A Fordham Family
My daughter Lauren — smart, beautiful, and ambitious — earned her degree from Fordham University in the Bronx on May 19, 2018. A Monmouth Beach native, she was a finance student at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business.
Her hard work and success got me to thinking about Fordham, my family, and college in general.
An unofficial accounting shows that about 20 of my relatives have gone to Fordham, known as “the Jesuit University of New York.” It all started with my grandfather (Lauren’s great grandfather), George A. Sheehan, MD, who graduated over 100 years ago.
Surprisingly enough, although he would become a highly-respected physician in Brooklyn, NY, he never went to college. Born on a Lafayetteville, NY, farm in July 1889, he graduated high school and then went on to earn a medical degree from Fordham Medical School in 1913 (the school closed in 1919).
Education is important in my family. My physician-father (a 1940 Fordham graduate and my grandfather’s medical protégé) called it a key means to success. And except for some rare cases, I think he was right.
I was fortunate that dad had a busy medical practice around the time I was a college student. He paid the way for pretty much everything. I took out a modest student loan because “a little debt is a good thing,” dad explained. “It makes you work harder.”
“Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper.”
That I love my children, there is no doubt in my mind. That I can pay for their education, well … that’s quite another matter. According to College Board, the current average annual cost of public college is about $25,000; at a private college it’s about $50,000. Both my kids are good students (my son, Kyle, is a senior at Rutgers University) so somehow we’ll get through it and, besides, there’s always the lottery.
A college degree today is still pretty special — just 33% of Americans have one, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. But with total US student debt surpassing $1 trillion and a high unemployment rate for recent college grads, I’m wondering if it’s worth it. There’s growing debate.
According to a recent survey of the Forbes 400 list of billionaires, more than 90% still believe that college is important to success. But Warren Buffett, the greatest investor in history and the holder of undergraduate and graduate degrees, isn’t all sold on college.
Speaking to a group of MBA students recently, Buffett said, “The best education you can get is investing in yourself. But this doesn’t always mean college. I have two degrees but I don’t have them on my wall, in fact I don’t even know where they are. I don’t think college is for everyone. In fact, none of my three kids graduated from college.”
I realize that things were different when my grandfather was a student more than a century ago. It seems a high school education was better then and medical school entry wasn’t as competitive as it is today. And, certainly, my grandfather had smarts in general — going on to lead an exceptional life as a physician, professor of medicine, mentor, and father of 14.
And I know that my grandfather’s (and father’s) spirit watched over my daughter as she completed her college life at Fordham.