Fordham Founder’s Dinner Remarks | The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University
Monday, 28 March 2011
“The old shall see visions, and the young shall dream dreams.”
On Saint Patrick’s Day, I had a very nearly perfect Irish day: two parties, a pipe band, a parade and a visit to a grave. I felt like I was on vacation.
While the parade, the pipe band and the parties are ingredients that you would expect on an Irish feast day, you may be wondering about that visit to a grave. Hmmm. Let me explain. At the end of Mass in the Cathedral as I was making my way back to the sacristy to take off my vestments, I noticed that the door to the Cathedral crypt was open. Heeding the call of my Irish soul, I made my way down the stairs and entered the tight little room that contains the tombs of the archbishops of New York. And there it was: the tomb of Archbishop Hughes. I went over and began to pray–both for him and to him. In my prayers, I thanked him for the vision that led him to found Fordham, that daring and dangerous undertaking that he bequeathed to us.
The rest of the day rushed by in a blur: the pipe-band serenaded pre-parade brunch at the Princeton Club, the march up the Avenue flanked by Jim Buckman, Jim Flaherty and Jim Houlihan, and finally the happily chaotic Friendly Sons dinner at the Sheraton. They made for rich memories, but to tell you the truth, it was the visit to the crypt that has stayed with me. Even haunted me. And how could it not?
After all, I knew that we would be gathering this evening to celebrate Dagger John’s vision and the power that it has always had to touch and set hearts on fire, and to transform lives. But let us be clear. Dagger John’s vision has never been static. Far from it. It has inspired generations of men and women. In the process, it has created legions of dreamers who have been challenged by Hughes’s vision and who have enriched it with their dreams–dreams that have always lured them and Fordham into the future.
“The old shall see visions, and the young shall dream dreams.”
And so tonight we celebrate not only our Founder’s vision, but also the dreams of those whose lives Fordham has touched and changed. In a special way we celebrate the vision that we all embraced when we entered into our capital campaign, the most ambitious campaign that Hughes’s spiritual sons and daughters have ever undertaken. We also celebrate the progress that we have made toward the realization of that shared vision. And what progress we have made!
Two years ago, when we gathered in this Grand Ballroom, we announced that we had already raised $260 million toward our $500 million goal. We blinked in amazement, and the world blinked with us–and at us. Two years ago, I told you that we were still looking for that transforming gift that would put an exclamation point on our efforts. Two years ago, we faced the daunting challenge of conducting a capital campaign in the midst of a crippling economic downturn. (Faced with those challenges, I was tempted to run off to a Trappist monastery where I could spend my days baking bread and singing the office in choir. Since I have no voice and since I am Irish and therefore know nothing about baking, however, I had to scuttle that idea!)
As we gather this evening, we have much to celebrate. We celebrate the fact that, thanks to the hard work and infectious faith of Jim Flaherty and Jim Houlihan, those indomitable Rams from Brooklyn and the Bronx (and their colleagues on the President’s Council and thousands of other loyal sons and daughters of Fordham), the campaign has raised $405 million dollars, or $145 million more than we had raised two short years ago. Tonight, we celebrate the fact that Mario Gabelli (and the incomparable Regina Pitaro) have given the University the largest gift that it has ever received: $25 million. Mario’s gift has been every bit as transformative and inspiring as we hoped it would be. Indeed, it led an anonymous donor to give a gift of $20 million to help the Gabelli School of Business achieve the ambitious dreams that it has articulated for itself. We celebrate the Law School’s successful completion of its $100 million campaign. We celebrate the more than 60 gifts of a million dollars or more that have enabled us to transform the physical and intellectual infrastructures of the University.
Since you are all New Yorkers, and therefore even more skeptical than Missourians, I know that you will probably react to my claims with a bit of finely-honed disbelief. Fair enough. Therefore, let me put your skepticism to flight by referring to those dreams in stone that your generosity has made possible: Campbell, Conley and Salice Halls, that $104 million neighborhood of residence halls on Rose Hill that welcomed their first cohort of 460 residents in August. Hughes Hall is in the midst of a $36 million renovation and will become the new home of the Gabelli School of Business in September of 2012. And the $250 million complex that will house both the Law School and a new undergraduate residence hall at Lincoln Center is underway. (Sadly, the two parts of the project are, as of yet, orphans. That is to say, they don’t bear the names of any donors. That, of course, is good news for you, because it means that if you step up quickly, your name will join the other iconic names that fill the area around our campus: Avery Fisher, Robert Moses, Leon Lowenstein and David Koch. Roger Milici and I will linger at the doors after dinner to receive your bids for the naming rights!)
“The old shall see visions and the young shall dream dreams.”
Of course, all of these dreams in stone pale in comparison to the dreams that are realized in flesh and blood at Fordham every day, thanks to your generosity. Your tremendous support of scholarships has made it possible for your younger sisters and brothers to realize their dreams of receiving Fordham degrees. Thanks to you, Fordham is and will be able to change the world, one heart, one soul, one talented student at a time. On their behalf and on behalf of the generations of Fordham men and women whose lives will be touched, enriched and transformed by your generosity, I would like to thank you, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As you know, I never tire of singing Fordham’s praises. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to you if I tell you that sometimes I run into nay-sayers and doubters who, upon hearing me talk of the ambitious plans that we (you and I) have for Fordham, say to me, “You must be dreaming.” Whenever I hear those words, I snap back, “You betcha! After all, I’m from Fordham, the Jesuit University of the Capital of the World, where talent is nurtured, hope is born and dreams come true every day–for the Greater Glory of God.” Therefore, my friends, be forever proud of the fact that you are part of a family in which the old see visions and the young dream dreams.