Fordham University was founded over 150 years ago as St. John's College, Fordham on June 24, 1841. The Law School opened September 28, 1905, in Collins Hall on the Rose Hill campus. From the very beginning, Fordham Law graduates demonstrated a special loyalty to the school and to their fellow alumni, and the earliest school bulletins note the presence of alumni among the faculty and as special lecturers and mentors for students. The first dean, Paul Fuller, along with Fordham Law professor Alton B. Parker, the Democratic nominee in 1904 for president (against Teddy Roosevelt), encouraged this.
The Fordham Law Alumni Association came into being in January 1911. Eugene F. McGee '08, the valedictorian of the first graduating class, was named president. The vice president was William J. Fallon '09. These longtime friends and later partners became legendary in legal circles, especially Fallon who was ranked one of the top three defense attorneys in the history of the country. He was also the subject of the bestseller The Great Mouthpiece. Among his clients were Booker T. Washington, Nicky Arnstein (gambler husband of Funny Girl Fanny Brice), and Arnold Rothstein, fixer of the 1919 Black Sox World Series. He is credited with saving 122 men from the electric chair.
In 1948, James B.M. McNally '20 and a group of alumni (including Justice Samuel Gold '24, Marion Guilfoyle '45, Edward Guardaro '45, Edward Schulkind '14, and Loretta Conway '44) incorporated the Fordham Law Alumni Association as a separate entity. Judge McNally, presiding judge of the New York State Appellate Division, First Department, was a man of great stature and great vision. He shaped the Association's future activities, including the Annual Luncheon, alumni chapters, and annual Christmas reception. Schulkind served as president of the Association for six years and was responsible for instituting the Association's luncheons at the New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting.
Caesar L. Pitassy '41, a partner in the Rogers & Wells firm, assumed the presidency in 1959. He formalized the Association’s procedures and established our office and staff in the new law school building at Lincoln Center. Our first executive director was Frances M. Blake '45, the daughter of Fordham Law Professor John A. Blake '16. During Frances Blake’s tenure, the Association grew into one of the largest dues-paying law alumni groups in the country. We began issuing an Alumni Directory and initiated quarterly luncheons held in midtown and downtown locations. Blake retired from the directorship in 1986 after 22 years of service.
Judge William C. Hecht '16 served as president during the mid-1960s as the Association continued to give much-needed financial support to students through our Scholarship Fund.
During the presidency of Denis McInerney '51, the Association launched the John F. Sonnett Memorial Lecture Series [link series]. This annual event has brought many prominent law-related speakers to the Law School, including Supreme Court Justices, the Chief Justice of Ireland, two Lord Chancellors of Great Britain, the Chief Judge of the state of New York, and the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Around this time, Association Vice President Leo T. Kissam '23 and other alumni created the Fordham Law Annual Fund, which has since become one of the major philanthropic entities among American law schools.
During the presidency of Harry McCallion '41, the Association moved its annual Christmas receptions from the Advertising Club on Park Avenue to the Lowenstein Center.
In 1974, John D. Feerick '61, then a partner in the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, became president of the Association. Under his leadership, the Association created the Corporate Law Institute annual program, from which the LL.M. programs sprang in 1989.
During this period, through the generosity of Louis Stein '26, the Fordham Stein Prize was created. This annual award recognizes attorneys with the highest standards of professional conduct and leadership, and ultimately led to the creation of the Stein Center for Law & Ethics.
Beginning in 1978, former Alumni President John R. Vaughan '64 began a campaign focusing alumni on assisting with career placement. His successors, Paul Curran '56 and James E. Tolan '62, further encouraged alumni to raise funds for the school.
In the mid-1990s under the leadership of Michael K. Stanton '59, the Corporate Law Center was established. Stanton’s successor, William P. Frank '66, began a summer foreign travel program. At this time, the Association also became a founder of the Crowley Human Rights Program. During the presidency of George C. Ross '66, the travel program expanded and the Mulligan Golf Tournament, started by Ross, marked its 10th anniversary.
The Annual Luncheon at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel is our premier event. Believed to be the largest law school event in the country, it has featured such notable speakers as John F. Kennedy, Nelson A. Rockefeller, Mario Cuomo, Bill Bradley, Thomas A. Moore, Malcolm Wilson, Edward I. Koch, and William Hughes Mulligan. Indeed, the 2002 Annual Luncheon honoring Dean John D. Feerick was the largest in our history, exceeding the capacity of the Grand Ballroom.
The presidencies of Thomas J. Kavaler '72, Denis F. Cronin '72, and John R. Costantino '70 saw an increased focus on the School's national ambitions. Under the presidency of John H. Wolff '76, these efforts culminated with the establishment of the Association's national chapters in Los Angeles, Miami, New England, Washington DC, and greater Palm Beach County. A $100,000 gift in honor of our Centennial Year allowed us to continue to provide invaluable resources to our students.
The Fordham Law Alumni Association remains devoted to Fordham Law School and continues to work with our ever-expanding alumni chapters across the country. The Association sponsors the admission of alumni to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, hosts reunions, organizes luncheons, supports the affiliated alumni bodies, and publishes a regular Alumni Directory.
Throughout all the years, Fordham Law has enjoyed the most loyal and supportive of all alumni.