Fordham: 50 Years Later

Joonmo Ku and Amy Murphy, two of my Fordham classmates sent this piece in the USA Today from a Fordham grad who attended his 50th reunion. How he describes Fordham is exactly how I remember my experience.

Some Fordham buildings were ivy-covered, but comparisons with the Ivy schools stopped there. Most of us were the sons of middle-class Americans. The island we summered at was Coney, not Nantucket. Our dads’ clubs were the Knights of Columbus and VFW. My father was a NYPD beat cop. My mother worked the four-to-midnight shift at Kings County Hospital.

No, we didn’t walk to school barefoot in the snow. We commuted three hours each day on subways. After classes, we went to work. We were waiters, delivery boys, even toll collectors on bridges. My main job was as an ABC page, hawking tickets to Times Square tourists for TV programs. One game show I was assigned to usher at was Who Do You Trust, hosted by a 34-year-old Johnny Carson.

Fordham can’t claim any U.S. presidents. There was no secret Skull and Bones society. No fraternities at all in the traditional sense. What Fordham did offer was a fine education. Its methodology: a liberal arts cocktail that paired a mandated major in philosophy with a chosen major and the traditional college curricula. Plus Theology, Latin and Greek.

Jesuit classes were not passive. They challenged us to challenge them, and their teaching went beyond textbooks. They showed us the connection between hard work and success, between discipline and personal satisfaction. We learned that if we fully participated in life, we could make a contribution….

It was my good fortune to connect with men who shared a common educational adventure, we surviving members of the last bottle club.

As what is left of my hair begins the early middle age graying, I remind myself that my college graduation was nearly 20 years ago. And there’s lots to recall. I remember close-knit dorms like Queen’s Court my freshman year, which was billed as “not just a place to come home to and sleep”–and it wasn’t–I literally cried when the year was over. I’m still friends with my Resident Director, namely Steven DiSalvo (now President of Marian University in Font-du-lac, WI).

I remember the countless hours I worked at WFUV and the stress I endured as the sports director, an early sign that radio and I didn’t agree.

But mostly, I remember Campus Ministry, (a sign that did agree with me!) especially the retreats, where I was able to explore who I was, how I was relating to God, whether priesthood was in my future and where I formed a lot of close friendships. To date, I still say that Fr. John Mullin, SJ taught me how to do retreats well and Sr. Jeanne Hamilton taught me how to be a pastoral minister. The hours upon hours that I spent with them were certainly “God moments” in my life. Jeanne (now a canon lawyer in Wilmington) and I would sometimes talk all afternoon between classes and dinner and it was always time well spent. I was the acolyte at the 10PM mass, the perfect time for a campus mass, even today. Candlelit and mellow it was a lovely way to wind down from a long weekend.

I wasn’t a great student back then, more focused on a radio career than sticking my nose in library books. The social scene would grab my attention easily, Clarke’s Bar was a favorite and in our Senior year a small wine bar named Jax was opened and thus came the Wednesday afternoon calls from my friend Kristin.

“Hey we’re going to Jax for a happy hour. Wanna come?”

Me: “Well, I have this test…”

Kristin: “Look if you don’t know it by now, you never will. Stop cramming and start drinking.”

Good point, thought I. And so off we went. A whole crew of us who did retreats together. A great senior year with God and Ignatius and a nice bottle of wine at our center.

One of us became a priest in an obscure religious order that I can’t remember. Most of us married, a few divorced and others have children.

One went on reality TV and he happened to be my roommate. Another does play-by-play for the New Jersey Nets. Sadly, a few died. One, Dave Connors (another roommate) from a long illness at only 25, another, Firefighter Tom Cullen, died heroically, in the towers of the World Trade Center and a third, Sue Costello, who didn’t even make it to the graduation line before cancer got the best of her. May you all rest in peace.

And then there’s me. After radio and marriage, I wrote a book, founded a website, got a second Fordham degree and dare to show dog pictures along with the pictures of my classmates’ kids at our reunion. Most can’t believe that I turned “our little retreat ministry” into a career. Fordham magazine even did a nice spread on me some time ago.

So classmates, know that you are in my prayers and know of my continued love for all of you and for the memories that you gave me.

And most of all, GO RAMS!

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