At commencement, honorary degree recipients are seated on the terrace of Keating Hall, known as the Terrace of the Presidents. The landing and steps below were given this name by Robert I. Gannon, S.J., who was president of Fordham when President Harry S. Truman received an honorary degree on this spot in 1946. In a tradition that continues today, the University started carving into the 19 steps the names of heads of state who have received this honor from Fordham. To date, the names of 40 world leaders are engraved on the terrace, including President John F. Kennedy; former Irish President Mary McAleese; and, most recently, Hage Geingob, president of Namibia and a Fordham alumnus, whom the University honored in 2015.


Former President Truman, ringing the liberty bell. There is a man in uniform next to him. Before addressing the Fordham community, President Truman rang the Victory Bell (above) outside the Rose Hill Gymnasium. The bell was salvaged from the Japanese aircraft carrier Junyo and presented to Fordham by Admiral Chester W. Nimitz as a memorial to “Our Dear Young Dead of World War II.”

“Fellow alumni and friends, it is very gratifying to be here at Fordham University in New York on the 100th anniversary of the granting of the charter to this great institution of higher learning,” he said.


Smiles abounded when FDR, the first sitting U.S. president to visit Fordham, rode up to the steps of Keating Hall with Father Gannon (center) at his side on Oct. 28, 1940, one week before he was elected to a third term as president. The event turned serious, however, when Roosevelt reviewed Fordham’s ROTC regiment. Earlier that day, Italy had invaded Greece. In little more than a year, the United States would enter World War II.



Laurence McGinley, S.J., president of Fordham, presenting John F. Kennedy with an honorary degree.

“As your newest alumnus, I wish to deny emphatically that I have any presidential aspirations—with respect to the Fordham Alumni Association,” Kennedy quipped.

Laurence J. McGinley, S.J., president of Fordham, presented then-Senator Kennedy with an honorary degree at the Fordham Law Alumni Association luncheon on Feb. 15, 1958. Kennedy said he was honored to become an alumnus of an institution that has “never maintained its neutrality in moments of great moral crisis.”


Mary Robinson at podium with Fordham banner behind her.


The woman who preceded Mary McAleese as president of Ireland received an honorary degree from Fordham and delivered the keynote address at the University’s 155th Commencement in May 1995.






Two men in cap and gown, a woman in regular clothes to their left.

After receiving an honorary degree from Fordham in February 1955, the president of Haiti (center) paid tribute to the University for “the citizens you are forming intellectually and morally, who will put to the service of all humanity the solid knowledge they have acquired within these walls.”





Father McShane (left), President of the Dominican Republic (center) and another man to the right. They are all smiling and in professional attire. The president of the Dominican Republic (center) visited Fordham in September 2008. He told the 500-plus members of the University community who filled Keating First Auditorium that he wants to make his country a model of democracy in the Latin American world.


An old postal telegraph.


MANUEL PRADO, president of Peru, expressed his gratitude via telegram after visiting Fordham in May 1942.




3 men sitting on couch pointing at a book.

The first president of Senegal (right) was one of Africa’s seminal statesmen, a respected poet, professor, and intellectual. He visited Fordham in November 1961.




Woman shaking hands with a man. Both in academic robes. When the president of the Philippines (left) visited Fordham in September 1986, soon after leading the nonviolent People Power Revolution that restored democracy in her country, an estimated 5,000 Filipino Americans came to Rose Hill to hear her speak. “I wish to thank you,” she said, “for being a part of People Power and Prayer Power, even though you were 10,000 miles away.”