Fordham, a History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003

By Thomas J. Shelley | Go to book overview

14
WORLD WAR II AND AFTER

A Wartime Campus

In October 1940, thirteen months after the outbreak of the war in Europe, there were still 8,100 students registered at Fordham. Even a year later, two months before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the conflict, the enrollment had declined by only 654, or 7 percent. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, Gannon announced that he anticipated no major changes in the functioning of the university. However, within a month, Father Lawrence A. Walsh, the dean of Fordham College, revealed plans for an accelerated three-year college course. In 1942 the enrollment slipped by 20 percent, which meant a loss of $600,000 in tuition. Shortly thereafter the draft age was lowered to 18 years, and by October 1944 the enrollment hit rock bottom with only 3,086 students, little more than a third of the pre-war enrollment.

As in most American colleges, the great majority of students at Fordham were now either women, young men under 18 years of age, or “4Fs,” men who had obtained a deferment from the draft for medical or other reasons. Some of the professional schools, such as the Law School, Pharmacy School, and Day Business School, were especially hard hit, as was Fordham College, where there were only 24 graduates in 1944 in an accelerated freshman class that had numbered almost 400. It was the smallest graduation class since World War I. A third of all the students in the university were enrolled in the School of Education, and most of them were women.1

Prior to Pearl Harbor, like many Republicans in the late 1930s, Father Gannon had been a staunch isolationist, accusing President Roosevelt of spoiling for a fight and dragging the country into war. However, at the Annual Mass of the Holy Spirit that opened the new school year on September 7, 1942, Gannon publicly admitted that he and his fellow isolationists had been wrong and that the president had been right. “If he had listened

1. Ram, December 12, 1941, January 16, 1942, October 20, 1944. Robert I. Gannon, Up to the Present: The Story of Fordham (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, 1967), 234–38.

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