Retired AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald M. Levin told more than 10,000 graduates and their families at Fordham University’s 157th Commencement that technology is important, but love and compassion creates a better world. Despite the rain that sent graduates and their families to buildings throughout the Rose Hill campus on Saturday, May 18, the commencement was a day of celebration, memory and hope.
“The years ahead will continue to be years of uncertainty,” said the Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., University president. “More than ever, we realize that we can neither predict nor control the future. But they will also be years of great opportunity and compelling moral challenges.” Levin told graduates to strive to love not only their families, but also those who struggle daily to overcome hunger and poverty. “Each of us has not only a mind that can conceive of a world better that we have and haven’t,” said Levin, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa. “We also have a heart a heart that can show us how to seek that world.
And we have a will, a will that can enable us to try.” Levin explained to the graduates that although technology provides the world with the means to heal itself, it is not enough to make us see the common humanity that binds together all the people of the world. “This sometimes cruel, often callous, always imperfect world of ours needs you very badly,” said Levin. “It needs the knowledge, the expertise that you have been getting here at Fordham. It needs your faith, your hope and hard work. Even more, it needs your love, your compassion and commitment to shine forth for all of us and show us how to live as well as survive.”
Levin recalled the example set by his late son John, who “chose to invest his life in a class room not far from here in the South Bronx where he awoke the talent and dreams of students seeking to escape the nightmare cycle of discrimination, deprivation and despair.” Levin remembered that his son “loved in a way that causes ordinary men and women in every corner of the world to stop ignoring the injustice and start fighting.” In presenting Levin’s honorary doctorate, Paul B. Guenther, chair of Fordham’s Board of Trustees, noted that in the information age, a new kind of business leader is needed, one who can recognize the opportunities implicit in technological discoveries and at the same time appreciate the challenges that come with such opportunities.
In a remarkable career that spans four decades, Gerald M. Levin has demonstrated both the strategic vision and the skills necessary to bring diverse interests and personalities together in the pursuit of a pioneer project. A graduate of Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Levin joined Time Inc. in 1972, when Home Box Office (HBO) was just getting started. In 1975, as HBO’s president and CEO, Levin decided to distribute the channel’s programming via satellite, a move that helped catalyze modern cable television. Levin became vice chairman of Time Warner when Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications in 1990.
In 1992, he was named CEO of Time Warner and was instrumental in its mergers with Turner Broadcasting System in 1996 and with AOL in 2001. “Throughout his career Mr. Levin has urged the importance of corporate America’s concern for the public interest as well as the interests of its shareholders,” Guenther said while presenting Levin’s honorary doctorate. “He has exemplified the role of corporate good citizen in a variety of ways, including his membership of the board of the New York Philharmonic and his role as deputy chairman of the New York City Federal Reserve Bank.”
John D. Feerick, retiring dean of Fordham Law School, received an honorary doctorate of laws. Robert J. Reilly, assistant dean of the School of Law, noted that for the past two decades Feerick “recast the institution and infused it with a distinct style of “cura personalis” or personal care, which is at the heart of Jesuit education. He embodies another Jesuit ideal, that of being engaged in our world, while maintaining a larger sense of purpose.” A respected mediator and arbitrator, Feerick is a 1958 graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill and a 1961 graduate of Fordham Law School. He practiced law from 1961 to 1982 at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, developing its labor and employment law practice as a partner from 1968 to 1982.
In 1964, he served on a task force to help develop the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was a draftsman of the proposed constitutional amendment on electoral college reform that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1969. In 1976, Feerick garnered a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his book, The Twenty-Fifth Amendment. While at Fordham, Feerick has held several public positions and received numerous awards for his work and dedication to the profession of law and to the advancement of human rights. Sister Francesca Thompson, O.S.F., associate professor of African and African American studies and assistant dean/director for multicultural programs at Fordham, received an honorary doctorate of fine arts.
In presenting her honorary doctorate, Jeffrey L. Gray, vice president for student affairs, called Thompson an “advocate and inspiration of several generations of Fordham men and women, to whom she has imparted a love of theater and the confidence that they will realize their dreams with God’s help.” An accomplished scholar, lecturer, actor and director, Thompson has been a member of Fordham’s faculty and administration for 20 years. She recently celebrated her 50th anniversary as a Religious Sister of St. Francis and is the daughter of two founding members of the Lafayette Players’ the first black dramatic stock company in the United States. She will soon begin her fourth term on the nominating committee for Broadway’s Tony Awards.