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

By Marrone, Debra Caruso | The Catholic Historical Review, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

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


Marrone, Debra Caruso, The Catholic Historical Review


Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York: 1841-2003. By Thomas J. Shelley. (New York: Fordham University Press. 2016. Pp. xii, 524. $39.95. ISBN 978-0-8232-7151-1.)

Monsignor Thomas Shelley's Fordham: A History of the Jesuit University of New York stands out from a short list of other books about the university for its concentration on the members of the Society of Jesus. It was a small group of Jesuits who answered the call of New York Archbishop John Hughes in 1846, soon after his 1841 founding of a small college and seminary at Rose Hill in the Bronx, not yet part of New York City. It was then called St. John's College. Hughes was fighting anti-catholicism in the public schools and worked assiduously to expand Catholic education. He wanted a college, but was not able to manage it, so an agreement was made to bring in a group of French Jesuits ready to leave their prior post in Kentucky.

Shelley, a professor emeritus who taught church history at Fordham, relies heavily on two firsthand accounts, a book by alumnus Thomas Gaffney Taaffe, S.J., and another by Thomas Gannon, S.J., president of Fordham during its most influential years in the 1930s and 40s. Many additional Catholic and Jesuit letters and publications are cited. The author traces the slow growth of the college in the 1800s and the vast expansion that began at the dawn of the twentieth century, when the college became a university and was renamed Fordham after the manor to which it had been born, at the time part of Westchester.

Amid all the milestones are details about the Jesuit college presidents and their accomplishments, but not as much as one might like about the personalities, some of whom were dynamic and fascinating. …

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