NEW YORK—Wellington Mara, FCRH ’37, a Fordham alumnus, longtime friend of the University and one of the most influential owners in professional sports history, died Tuesday, Oct. 25. He was 89.
“As the owner of the New York Giants, he will long be remembered for the integrity and class that he brought to one of the country’s finest sports franchises and the National Football League, but as a son of Fordham, his name will always be recalled with sincere fondness and admiration for a life reflective of the Jesuit principles of charity and compassion,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University.
Mara joined the football New York Giants as a ball boy at the age of nine shortly after his father, Timothy J. Mara, purchased the team. Wellington became the youngest owner of a professional sports team in 1930 at the age of 14 when his father named him and his brother Jack co-owners of the Giants. He continued to run the day-to-day operations of the team until several years ago, when he handed the responsibility over to his son John.
A member of the Fordham University Athletics Hall of Fame since 1972, Mara was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He also received the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation in 1992.
In 2002, the University showed its appreciation for Mara by honoring him as one of the first recipients of the Fordham Founder’s Award. The award, inaugurated in 2002 in recognition of the University’s 160th Anniversary, recognizes individuals whose lives reflect the highest aspirations of the University’s defining traditions, as an institution dedicated to wisdom and learning in the service of others.
“The Fordham community is fortunate to have had the opportunity to share in Mr. Mara’s life and to have been able to express its gratitude with the Founder’s Award, “ said John Tognino, FCLS ’75, chairman of the Fordham University Board of Trustees. “I have been a Giants ticketholder for 42 years and as a youngster I can vividly remember watching the Giants practice at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus and seeing Wellington Mara on the sidelines attentively watching everything.”
A generous supporter of Fordham University and its football program, Mara instituted the Mara Family Award to honor a Fordham alumnus who makes an outstanding contribution to the program. Last April, Mara presented the 2005 award to Herb Seidell, FCRH ’50, at the annual Fordham Gridiron Club Dinner, held at the New York Athletic Club.
“Wellington Mara was a true Fordham gentleman,” said Frank McLaughlin, FCRH ’69, executive director of athletics at Fordham. “As a former student-athlete, coach and now administrator, I saw firsthand Mr. Mara’s love for Fordham, our coaches, and above all, our student-athletes. Fordham will always treasure Wellington Mara and his family.”
Fordham honored Mara with a moment of silence before the football game with Holy Cross on Saturday, Oct. 29. The Rams are also honoring Mara by wearing his initials on their helmets for the remainder of the season. Mara is survived by his wife, Ann, 11 children and 40 grandchildren. Click here to read John Mara’s eulogy for his father.