Fordham Notes: April 2014

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Return to Tomorrow, part III

Fifty years ago, Fordham alumni had a hand in making the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair one of the most memorable spectacles of commerce, culture, and innovation in the city’s history.

Below is the final segment of "Return to Tomorrow," our feature on the fair for the Spring 2014 issue of FORDHAM magazine. Last week we published part I--the account of Fordham alumnus John Murray gingerly packing Michelangelo's Pietà for its journey to Flushing, and part II, which highlighted the role of fair organizer Thomas Deegan, FCRH '34. 

When the fair opened on April 22, 1964, flags of dozens of nations waved high in the air, lining a dramatic path to the the stainless-steel Unisphere, a 12-story symbol of the event’s Peace Through Understanding theme and a still-standing Queens landmark. Much has been written about the fair's failures--financial and otherwise. But for visitors who were lucky enough to visit the fairgrounds, those troubles were eclipsed by the spectacular attractions. No fewer than 140 pavilions showcased bold innovations and cultural treasures: Giant color television screens flashed footage of the crowds. Ford debuted its Mustang convertible. Model homes displayed sleek and convenient appliances.
Ford debuted its iconic Mustang at the fair.
(photo courtesy of Ford)
The BIE boycott allowed less well-known nations to receive more attention: There were dancers from Thailand, waffles from Belgium, and Dead Sea scrolls from Jordan. And fairgoers got around via the Swiss Sky Ride, whose red, blue, and yellow cars traveled on cables high above the revelry. 

“We focused on what was there rather than what wasn’t there,” said Robert Intelisano, FCRH ’64, a senior at Fordham when the fair opened. He landed a job at the Ford Pavilion and recruited some Fordham classmates to work with him. His work there and later at the General Motors Pavilion launched a 20-plus-year career in the automotive industry.

“What intrigued me a lot were how many non-Americans were there,” he said. For a young New Yorker with Italian-immigrant parents, seeing so many foreigners, coupled with displays from Asia and other far-off lands, changed his worldview.
The Thailand Pavilion
(photo: Bill Cotter)

Rosemary Wakeman, Ph.D., director of Fordham’s urban studies program and an expert on world’s fairs, said that despite much being written about the fair’s failures, people who lived through the event look back on it fondly.

“The ’64 World’s Fair was one of the last great fairs. It was the end of an era after a very, very long run,” she said, beginning with the 1851 First World Exposition in London. “I think that’s why there’s such a nostalgic feel for it.”

In the competitive Cold War era, Wakeman said, “It was all about conquering the Earth, the moon, the jungle, the seas.”

Though the Soviets had agreed to participate in the New York fair, they withdrew before it opened. Still, the Space Race loomed large. The Hall of Science, which still exists as a science museum, and its adjacent U.S. Space Park, showcased several large-scale model rockets as well as the Mercury capsule from the second American-manned orbit flight.

Communications technology was also a big hit at the fair. RCA’s color television studio broadcast live on sets and screens set up throughout the fairgrounds, on which visitors could see themselves. Bell debuted the very futuristic picture phone, along with sleek new push-button telephones. IBM offered a look at future computers.
Bell's picture phone was a popular attraction at the fair.
(photo: Bill Cotter)

Wakeman, who teaches a popular class at Fordham on world’s fairs, said this technology is one of the reasons her students are so drawn to the 1964–1965 fair.

“That’s the world they exist in,” she said.

While displaying America’s latest advances was a priority for the fair organizers, they also hoped to project a certain image.

“It was hard to compete with the 1939 fair,” said Wakeman. “It had a far-larger influence (in terms of art and architecture), and was very avant-garde.”

The 1964 fair was, by contrast, more wholesome. Organizers recruited the master of family entertainment, Walt Disney. His new Audio-Animatronics technology dominated all the major pavilions, including Ford’s Magic Skyway, General Electric’s Carousel of Progress, and Pepsi’s It’s a Small World ride, with the latter two eventually making their way to Walt Disney World in Florida.

But for all his showmanship, Disney may have been upstaged by Michelangelo.

Visitors flocked to the Vatican Pavilion to see the Pietà, which glowed before a dark blue background surrounded by hundreds of flickering votive lights. It sat behind bulletproof Plexiglas, and spectators viewed it from a moving sidewalk so none could linger too long.

For many fairgoers, including Wakeman, it was the highlight of their visit. A Queens native, she and her family had moved to California, but drove across the country in their Ford to visit the fair.

“When I saw the Pietà,” she said, “I was so knocked out. It was breathtaking.”

David Smith, GBA ’80, went to the fair both years. “My mother worked as a waitress and threw all her tips into a shoebox so we could go,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “The Vatican exhibit was most impressive.”

Robert P. Lynch, UGE ’70, visited the fair 16 times. “I was the oldest child (with a twin) of an Irish family of seven from Bayside. We would take the bus to Kissena Boulevard and walk from there to save an extra fare on the subway, 15 cents,” he said. “They were magic times. Even at that age I found it overly ‘corporate’ but educational. I was also captivated by the Pietà.”

With John Murray back from Rome, he and Eileen also brought their family to the fair several times. “John was practically in tears,” Eileen said, “because he could no longer reach out and touch the statue.”

In the fair’s second season, Pope Paul VI made a visit to the fairgrounds during the first-ever papal visit to the United States. He spoke to the captivated crowds from the Vatican Pavilion. 

“I had my 11-year-old disabled brother on my shoulders so he could see him,” said Intelisano.

Today, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, the largest in Queens, is widely used by the ethnically diverse borough’s families—many Latino Catholics—who play soccer and barbecue on its expansive grounds. A stone memorial marks the spot where Pope Paul once stood.

A stone memorial marks the former site of the
Vatican Pavilion (photo: Nicole LaRosa)
By the end of 1965, more than 51 million people had visited the fair, and more than half of those visitors saw the Pietà.

After it was all over, John and Eileen Murray received an invitation to visit St. Peter’s Basilica. When their guided tour ran long, Eileen was afraid they might miss the general audience with Pope Paul that the couple had planned to attend. All of a sudden, she said, she and John were in a private room with the pontiff.

“He told John, ‘You were the first one to ever take the Pietà from the Vatican, and you’ll be the last one,’” Eileen said. “When we were leaving, he grabbed my arm, and I thought, what did I do wrong? But he said, ‘You must come back to Rome.’”

As for Deegan, he would continue to advise the Vatican on matters of popular opinion for another 12 years, until his death in November 1977. The year the fair opened, Fordham awarded him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. And in 1965, based on his prior credits, professional achievements, and papers submitted, the University granted him the bachelor’s degree he would have earned in 1934 had he not dropped out and embarked on a career that inspired him to help plan and pull off one of the greatest events in New York City history.
--Nicole LaRosa 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fordham Professor: Press conference was Adam Silver's 'birth in the NBA'

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Photo via CBS Sports/Getty Images

Tuesday’s hotly anticipated press conference by National Basketball Commissioner Adam Silver proved to be quite the introduction for a man who assumed the post only a few months ago.

"It was the birth of the Adam Silver Era in the NBA,” said Fordham’s resident sports business expert, Mark Conrad.

Mark Conrad
Photo by Janet Sassi
Conrad, the director of the sports business specialization at Fordham Business schools, closely watched the conference, in which Silver announced a lifetime ban and $2.5 million fine on Los Angeles Clipper owner, Donald Sterling, who was caught on tape making a series of racist remarks that became public on April 25.

Silver also pledged to take steps to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, saying he’d do “everything in his power to ensure it happens,” a move Conrad called “gutsy, direct, and bold.

“By instituting a lifetime ban and the maximum fine, he signaled that the league will not tolerate this conduct,” Conrad said. “I think he will win the respect of the great majority of players, fans and sponsors."

But it won’t be easy.

"The most difficult aspect of his decision was seeking a forced sale of the team. Three-quarters of the owners must approve this action, and that’s unprecedented. If that happens, I think that there is a strong possibility that Sterling will take this to court."

Conrad was quoted in a New York Times story on Monday about the Sterling matter:

“It is not easy to force an owner to sell a team,” he said.

The Sterling tape scandal isn’t the only story Conrad has been weighing in on these days. Last Friday, he was interviewed by the Christian Science Monitor for a story on Northwestern’s scholarship football players, who were voting later that day on whether to unionize. (The players did vote to unionize.)

Conrad was asked whether the vote “would set the course for reform” in collegiate sports.

“The system is broken in a number of ways because of the money involved,” Conrad said. “Part of it is the amount of revenues, which are about as great as big-time sports. Athletes seem to feel left out of that pie and want some additional rights than what they’ve had before. It’s really part of a general crack in the system that has existed for 50 years in its modern form.”

For more about Conrad and the Sports Business specialization, read this piece from Inside Fordham.
-Gina Vergel

Monday, April 28, 2014

About the Physics of Climate Change

Renowned climate scientist Michael E. Mann has been on the front lines of the climate change debate for years. He was part of a team who shared the 2007 the Nobel Peace prize for its work on what is commonly known as the "hockey stick" curve graph that shows how the temperature of the Earth has risen over the past 1,000 years with the increase of industrialization and use of fossil fuels.

But he is also a target of climate change deniers, having had his emails hacked by deniers and given to politicians in an attempt to discredit him and his research.

Michael E. Mann
Mann, the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has said that mankind is "wasting all this time" on the debate about whether climate change is real, rather than working to curb it.

Mann will speak at Fordham's Rose Hill campus on Wednesday, April 30 at 2:30 p.m. at Freeman Hall 103, along with physics professor Stephen Holler, Ph.D., on the basic underlying science of climate and climate change, including physically based models of the Earth's climate. He will speak about an "Energy Balance Model" of the Earth's radiative balance, which can be used to assess the historical changes in global temperature.

Mann is the author of two books: Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming in 2008 and The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines, published in early 2012. He is also a co-founder and contributor to the climatology blog RealClimate

For further information contact Esther Morgan, in Fordham's Department of Physics. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Return to Tomorrow, Part II

photo: Bill Cotter
Fifty years ago, Fordham alumni brought Michelangelo’s first masterpiece to Flushing Meadows and helped make the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair one of the most memorable spectacles of commerce, culture, and innovation in the city’s history.

This week and next, as New York celebrates the fair's anniversary, Fordham Notes will publish excerpts from "Return to Tomorrow," our feature on the fair for the Spring 2014 issue of FORDHAM magazine. Earlier this week we published part I--the account of  Fordham alumnus John Murray gingerly packing the Pietà  for its journey to Flushing. The story continues below. 

The Pietà was ready for the first leg of its journey: an 18-mile-an-hour rainy ride from Vatican City to Naples in an open yellow truck.  Once it reached the port in Naples, the entire package, encapsulated in an outer steel case, was lifted by crane onto the deck of the SS Cristoforo Colombo, the pride of the Italian fleet. Cables fitted with hydrostatic releases lashed the bright orange-topped case to the ship’s deck. If the boat sank below 15 feet, the case—also equipped with a flashing light and a radio transmitter—would detach and float freely. John Murray, FCRH '57, was on board to accompany the precious cargo back to the States.

“I told him if anything happens to that ship, you jump on top of that box,” said Murray’s wife, Eileen, “because it would be visible to any rescuer.”

La Pieta at the 1964-1965 World's Fair
(photo courtesy of the Queens Museum)
The Pietà finally arrived in Flushing Bay, along with another Vatican treasure—The Good Shepherd—a fourth-century statue of Christ. A McNally Brothers truck drove them both to the fairgrounds, and they were installed in the Vatican Pavilion on April 16—six days before the fair opened. 

For fair organizer Thomas J. Deegan, FCRH ’34, the Vatican’s participation was an early coup. In 1962, Deegan and the fair’s president, New York’s “Master Builder” Robert Moses, traveled with Cardinal Spellman to Rome for a special ceremony confirming the Vatican’s role. But the Pietà was more than they ever could have hoped for. At once spectacular and pious, the beloved sculpture lent a sense of culture to the fair, a rebuttal, the organizers felt, to critics who feared the event would descend into crass commercialism and kitsch.

A well-connected public relations executive, Deegan had dropped out of Fordham during the Depression to find work. He wrote for The New York Times before forming his own publicity company in 1957. By 1960, he would advise Lyndon Johnson on his run for president. When Deegan and his associates approached New York City Mayor Robert Wagner with the idea of a fair—one that would recapture the magic of the 1939 fair held in the same spot in Flushing—the mayor tapped him to helm the process.

Deegan chaired the fair’s executive committee, which faced its share of challenges. The Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE), which had sanctioned all World’s Fairs since 1928, would not bestow its blessing on New York. Moses insisted the fair run for two six-month sessions to recoup expenses—longer than the BIE allowed. Without the bureau’s backing, many nations refused to participate, which left corporate pavilions to play a larger role—leading some to accuse the fair of being too commercial. And mounting costs and below-projected attendance meant that fair organizers couldn’t pay back their debts.

But for visitors who crossed the wooden ramp from the No. 7 subway stop into the Flushing Meadows fairgrounds, the spectacular sight eclipsed any behind-the-scenes troubles.

Flags of dozens of nations waved high in the air, lining a dramatic path to the fair’s stainless-steel Unisphere, a 12-story symbol of the event’s Peace Through Understanding theme and a still-standing Queens landmark. No fewer than 140 pavilions showcased bold innovations and cultural treasures: Giant color television screens flashed footage of the crowds. Ford debuted its Mustang. Model homes displayed sleek and convenient appliances. The BIE boycott allowed less well-known nations to receive more attention: There were dancers from Thailand, waffles from Belgium, and Dead Sea scrolls from Jordan. And fairgoers got around via the Swiss Sky Ride, whose red, blue, and yellow cars traveled on cables high above the revelry.

Learn more about the fair's attractions—including first-hand alumni memories—in part III of "Return to Tomorrow" on Fordham Notes next week. 
The Swiss Sky Ride
(photo: Bill Cotter)

—Nicole LaRosa

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Holy Triduum at Fordham University Church

Easter, 2014-- While many members of the University community were at home for Easter, the Fordham Campus Ministry Liturgy Team was working on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday Vigil and Easter Sunday to provide for some amazing liturgies. The staff helped to make the Easter Triduum at Fordham a moving and prayerful experience for so many. 

The team also helped to prepare this year's candidates for the Easter Sacraments: five baptisms; nine confirmations, and two received in to full communion. These new and confirmed Catholic Christians, with the exception of two Fordham Prep students, are all Fordham students from Lincoln Center and Rose Hill.

--Philip A. Florio, S.J., D.Min., Assistant Vice President for Campus Ministry

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alumni Relations Lecture Series Examines Political Unrest in Ukraine

Olena Nikolayenko, left, and Adriana Krasniansky 

Two members of the Fordham community gave context to the tensions in Ukraine at an April 15 installment of Fordham at the Forefront, which attracted more than 100 alumni, students, and friends to a panel discussion held at the New York Athletic Club.

Ukraine is often described as a hybrid regime, “a semi-authoritative country in which democratic institutions are formally present, but never effective,” said Olena Nikolayenko, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and a native of Ukraine.

When former Ukrainian President Yanukovych rejected a trade agreement with the European Union last November, tensions mounted and demonstrators gathered in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, she said. The protestors, who demanded “a cleansing of those who have slowed down the reforms of the country,” were met with police violence, resulting in dozens of wounded and countless arrests. 

In order to facilitate conversation between the West and Ukraine, native Ukrainian Adriana Krasniansky, a junior at the Gabelli School of Business, said she started a grassroots news organization called Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine with five other Ukrainian-Americans—two others of whom were fellow panelists. The group aims to provide the fastest and most reliable information about the conflict in Ukraine by translating collected speeches, documents, and interviews for English-speaking audiences. 

Krasniansky visited Kiev, Ukraine, last fall, where she and Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine member, Julian Hayda, spoke to citizens about how the unrest has affected their daily lives and did video interviews. With the goal to put a face to the Maidan protestors, the panelists showed several video clips of average Ukrainians, including a shop owner and an impassioned 80-year-old man.

Michael Fedynsky, left, and Julian Hayda
The biggest misconception about EuroMaidan, said Krasniansky, is that the protestors are disorganized and motivated by violence. In reality, she said “these people were incredibly organized” and even “started their own soup kitchens for the hungry.”

Krasniansky and her group have worked with National Public Radio and the U.S. House of Representatives to help relay what they see as the facts—that these demonstrations were “rooted in peace,” she said.

Panelist Michael Fedynsky, a former Fulbright scholar working at the National Democratic Institute, offered international context to the rising conflict. After spending a year in Ukraine, Fedynsky concluded that in order to move forward, Ukraine needed a more coherent and effective political system. 

Currently, the Ukrainian political parties are all “personality, regional, or identity-based rather than issue-based systems,”said Fedynsky. This varying political spectrum keeps power in the hands of oligarchs, he said.

“No matter who you vote for, someone rich is going to throw a million dollars at someone else, and your vote won’t matter,” he said. 

President Yanukovych was removed from power in February, and new presidential elections have been set for May 25. Ukrainians continue to protest in Maidan Square, and the whole world has eyes on the upcoming election as Russian troops threaten the nation’s borders.

“Ukrainians really want a change of life and they don’t trust the regime,” said Krasniansky. “The citizens—both young and old—are willing to sacrifice everything for hope.”

--Angie Chen, FCLC '12

Return to Tomorrow

Fifty years ago, Fordham alumni brought Michelangelo’s first masterpiece to Flushing Meadows and helped make the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair one of the most memorable spectacles of commerce, culture, and innovation in the city’s history.

This week and next, as New York celebrates the fair's anniversary, Fordham Notes will publish excerpts from "Return to Tomorrow," a feature published in the Spring 2014 issue of FORDHAM magazine. 

For centuries Michelangelo’s Pietà has inspired awe in the hearts of the faithful. Carved from a single block of Carrara marble, it depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Jesus in her lap, her ever-youthful face and sorrowful eyes looking down at his slain body. But in March 1964, as John Murray, FCRH ’57, and two fellow shipping executives stared at the priceless sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica, their sense of wonder gave way to fear.
John Murray, FCRH '57 (in dark suit), supervises the
packing of Michelangelo's priceless masterpiece
(photo courtesy of John Murray Jr.)

Two years earlier, Pope John XXIII promised New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman, FCRH ’11, that he would send the Pietà—perhaps the world’s most famous religious sculpture—to the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. The pontiff had just opened the Second Vatican Council, and the decision to display the Renaissance masterpiece to throngs of fairgoers reflected the church’s new commitment to accessibility in a modern, increasingly secular world.

Now this trio of expert transporters was charged not only with removing the Pietà from the Vatican for the first time since 1499, but also with shipping it to New York and back in one very well-preserved piece.

Murray, who died last September at the age of 83, had joined his Fordham classmate’s family trucking firm, McNally Brothers, just after college. By 1964 he was vice president.

“When the idea [of bringing the Pietà to the fair] came to life, my father took advantage of the opportunity,” said John Murray Jr., GSB ’85. “He got involved with the committee and offered to do the moving for free.”

After Pope John died in 1963, his successor, Pope Paul VI, reluctantly honored the papal promise to send the sculpture to New York. Italians and art lovers fretted, however, about the safety risks as well as the perceived lack of reverence it would be shown by the American masses. But in March 1964, Cardinal Spellman told the Associated Press that critics may “have the money to go to St. Peter’s to see it for themselves. But I want 70 million people to see it for free.”

Populism won out, and the Pietà would soon set sail for the U.S. But before Murray and his colleagues could ship the 3-ton marble treasure, they had to pack it and protect it.

Italians had traditionally used wood shavings to cushion fragile items. But the Americans suggested a new material—expanded polystyrene, later trademarked as Dylite. According to one newspaper’s account, the Roman contractor quit in protest.

Save for Mary’s hand, which had been broken and repaired, X-rays revealed that the sculpture’s marble was perfect, just as Michelangelo had once proclaimed. Still, the packers assumed that minute fissures were present and could be worsened by the slightest impact. They gingerly removed the statue from its pedestal, placed it on cushioned scaffolding, and built a wooden case around it. Then they poured in the Dylite, thousands of tiny snow-like white foam beads, which had the added effect of making the crate and its contents buoyant despite a combined weight of 5 tons. 
The Pietà was ready for the first leg of its journey.

Read part II and part III of "Return to Tomorrow," including the Pietà's voyage to Flushing, the role of Thomas Deegan, FCRH '34, and alumni memories of the fair.

—Nicole LaRosa

Waving the Fordham Banner in Zimbabwe

Patrick Ryan, S.J. (GSAS ’65), the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham since 2009, recently traveled to southern Africa for a few weeks with a Fulbright Specialist award to give a series of sixteen lectures (eight each week) entitled “Responding to the Call of Bilal: The Origins of Islam and its Development in Africa.” The host institution was Arrupe College in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, a Jesuit institution associated with the University of Zimbabwe over the past twenty years.  

One of those attending Father Ryan’s lectures was a
Zimbabwean Muslim, pictured at a tea break with Father Ryan.
This man had previously studied with former
students of Father Ryan’s in Ghana.

Father Ryan has previously lived in West Africa (principally Ghana and Nigeria) for twenty-six years. This was not, however, his first visit to Zimbabwe or the region of southern Africa. In February 2007 Father Ryan and Ilhan Akbil, associate dean at the Graduate School of Business Administration, first explored the possibility of what is now Fordham’s ongoing linkage with the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Dominick Salvatore, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics, first raised the Fordham flag in South Africa a couple of years earlier, when he lectured for the staff of South Africa’s Central Bank. 

Twenty Fordham students are currently spending their spring semester as students at the University of Pretoria, and students both from the University of Pretoria and Fordham have studied on their respective campuses each of the last few summers, primarily in the International Political and Economic Development program. 

Father Ryan in shade, but wearing a
Fordham baseball cap, with one
small part of Victoria Falls in the background.

While in Zimbabwe, Father Ryan also gave a guest lecture (a preview of his April McGinley lecture) at Bishop Gaul Anglican Seminary in Harare. He also met with staff of the University of Zimbabwe and the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy in Harare. One night in Harare he also explored the Emergency Room of the Baines Avenue Clinic when something he ate earlier that day (he suspects a rotten egg) caused him an allergic reaction, causing his tongue to swell up, obstructing his breathing. The staff at the emergency room, as well as the Fordham graduate who is the rector of Arrupe College, Chukwuyenum Afiawari, S.J. (FCRH ‘94, GSAS ‘95), handled this minor emergency with aplomb. Father Ryan has visited hospitals in Africa more than he cares to remember over the years, and was very favorably impressed by this medical facility in Harare.

Not generally an avid tourist, Father Ryan did spend an overnight at Victoria Falls in the company of two other Fordham alumni, Gerald Aman, S.J. (FCRH ‘69), the administrator of Arrupe College, and Philip Rossi, S.J., the latter a visiting professor at Arrupe from Marquette University. Father Ryan’s judgment on Victoria Falls: “Move over Buffalo! Mosi-oa-tunya (the indigenous name for the Falls, ‘the Smoke that Thunders’) makes Niagara Falls look paltry.”  While wearing his Fordham baseball cap at the Falls Father Ryan was greeted by a passing American woman tourist who introduced herself as the grandaunt of Fordham Football Quarterback Mike Nebrich.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Bunny Visits Rose Hill

The Easter bunny came a little early this year to Fordham's Rose Hill campus, as the Fordham University Association held its annual Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, April 12 at O'Keefe Commons.

In addition to the traditional hunt for eggs on the lawn, the morning's festivities featured magician John Turdo, who performed tricks and pulled a certain floppy-eared mammal out of a hat for an audience of 118 children of Fordham staff and faculty. And as she does every year, former Fordham board member Georgi Arendacs did her part by donning a bunny costume and showing the University's littlest Rams how to hop down the path to an egg-cellent time.

Photos by Jill LeVine

Organizers, from right: Fordham University Association president Grant 
Grastorf, Marilyn Force, Peter Stults (behind Marilyn), Carol Murabito, 
Alan Force, Stacey Vasquez, Georgi Arendacs (Easter Bunny), 
Michelle Tomlinson, Gabe Bonilla, Roxanne Bonilla and Lester Daniels

—Patrick Verel

Monday, April 14, 2014

Media spotlight: Fordham professors discuss Jesus’ wife, gender pay gap on TV

Michael Peppard, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology at Fordham, got to flex his Coptic papyrologist expertise on national television this past weekend in an interview about on PBSNewsHour Weekend.

Michael Peppard on PBS NewsHour Weekend.

The segment, which aired on April 13, centered around a faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” Unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, it was then tested by scientists who concluded in an April 10 journal article that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Peppard told host Hari Sreenivasan that scholars, such as himself, that study early Christianity are “still kind of in this middle ground of mysteriousness about the text.

“That being said, some of the critics on the forgery side argue that there is bad grammar, that there are other indicators, bad penmanship and that kind of stuff. But papyrologists — that is nerds like us that study ancient papyri — we see bad handwriting all the time. The apostle Paul himself in the New Testament talks about his bad handwriting. So handwriting it’s a techne in Greek, it’s a skill, it’s acquired.”

Sreenivasan also asked Peppard what the religious ramifications are if Jesus did have a wife. 

“… this papyrus gives us another window into what were some live debates in early Christianity. Debates such as: is procreation a vehicle for holiness or is celibacy — voluntary celibacy– a vehicle for holiness. A second debate that it clearly was engaging was the worthiness of women as disciples, especially Mary the mother and Mary Magdalen, two of the main figures that were discussed,” Peppard said.

Watch the whole interview here via PBS NewsHour's website.

Fordham’s Christina Greer was also on television over the weekend. An assistant professor of political science, Greer joined a panel at MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show on April 12 to discuss a variety of topics, including the politics of the gender pay gap.

Christina Greer on MSNBC
In this segment, Greer says historical context should always be taken into consideration in the debate over equal pay.

“We constantly throw around that .77-to-a-dollar [figure], but we do also know that there is a very real racial divide within this. If white women are making .77 on the dollar, we know that black and Latina women are making much less than that,” she said.

Greer also discussed the downside of the bickering between the GOP and Democrats on such debates, and how there isn’t going to be a magic bullet to solve inequality.

Watch the whole episode here via the Melissa Harris-Perry Show website.
-- Gina Vergel