Father Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., Fordham University’s longest serving president under whose tenure enrollment climbed, student academic achievement advanced and the institution conducted its first comprehensive fundraising campaign, died March 29. He was 89.
Born in the Bronx, Father O’Hare also was editor in chief of America magazine, 1975-1984, and won several Catholic Press Association awards as a columnist.
Father O’Hare became Fordham’s 31st president in 1984 and held the position for 19 years until retiring in 2003, the university said on its website.
“Having served as Fordham’s president for some time— though not as long as Father O’Hare—I have some insight into, and a deep appreciation for, how gifted he was as a leader, a communicator and a pastor,” said Jesuit Father Joseph M.
McShane, who succeeded Father O’Hare as university president.
“He placed all of his considerable intellect, integrity and vision in service of the university, and in doing so transformed Fordham into a powerhouse of Jesuit education. We will miss his wisdom, steady counsel and warm wit,” Father McShane said on the website.
Father O’Hare joined Fordham as president, arriving at a time when the Bronx was experiencing an economic and cultural revival. He helped guide the institution through its own comeback, school officials said. The priest helped the school transition from one largely attended by commuters to a university with a lively campus life and increasingly diverse student body.
Father O’Hare also was a successful fund-raiser, building the school’s endowment. The school added academic and residential space and renovated older buildings at its Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses.
In 1991, Father O’Hare launched a $150 million fundraising campaign, which surpassed its goal by more than $5 million.
Beyond Fordham, Father O’Hare was a well-known civic leader, working alongside several New York City mayors, including as founding chairman of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, which became a national model for campaign finance reform. Father O’Hare held the position for 15 years.
He was raised in the Tremont section of the Bronx. Following graduation from Regis High School in Manhattan in 1948, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
His Jesuit superiors sent the young O’Hare to the Philippines to study for the priesthood and to teach. From 1955 to 1958 and again from 1967 to 1972, he served on the faculty at Ateneo de Manila University.
Between the teaching assignments, Father O’Hare returned to the United States to study philosophy and theology. He earned licentiate degrees from Woodstock College in Maryland and a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham.
He was ordained to the priesthood in 1961.
After leaving Fordham in 2003, Father O’Hare served one year as president of Regis High School, his alma mater. He then returned to the America magazine staff, retiring in 2009.
He served as chairman of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as well as the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, a trustee of the Asia Society and a member of New York City’s Charter Revision Commission.
He is survived by nine nieces and nephews and several great-nieces and great-nephews.
A private burial is planned at the Jesuit Cemetery in Auriesville. A memorial Mass will be offered when the coronavirus threat subsides, the university said. —CN