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Fordham's Dodransbicentennial - 175 years of Fordham: School of Social Service celebrates 100 Years

On June 24, 2016 Fordham University celebrates the 175th anniversary of its founding.

On exhibit on the 7th Floor - Lowenstein. School of Social Service

The Laymen’s League for Retreats is credited with the  establishment of the Fordham School of Social Service.  Fr. Terence Shealy S.J. , who directed the retreats, emphasized not only personal prayer but also service to others.  In October 1911 the Laymen’s League opened a School of Social Studies at Fordham  Law School on Nassau Street. It was a non-accredited program with the modest goal of training a corps of Catholic laymen to lecture in their parishes on the social issues of the day. 

For a quarter-century Thomas Mulry, the president of the Emigrant Savings Bank, had been one of the most prominent leaders of St. Vincent de Paul Society.   In 1907 Governor Charles Evan Hughes recognized his prominence in the field when he appointed him a commissioner of the State Board of Charities.  Two years later President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Mulry vice-president of the White House Conference on the Care and of Delinquent Children.  

Father Joseph Mulry, S.J., the brother of Thomas Mulry, became President of Fordham University  in 1915.  In view of his family’s long history with charitable activities,  Father Mulry jumped at the opportunity to establish a School of Social Service in the city that had a large number of poor and disadvantaged Catholics.

Father Joseph Mulry, S.J., the brother of Thomas Mulry, became President of Fordham University  in 1915.  In view of his family’s long history with charitable activities,  Father Mulry jumped at the opportunity to establish a School of Social Service in the city that had a large number of poor and disadvantaged Catholics.

Woolworth Building

Fordham University inaugurated the School of Sociology and Social Service on November 6, 1916.

Located on the 8th floor of the Woolworth Building, the first dean was Father Terence Shealy S.J.  The school offered a two-year academic program covering all aspects of social service that included both classroom lectures and supervised field work.   Tuition was $10 a course for part time students or $100 per year for full time.

Fr. Matthew Fortiers S.J. - Dean 1927-1934

Under the leadership of Fr. Matthew Fortiers S.J the school reorganized to meet the high standards of the American Association of Schools of Social Work.  In 1932 admission to the fulltime two-year program was limited to college graduates. Previously only a high school degree was required.   In 1934 the name of the school was officially changed to the School of Social Service.


Dorothy Day School

In the 1930’s Dorothy Day and her Catholic Workers started the Workers’ School at Fordham University. Classes were held at Fordham’s School of Social Service on the 8th floor of the Woolworth Building. Fr. Ignatius Cox S.J. oversaw the school and the university library was open to the labor students.


Dean Mary Quaranta

When Mary Quaranta interviewed for admission to GSS in 1948 she wore a floral dress and big hat.  Dean Rita King asked “Do you expect to dress like that as a social worker?”  “I hope so.” Mary replied. Twenty seven years later when Dr. Quaranta became Dean of GSS she was still elegantly dressed and famous for her red suits.

During her quarter of a century as Dean, Dr. Quaranta increased research funding established the Thailand Project and in 1980 created the doctoral program.

The Tarrytown Campus 1976


Dean Quaranta expanded the GSS program to Westchester County in 1976 when Fordham moved its graduate programs into North Hall at the Marymount Tarrytown campus.

Fordham Westchester 2008

In 2008, following the closing of Marymount College, Fordham opened a new campus in West Harrison, NY. This three story, 62,500 square foot building would become the new home for the Westchester division of the Graduate School of Social Service. It also became home to the Graduate Schools of Education, Business and Religious Ed.


Fr. Terrence Shealey S.J. - First Dean 1916-1920

Fund Raising 1929

A benefit concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1929 featuring Beniamino Gigli and Mary Garden was given to help raise money. The goal was to have an endowment of $500,000. No information exists regarding the results of the fundraising, probably because the stock market crash and Depression were on the horizon.


Anna King - First Woman Dean, 1939-1954

In 1939 Anna King became Dean of The School of Social Service. Professor King became the first female dean at Fordham, and also the first female dean at any Jesuit college. 



King came to Fordham in 1934 as professor of Case Work and Director of  Field Work Training.  By 1945 she was elected the president of the American Association of Schools of Social Service. That same year the School of Social Service began to award the degree of Master of Science in Social Service.  Five years later, following the directives of the State Education Department, the degree was changed to Master of Social Service.  


Distance Learning and Molloy College


In 1997 the Fordham/Molloy Collaborative Program started at Molloy College in Rockville Center. When the online program was introduced in 2011, Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service introduced a hybrid MSW degree, a combination of online and classroom studies at the Long Island campus.

Dr. Peter Vaughn - Dean, 2000-2013


The new millennium brought a 21st century dean, Dr. Peter Vaughan. Under Vaughan’s decade of leadership, the graduate school increased its focus on human rights and social justice in its curriculum.  The GSS jumped to No. 11 in U.S. News & World Report national rankings, the highest in the school’s history. Today it is Fordham’s highest-ranking school. The online MSW program is ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Dr. Debra McPhee - Dean, 2013-

In 2013 Dr. Debra McPhee was appointed as the 16th  Dean of the Graduate School of Social Service. Bringing more than 25 years of international experience in academia, professional practice and the private sector, Dean McPhee is more than prepared to usher the school into its second century.


The 1920's

In the 1920’s the school experienced money problems in addition to a drop in enrollment.  It failed to generate sufficient revenue to pay its own bills. Benefactors and students were sought.

The 1930's

The move to East 39th Street in 1942

In 1942 Father Gannon was able to give the School of Social Service a home of its own when he purchased a five-story building at 134-136 East 39 Street between Lexington and Third Avenues for $40,000 in the upscale Murray Hill section of Manhattan. 

It not only gave the school considerably more space than in the two rented floors in the Woolworth Building, but the relocation also saved $5,000 per annum in rent. 

Fordham at Lincoln Center


In 1967, the Fordham School of Social Service appointed Dr. James R. Dumpson as the dean.  He came to Fordham with a distinguished background in both public service and academia.  For six years he had been the Commissioner of the Department of Welfare of the City of New York, only the second African American man to serve as a Commissioner in New York City and the first African American in the United States to head a major social agency.  After leaving public service in 1965, Dumpson became a professor and associate dean of Hunter College School of Social Work.  Dumpson became the first African American Dean of Social Service appointed to a predominately white university.


As the Dean of the Fordham School of Social Service, Dumpson supervised the relocation of the school from East 39th Street to the Lowenstein Building at the new Lincoln Center campus which officially opened in 1968-1969 term.

The Deans of The School of Social Service

Rev Terence J. Shealy 1916-1920

Fr. Rush Rankin 1920-1921

Fr. Francis Dore 1921-1922

Fr. Le Buffe 1923-1925

Fr Miles O’Mailia 1926-1927

Rev Matthew Fortier 1927-1934

Rev Edward Pouthier 1934-1939

Anna King 1939-1954

James Fogarty 1954-1962

Rev Vincent de Paul Lee SJ 1962-1967

Rita Maguire acting Dean 1966-67

James Dumpson 1967-74

Helen E. Dermody acting Dean 1974-75

Mary Quaranta 1975-2000

Peter B. Vaughan 2000-2013

Debra McPhee 2013-