Fordham: A History and Memoir

Fordham: A History and Memoir

Fordham: A History and Memoir

Fordham: A History and Memoir


Fordham University is the quintessential American-Catholic institution—and one now looked upon as among the best Catholic universities in the country. Its story is also the story of New York, especially the Bronx, and Fordham’s commitment to the city during its rise, fall, and rebirth. It’s a story of Jesuits, soldiers, alumni who fought in World Wars, chaplains, teachers, and administrators who made bold moves and big mistakes, of presidents who thought small and those who had vision. And of the first women, students and faculty, who helped bring Fordham into the 20th century. Finally it’s the story of an institution’s attempt to keep its Jesuit and Catholic identity as it strives for leadership in a competitive world.

Combining authoritative history and fascinating anecdotes, Schroth offers an engaging account of Fordham’s one hundred thirrty-seven years—here, updated, revised, and expanded to cover the new presidency of Joseph M. McShane, S.J., and the challenges Fordham faces in the new century.


I do a lot of my thinking on long runs and bike rides, so it was on a ride along the New Jersey shore in the summer of 1996, with my biography, The American Journey of Eric Sevareid (1995) behind me, that I decided to try to tell the story of Fordham.

For a number of reasons, I wanted to tell it in a different way, not as the traditional institutional history that tends to concentrate on high administrators, buildings, finances, and distinguished faculty, but rather, as much as possible, through the experiences of students, the young men and women who were shaped by the institution and who carried its spirit into a larger world.

Thus, where the documentation was available, I have told stories of individuals formed by Fordham—a few, such as Denzel Washington and G. Gordon Liddy, famous; some, such as Robert Gould Shaw and James J. Walsh, fairly well known; others, like Michael Nash and Lou Mitchell, less so. Then I also follow their lives for a while after leaving school. Through them, we meet some great teachers, deal with some educational and religious controversies, watch the borough of the Bronx rise and fall, march off to war four times, open Catholic higher education to African Americans and women, and witness what some have considered the loss of Fordham’s Catholic identity along with its emergence as a prospering and ambitious institution in the heart of New York City.

I realized that I could not tell these personal stories and also do the complete, definitive history of a large 159-year-old institution, giving due attention to all the graduate and professional schools, each meriting a history of its own. So I have concentrated on Fordham College, the trunk of the tree from which the branches have sprung. It is the historical heart of the university and, until the development . . .

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