Skip to main content

A Tribute to Our First President Joseph Cammarosano

The Faculty Senate Fifty Years Old

At our Senate Dinner following the business meeting, Father McShane complimented Dr. Joseph Cammarosano of the Economics  Department for his leadership and his contribution to Fordham as first president of the Fordham Faculty Senate. Professor Roger Wines, History, said a few words about Joe Cammarosano’s career.

Joe is a world War II veteran. After the war he returned to school, graduated from Fordham College in 1947. After further education and work experience he returned to Rose Hill  1n 1955 to begin teaching economics, and he is still teaching economics in Fordham College this year.

Joe, and some of us remember Fordham when it was really a “Jesuit University.” One third of the faculty taught classes in long black cassocks. The Jesuit Rector and President made most of the key decisions and appointments. In cases of major matters like starting a school or erecting a building permission had to be secured from the General in Rome. Fordham’s legal board of trustees was a group of Jesuits who followed instructions. The transition of the 1960’s brought Fordham into the mainstream of American universities, with a board and leadership structure comparable to Columbia or NYU. Joe Cammarosano played a key role during this difficult transition.

The Faculty Senate, beginning in 1965, was a first step by the Jesuit community in opening Fordham to other ideas and traditions, and in recognizing the major contribution made by its lay faculty. Joe played an effective central role, because he gained the trust of the faculty, of the Jesuit community, and the lay advisor members of the Board of Trustees. That trust was vital in guiding the university through the tumultuous years 1968-70, years when the university faced financial bankruptcy, student unrest, religious reform currents relating to the Vatican II Council, and protests against the Vietnam War.

In 1968, the President appointed Joe and a dozen faculty to review the university deficit and make suggestions. His committee, on which I served, was told to cut the university budget twenty per cent in three weeks. He succeeded in meeting that goal, freezing salaries and hiring, slashing administrative costs and a number of positions. Not one classroom teacher was fired.  Financial crisis was averted. 

Joe moved on from the Senate to serve as Executive Vice President under three presidents, Fr. Michael Walsh SJ, Fr. James Finlay SJ and Fr. Joseph O’Hare SJ. After transitioning to an independent Board of Trustees, Fordham had to devise all the  procedures and statutes necessary for a modern American university. The Senate, working with Joe and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paul Reiss, drafted most of the new statutes. The Handbook Committee, under Professors Claire Corbin (Business), Robert Himmelberg  (History) and Roger Wines (History) worked with the administration on text, which was then debated and revised by the Faculty Senate. Every line and every proposal was scrutinized. Senate meetings sometimes began at 3 p.m. and lasted till 2 a.m., but the job was done. Joe shepherded the revised versions through  the university Board of Trustees for approval. These are the rules under which we all work and live, which make Fordham the successful modern university which  it is.

As an administrator, Joe understood the needs of the faculty by intuition and experience. With the other founding fathers (and mothers) he helped launch a long term plan to transform Fordham. We put the faculty in charge of assessing the faculty, separately in each school or department. Hiring, firing, tenure , promotion, later merit pay – were all put in the hands of the faculty of each unit. Over time, as expected, they continually raised their own standards, producing  today’s respected faculty. Joe made another key contribution aiding the faculty. Realizing the need for a decent retirement income for faculty, in order to promote an orderly turnover and regular infusion of new blood and new skills, Joe negotiated with the Senate to raise the university contribution to TIAA from 5% university/5% faculty to 11% university/5% faculty., which finally put retirement on a sound bases. The founding fathers thought in long terms, the next twenty years – and again succeeded.

Joe’s legacy to the faculty and the Senate was to establish a long lasting mutual confidence and collaboration in the governance of the University. Long may it last.

Joe has served as an example to his colleagues in so many ways – as a mentor, a man of character, a good family man, husband of his late wife Rosalie, father, grandfather, and as a talented scholar and teacher. There are not enough words to express adequately the appreciation owed to him by several generations of Fordham faculty and students. Let us just say two—

Thank  You.

Dr. Roger A. Wines, Professor Emeritus
Department of History