Institutional Background – Fordham University
The origins of Fordham University can be traced to 1839 when John Hughes, the Bishop of New York, bought 100 acres at Rose Hill in the Fordham section of what was then Westchester County. Though facing financial difficulties in starting St. John’s College, Bishop Hughes, a poor Irish immigrant himself, saw education as the indispensable means for his immigrant flock to break out of poverty and better themselves economically and socially in their adopted homeland. St. John’s College opened its doors in 1841 as a diocesan institution with six students.
In 1846, for both financial and personnel reasons, Bishop Hughes was happy to sell St. John’s College to a religious order with an international reputation as professional educators—the Society of Jesus. Throughout the later nineteenth century, St. John’s College remained a small liberal arts college.
From College to University
In 1904 the president, Father John J. Collins, SJ, announced that St. John’s College would become a university. Still, the transition from St. John’s College to Fordham University was a gradual process spread over several decades, beginning in 1905 with the opening of the first of two graduate schools. The first graduate school, the Medical School, opened and subsequently closed within 16 years. However, the second graduate school, the Law School, flourished from the beginning despite a somewhat nomadic existence that necessitated four changes of location in the first ten years.
The Lincoln Center Campus
A significant milestone in the development of Fordham University took place with the establishment of the Lincoln Center Campus in the 1960s. Fordham’s new Manhattan campus had an inauspicious beginning in December 1954, when Father Laurence J. McGinley, SJ, the President of Fordham, asked Robert Moses, New York City’s master planner and quintessential power broker if Fordham could rent five floors in the new Coliseum office building to be constructed at Columbus Circle. Moses turned down the initial request and, in its place, suggested that Fordham assume a role in what became known as the Lincoln Square Urban Renewal Project, one block west of the Coliseum. This project was also responsible for the creation of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and included the Juilliard School.
That conversation between Robert Moses and Father McGinley started the most important dream in Fordham’s history. The Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University gradually took shape between 1961, when the Law School building was dedicated, and 1969, when the Lowenstein Building became the home of a new liberal arts college and the graduate schools of Education, Social Service, and Business Administration. In August 2014, the Law School moved into a new, state-of-the-art building at Lincoln Center—part of a 22-story structure also housing 425 undergraduate students—and its former building was then renovated to accommodate the Gabelli School of Business.
Fordham University, the Jesuit University of New York, is committed to the discovery of Wisdom and the transmission of Learning, through research and through undergraduate, graduate, and professional education of the highest quality. Guided by its Catholic and Jesuit traditions, Fordham fosters the intellectual, moral, and religious development of its students and prepares them for leadership in a global society.
A Strategic Framework for Fordham’s Future, the adoption of which was announced by Fordham University President Joseph M. McShane, SJ, on October 25, 2016, is a milestone in the University’s planning process. It replaced a decades-old static approach with a dynamic strategy that focuses on perfecting the process of providing Fordham students with an excellent Jesuit education.
The three main goals of the planning process are:
- To ensure the University is responsive to new trends in higher education
- To empower faculty and staff to share in decisions that will affect the University’s future
- To allow each department to contribute to the process in a way that benefits their faculty, staff, and the communities they serve
These goals emerge from the University’s Jesuit mission and the need to be attentive to the needs of providing high-quality education in the diverse, ever-changing landscapes of New York City and U.S. higher education.
To read more about the strategic plan: