At a celebration on June 2, Fordham honored the realized vision that Mark Massa, S.J., held for the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies when he founded it 17 years ago.

Held in the Great Hall of the McShane Center at the Rose Hill campus, “Music, Mingling, and Magis with Father Massa” brought together longtime supporters of the center who have become close friends over the years, giving the event a familial intimacy for the more than 100 in attendance.

Theology Professor Michael Lee, Ph.D., the center’s current director, acted as the evening’s master of ceremonies, and pointedly thanked the center’s original benefactors Ruth and Michael Lipper. The couple created the first five-year fund that made the center a reality. Ruth Lipper said she met Father Massa in 1969 and counts him as a dear friend to her family. She delivered a brief speech in which she thanked him for their 53-year friendship and for being a “hilarious study group partner.”

Ruth and Michael Lipper
Ruth and Michael Lipper

“This has truly been a labor of love for all of us working together on this event,” said Lipper. “And it’s a demonstration of one of Mark’s superpowers—his ability to forge enduring friendships and link all of us together.”

Indeed the room was filled with friends who whooped and hollered when familiar names were mentioned from the podium. Some of the friends in attendance included Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham; benefactors; faculty; and alumni scholars from the center, which has an undergraduate honors program for those concentrating in American Catholic Studies.

Curran Center Magis Fund Reaches $600K

Father Massa said that several critical moments that made the center thrive, one of which was the generous naming gift that came from the late John Curran and his wife Connie. Connie Curran was unable to attend, but she delivered a video message to announce the creation of the Mark S. Massa, S.J. Curran Center Magis Fund, which has already raised more than $600,000, including proceeds from the event. In her message, Curran recalled the center’s remarkable trajectory.

“Nearly 20-some years ago, Mark had a vision, a plan—some might say a determination—to establish the center at Fordham,” said Curran, who, with her late husband, John Curran, Ph.D., PHA ’66, has been the center’s chief benefactor. “Father Massa set out to put Fordham on the map as a center for Catholic studies, and that is exactly what has happened. … You can’t help but to be proud of the work that has been achieved.”

Angela O’Donnell pays tribute to Father Massa.

‘Spiritual Bonds’

Curran said that Father Massa laid the groundwork for his successors to make the organization one of the nation’s premier centers on Catholic studies that it has become.

Theology Chair Christine Hinze, Ph.D., who served as the center’s director from 2010 to 2020, offered an invocation at the event which evoked the communion of saints.

“It’s a belief that we’re all connected in life and death through spiritual bonds and I feel that way about all the people who have been involved with the Curran Center,” she said.

An Emotional Thank-You

For his part, Father Massa recalled the history of the center, which included the time when it was just a phone in an office in Duane Library. He cited the generosity of the Lippers and Currans for making the center’s growth possible. But, he added, more than anyone else, it’s the scholars of the Curran Center that elevated the center to its nationally recognized success.

“The General of the Society of Jesus has said the measure of success of Jesuit schools is not how much money our graduates make but by the kind of persons they are,” he said, pausing to choke back emotion. “By that measure, the Curran Center has been a wildly successful center.”




Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.