NEW YORK — Approximately 1,800 religious and government leaders, faculty, students and friends of Fordham University crowded into the Gymnasium at Rose Hill on Friday, Oct. 24th, to celebrate the installation of the University's 32nd president, Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
"We gather today not to celebrate a person. Far from it," said Father McShane, who assumed the presidency on July 1. "We gather in solemn convocation to celebrate Fordham: its history, its accomplishments, its most treasured traditions, its heroic figures and its prospects for the future."
The celebration also recognized the University's partner in education, its laboratory and its classroom: the city of New York, which Father McShane described as a city of hope, glory, dreams and, sometimes, despair. In its Jesuit tradition, Fordham has graduated men and women with conscience, compassion and commitment to the cause of the human family, said Father McShane, who pledged to continue this tradition.
"We will dedicate all of our energies to the necessary work of educating — in this capital of the world — a new generation of citizens whose lives will be marked with the ethical rigor, the restless generosity of heart and the commitment to discerning, critical civic engagement that have always been hallmarks of Fordham graduates who will transform our city and world," he said.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among the dignitaries to welcome and congratulate Father McShane. He commended the University for producing so many graduates who devote their lives to public service, citing several high-level members of his own administration who are Fordham graduates.
"It's [a Fordham] homecoming at City Hall every day," Bloomberg said, amid applause from the audience. "Fordham really is a gift to the city, and I am sure that Father McShane will build on this great legacy."
Fordham awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Vartan Gregorian, Ph.D., president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for his philanthropic pursuits in advancing scholarship and knowledge. In his keynote address, Gregorian thanked Father McShane for "responding to the great calling" as an educator in the Jesuit tradition.
"Making a difference in people's lives is ... the organizing principle of [the Jesuits'] educational system," said Gregorian, who is also a former president of Brown University. In conclusion, he said, "Although Jesuit education is 458 years old, I believe on this day...that Jesuit education remains what it has always been, timeless, contemporary, dynamic, on the cutting edge."
In a ceremonial passing of the torch, the Rev. Joseph A. O'Hare, S.J., president emeritus of Fordham University, presented Father McShane with the University's mace. Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Fordham's Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society, delivered the benediction.
Father McShane concluded his address by settling an old debt to the Reformed Church in America. Back in 1733, the first lord of Rose Hill Manor, where the University now sits, agreed to pay two shillings and six pence or one half bushel of wheat, in rent to the church, which owned the land. Needless to say, this “rent” has not been paid in some time.
"Therefore, on this day of transition, when the University reflects on both its history and its prospects for the future, I would like to make amends," said Father McShane, handing over $60 worth of English shillings and several boxes of non-perishable foods to J. Thomas Liddle Jr., the chair of the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City of New York.
For Father McShane, 53, this marks a return to Fordham, where he served as dean of Fordham College from 1992 to 1998. Prior to his Fordham presidency, Father McShane served as president of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. A native of New York City, he joined the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1967 and was ordained a priest in 1977.
Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City's Jesuit University. It has residential campuses in the Bronx, Manhattan and Tarrytown, and the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y.