Fordham: A History and Memoir

Article excerpt

Fordham:A History and Memoir. By Raymond A. Schroth, S.J. (Chicago: Loyola Press. 2002. Pp. xxx, 424. $ 16.95 paperback.)

Raymond A. Schroth makes good on both parts of his subtitle: his Fordham is both a history and a memoir. Since he graduated from Fordham in 1955, entered the Society of Jesus two years later, and taught at the university for many years, the memoir proper, or participant-observer portion, extends over live decades. Yet the whole of his account has more the quality of an informal look-back over the past than of a conventional institutional biography. It is strongly focused on the personal, replete with descriptions of the locale and stories about students, faculty members, and others who had some association with Fordham-one of the latter being Edgar Allan Poe, who lived near the campus in the late 1840's. This approach presumably derives from the fact that Schroth's academic interests seem to be in literature, drama, and communication rather than history as such. It makes for an interesting and quite readable account, but the wealth of incident tends to reduce everything to the same level of importance and obscure the main lines of development.

Though the book is journalistic in flavor, Schroth has done his homework, historically speaking. There are no footnotes, but he has consulted the relevant materials, primary and secondary, and he supplies a chapter-by-chapter discussion of the sources employed as well as a comprehensive bibliography and thirteenpage chronology of Fordham's history. He covers the whole span of Fordham's past in a balanced way, but his discussion of the last four decades is of particular interest. The only other general history of the university-Robert I. Gannon's Up to the Present (1967)-stops just as the momentous changes of the I960's were beginning to take hold. Yet Gannon, who was president of Fordham from 1936 to 1949, saw enough of the administration of Leo J. McLaughlin (1965-1969) to be dismayed by its radical innovations. Schroth, who admits he didn't care for Gannon (though he does justice to Gannon's accomplishments as president), clearly found McLaughlin a more attractive personality and suggests that, despite the failure of several of his projects and a financial crisis that resulted in his summary removal from office, McLaughlin moved the university in the right direction. …