History of Fordham University

  Last modified on September 10th, 2022

The Early Days

The rich history behind Fordham University commences in 1839. The Bishop of New York at the time, John Hughes, purchased 100 acres of land in order to spring into action his plan to build a college. Hughes struggled to gather the funds needed to open the college but his vision kept him from giving up. He saw education as a means for immigrants to be able to get ahead and make something out of themselves in their new adopted homeland. As an immigrant from Ireland himself, Hughes believed that it was important to advance economically through enrollment in an institution of higher education.

fordham upper west side

The university was originally named St. John’s College and it opened its doors in 1841. The college struggled to survive as no more than six students attended classes. It was next to impossible to find the appropriate teachers and administrators to keep the school running. The institution was in a deep financial crisis and the catholic community of New York could not provide enough relief. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that St. John’s College would see a period of recovery under the leadership of President John McCloskey.

McCloskey was the first President of St. John’s College who later would go on to become America’s first cardinal. In 1846, original founder John Hughes sold the institution to the French Jesuits because of the ongoing financial problems the college faced. This change in the college’s religious affiliation produced stellar results and St. John’s soon became a small and traditional private men’s liberal arts college. The college would become a full-fledged modern university in the early 20th century.

fordham university upper west side campus

photo by Billie Grace Ward_Flickr

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