in U.S. News and World Report and brought in record levels of grant and research funding, Quaranta also was remembered as a nurturing mentor.

“Many of us felt we were special to her, and then we’d be surprised to find she made someone else feel that special,” said Virginia Strand, D.S.W., professor of social work. “That was a unique gift in a leader—to get that kind of response from people who work for you.

“In her professional life she was admired. In her personal life, she was loved.”

Robert Chazin, D.S.W., professor of social work, called Quaranta an admiring administrator and extraordinary contributor to the field.

“She was tough, but beneath her demanding exterior, this dean had a soft side,” he said. “Most of us don’t get to choose the people with whom we work.  Mary Ann was known to help the faculty in many ways. She was a wonderful human being.”

The Hon. Kevin J. Quaranta, Esq, FCRH ’78, LAW ’81, spoke at the memorial celebration that paid tribute to his mother. Photo by Gina Vergel

Theresa Casey, a friend of Quaranta’s since the first grade, recalled their mutual love for the HBO show, The Sopranos.

“She wouldn’t miss the program for anything,” Casey said. “We watched every week and discussed the episode afterward.”

Casey recalled their time in elementary and high school, and their undergraduate years at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. Like most grandmothers, Quaranta enjoyed spending time with her eight grandchildren.

“She adored her family,” Casey said.

Quaranta’s children: Kevin J. Quaranta, Esq. (FCRH ’78, LAW ’81), and Mary Beth Morrissey, Esq., M.P.H., (FCRH ’79, LAW ’82), were among the family members at the celebration.

“These have been some very inspiring words about my mother,” Morrissey said. “I think you all have heard that we have a very tough act to follow. We feel very blessed that you are with us here [at the memorial celebration]. It’s a great testament to my mother.

“If my mother were here with us today, she would probably tell us that she deserved this,” Morrissey said as the audience chuckled. “In that spirit, I hope that you will celebrate her life and her legacy.”

Quaranta’s granddaughter, Mary Breda, shared a letter from someone of whom her grandmother was a huge fan—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Your mother lived an extraordinary life and I am grateful to have known her,’” Clinton wrote.

“She always added dignity to any occasion she walked into,” said Robert J. Reilly, assistant dean of the Feerick Center for Social Justice. “When she walked in, you knew someone significant walked into the room. Everyone would pay attention. She had a great sense of humor and she would remember the little things about you—always asking how the children were doing. She appeared with the Pope, with presidents of the United States, yet she talked to everyone like they were a next-door neighbor.”

Quaranta developed GSS’ first doctoral program in social work.

Also among her achievements as dean was the school’s receipt of a National Institute of Mental Health research grant on Hispanic mental health. GSS was the eighth social work school in the country to be awarded the grant, and the only one without a university medical school.

Several of GSS’ prominent programs were initiated under Quaranta’s tenure, including:

• CHILDREN F.I.R.S.T., the Children and Families Institute for Research, Support and Training;
• the Interdisciplinary Center for Family and Child Advocacy (in collaboration with Fordham Law);
• and the National Center for Schools and Communities (in collaboration with the Graduate School of Education).

Quaranta also was instrumental in developing the Ravazzin Center for Social Work Research on Aging and the Institute for Managed Care and Social Work, both at Fordham.

She was president of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) from 1981 to 1983, and served in several responsible positions, both nationally and in New York state. Professional affiliations included the Council of Social Work Education, the National Conference on Social Work, the National Conference of Catholic Charities, American Association of University Professors and New York Board of Social Welfare.


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