This April, the Fordham University Alumni Association kicked off Forever Learning Month, a series of more than 15 virtual events designed to showcase the University’s faculty and promote lifelong learning. Open to the public, the series features career workshops, panel discussions on artificial intelligence and sustainability, a book reading, and cultural experiences with the New-York Historical Society. But for Patrick McGuire, Ed.D., GRE ’86, one of the alumni who helped organize the series, the invitation to gain and share knowledge doesn’t go away at the end of April; it’s top of mind all year long—and has been for decades.
After earning a B.A. in English from St. John’s University, McGuire said he “stumbled” upon Fordham’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) during the 1980s. As the world grappled with issues of peace, war, and the proliferation of nuclear arms, he knew he wanted to “serve the people of God,” ultimately enrolling because GRE and its religious education program curriculum “just answered all my wants and desires.” McGuire added that John Shea, S.J., FCRH ’69, then a professor of psychology and his thesis mentor, “really opened up a whole new world” for him.
While many students hold full-time jobs while attending graduate school, just as he did when he was a doctoral candidate, McGuire said he considers himself “privileged” that he was able to attend Fordham full time. And when he graduated, he began what would become a decades-long career as an educator, often returning to the same institutions that stoked his own love of learning. He returned to his alma mater, Monsignor Scanlan High School, where he taught religion for five years before hopping over to another alma mater, St. John’s, where he simultaneously taught theology and served as a dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Years later, he once again resumed work at Monsignor Scanlan, becoming the first alumnus of the school to serve as principal. “I was a student, faculty [member], and then 20-something years later, I became the principal,” he said.
Always eager to learn more, McGuire earned an Ed.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1994, and has studied higher education development at Harvard University. And though the lion’s share of his time is currently spent volunteering and caring for his elderly parents, he said he’s eager to return to a full-time position in education after the pandemic.
Embracing Jesuit Ideals to Pay it Forward
McGuire said he strives to honor the Jesuit ideal of magis—the call to be more and do more for the world—by volunteering and performing community service. “Fordham opened up so many worlds and relationships,” he said. “And it was that Jesuit [mindset]of magis that really helped me to understand what Fordham and Jesuit education are all about. … It really speaks to me; it grounds me in my community service and my educational leadership in my role as a dean, teacher, and principal.”
He just celebrated his fifth anniversary with God’s Love We Deliver, volunteers with New York Cares and Coalition for the Homeless, and has also spent five years volunteering at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he works in the Payne Whitney Clinic with adults who have acute psychiatric illnesses—though he’s had to take a break from that due to COVID-19 protocols.
“I am the education and recreational consultant, and I work with a retired, now part-time, occupational therapist,” he said. “In a way, it’s a privilege because I take a lot of my counseling skills that I learned from John Shea and the different faculty at Fordham and bring that into my volunteering—my ministry with the patients.”
Though he’s a trained counselor, McGuire said his volunteer work at the hospital often has included anything from playing bingo and holding ice cream socials to reading scriptures or leading calming and relaxation exercises.
Learning from Within
The Forever Learning series is being held digitally—everything from the kickoff and livestream of Mass from the University Church on Easter to a culinary demonstration and panel discussions. And instead of the one-day agenda planned for last year, the programming will now happen all month long, with sessions recorded in case people aren’t able to attend live— although McGuire hopes that holding some events in the evening will mean that “people working can still log off, have some dinner, and then jump on the Zoom and learn, network.”
Plus, because last year’s Forever Learning initiative was canceled due to COVID-19, McGuire said he and his colleagues on the alumni association’s Forever Learning task force had a bit of a head start this year. The planning committee was able to incorporate last year’s speakers into the new agenda, scheduling them throughout the month. Looking ahead, McGuire said that he and other members of the committee are thinking of a hybrid experience in 2022, with some events held online and some held in person on campus.
Whether it’s community college, undergraduate or graduate school, or a handful of webinars during Forever Learning Month, McGuire stressed the importance of finding the subject and format that works for you—when it works for you.
“Some students work best with their hands,” he said. “Whatever their gift is, that’s what God has given them. I used to say, ‘If you’re not happy reading Shakespeare, look at a different area of study. Whatever makes you happy, that’s what you have to study.’ And then contribute to society.”
What are you most passionate about?
Through service, I am most passionate about improving the quality of life of others, whether by listening (empathy), reading to children and adults, providing a meal, or serving as a mentor with Fordham’s Mentoring Program or StreetWise Partners. Currently, my service is in volunteering with some New Yorkers with mental health challenges. Magis.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I received was from my Fordham mentor: The best dissertation is a DONE dissertation.
What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
My favorite place in New York City is relaxing in Central Park with a good cup of NYC coffee.
Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
The published book that has had the most significant influence in my life—spiritually and professionally as a teacher of religion and theology—is Jesus Before Christianity, written by Albert Nolan, OP. Nolan’s writing has empowered me to continue serving others.
Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Two former GRE faculty members who have helped shape my personal and professional life, rooted in the ethic of care and spirituality, are John Shea (the interface of religion and psychology) and Maria Harris, Ed.D., (children before God) to think critically about important issues and make sound moral-ethical decisions.
What are you optimistic about?
I am most optimistic about teaching and mentoring individuals of the next generations, who will have a strong foundation of ethical principles and a deep commitment to serving others.