Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

The Beck Institute Mission

The Bertram M. Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty is an ecumenical institute that partners with New York City interfaith religious and lay leaders who are moved to alleviate poverty in our affluent society.  It is committed to preparing leaders who promote social justice and serve the poor.  Founded in 1999 and based at Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Service, the Beck Institute promotes interdisciplinary collaboration across University departments and with the broader community.

The Beck Institute seeks to:

  • Build bridges toward a just, equitable and compassionate society
  • Promote and support the rich traditions of the faith community's response to the poor
  • Work with the University and the Graduate School of Social Service in collaboration with the faith community in service with and for the poor of New York City
  • Develop faith-based leaders committed to work for social justice and those affected by poverty
  • Act as a catalyst influencing the direction of scholarship and professional study concerning issues of social justice and poverty
  • Sponsor research, conferences, seminars, and courses to foster mutual learning across university, religious congregations, community groups 
History of the Bertram M. Beck Institute on Religion and Poverty

The Fordham University Institute on Religion and Poverty was established by Bertram M. Beck in 1999 with the support of Dean Mary Ann Quaranta, Dean of the Graduate School of Social Service.  She shared Beck's vision and commitment to develop an institute that would have a role in advocating for the poor of New York City. Beck was Associate Dean to Dean Quaranta, until his untimely death in 2000.

The Beck Institute was established as a multi-faith organization whose mission is to serve as an information and education resource to religious leaders and their congregations for faith-based engagement on public and private social policies that will reduce poverty in the United States.  Since its inception the Institute has received support from the Graduate School of Social Service.  The brief history that follows chronicles the Institute's evolution that speaks to a continued effort to bring together the academic resources of Fordham University in collaboration with the faith community to work on developing our collective capacity to advocate for and serve the poor in more effective ways.

In 2000, Annie Rawlings was named the first director of the Beck Institute and was instrumental in developing a host of programs and publications that forwarded the initial vision for Beck. These are chronicled in our Archive.   She was an inspiring champion of the Beck mission to develop a base for advocacy in congregations throughout New York City.  Her work continues as a member of the Beck Advisory Board and in her new position as Interim Associate Executive Presbyter for Social Witness Presbytery of New York City.

Dr. John Cosgrove, Associate Dean of Research became the acting director in 2003. This was a period of transition for the Institute that continued under the co-directorship of Drs. Gemma Beckely and Anita Lightburn from 2004-2006. Dean Peter Vaughan and Vice President Fr.Gerald Blaszczak, S.J., with our new President, Fr.  Dr. Joseph Mc Shane, S.J., emphasized the importance of furthering the Jesuit Mission for social justice though strong educational programs.  A renewed vision emerged that became part of the Graduate School of Social Service strategic plan for centers of excellence.  (See Beck Mission)

In 2006 we continued to work with changes in leadership as Dr. Beckely returned to Rust College to direct the Social Work Program. Dr. Lightburn, continues as Director, and with the support of Dr. Dale Lindquist, as acting managing director, worked to further the strategic plan that resulted in a number of events, concluding with a major conference in April 2006.  We begin the new academic year 2007/2008 with Dr. Lindquist's recent appointment as Associate Director of the Institute.

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