Dear Members of the Fordham Family,

In early September of 2002, Father O’Hare called me to tell me that he had made the decision to step down from the Presidency of the University at the end of the 2002- 2003 academic year. When I asked him why he wanted to leave after nineteen years rather than waiting another year so that he could complete a nice round twenty years of service, he said simply, “It’s time. It’s just time.” He then asked me if I would consider allowing my name to be placed on the list of possible candidates to succeed him. As you might imagine, I was stunned, both by his decision and his invitation. Three months later, when the Board of Trustees asked me to become Fordham’s thirty-second President, he took me aside and said, “I was the same age you will be when you take the job. I hope you will match my run.” I looked at him and said, “Joe, I very much doubt that I will be able to do that.” He just chuckled and shook my hand.

On this early-September morning nineteen years later, I am writing to inform you that, after a great deal of prayer, reflection and consultation, I have decided that this will be my last year as President of our beloved University. (Unlike my most remarkable predecessor, mentor and role model, however, I will be completing a “rounder” record of service to Fordham this year—if only in terms of years: twenty-five years to his nineteen: six as a Dean and nineteen as President.) If you press me on the timing of my decision and departure, I would merely say as Father O’Hare said so succinctly nineteen years ago: “It’s time. It’s just time.” It’s time to step aside and allow someone else to have the great joy of leading Fordham into the future.

While I am convinced that I have made the right decision, I would be less than honest if I did not admit that it was a hard decision to make for a host of reasons, including a deep love of the University, a strong belief in its mission, and the intensely personal reason behind my decision to accept the Board’s invitation to serve as its President in 2002. Even though I did not have the benefit of a Fordham education, the University has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember because I was raised in a Fordham household. (My father and all of my brothers graduated from Fordham. Fordham breathed life into their dreams and formed their lives in powerful ways. Through their stories and the example of their lives, I came to understand the transformative power of the Jesuit education they received here.) Therefore, as I said, the decision to step down was a hard one to make. (In fact, it was probably the hardest decision that I have had to make since I left my family’s home in 1967 to enter the Society of Jesus.)

As you might imagine, the very reasons that made my decision to step down so difficult were the same reasons that it was an honor beyond measure to serve as Fordham’s President. If, however, it was an honor, it was an honor that I accepted with some (perhaps great) trepidation. I now know that there was no reason to be fearful.

In the course of the past eighteen years, the University has accomplished much on just about every front and in every area of endeavor. It has been a blessing to work with so many talented and devoted faculty and staff, and with more than a hundred thousand gifted and community-minded students. Likewise, I have had the great fortune of working with and on behalf of our many generous and involved alumni and donors, and the members of our Board of Trustees, especially the Board Chairs with whom I have worked: Paul Guenther, John Tognino and Bob Daleo. Together they have been the engines of Fordham’s success, over which it has been my great joy to preside. In all that we have accomplished together, we have never lost sight of the Jesuit mission and vision that have driven the University for its entire history: that of preparing graduates whose lives are marked by character, conscience, competence, compassion and commitment to the service of the human family.

I have utterly no illusions about how all of this was accomplished and what my role has been. I believe (actually I know) that all that has been accomplished at Fordham in the course of the past eighteen years is not the result of my work. Rather, it has been the result of uncommon teamwork, a shared dream and a deep devotion to the values that Fordham has always stood for and from which it has derived its strength. It has been my good fortune and deep honor to be a small part of this latest chapter in Fordham’s storied (and dare I say, “inspiring” history).

I am and will be forever grateful for the opportunity that was given to me to serve the University. My own future is hidden from my eyes at this point, but I trust that the Lord who has led me all my life will open another door (or succession of doors) for me after I turn off the lights in my office, leave the keys on the desk and close the door on 30 June 2022. In my mind and heart, Fordham’s future is far clearer: it will be a future filled with hope, a future marked by ever greater accomplishments, a future made possible and enriched by the efforts of all the members of what we lovingly (and accurately) call not merely “the Fordham community” but “the Fordham family.”