New Fordham president is the first woman to hold position in 181 years

Tania Tetlow has a deep family background in the Jesuit faith and impressive credentials in higher education.

Tania Tetlow not only became the first woman to lead a Jesuit institution at Loyola University in New Orleans, but she was also the first nonordained church member to hold the position. Incredibly, she has done it again.

Fordham University’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved Tetlow as its 33rd president, citing her extraordinary credentials in higher education and most notably her transformation that lifted academics, enrollment and retention at Loyola during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Board of Trustees and the search committee were deeply impressed by Tania Tetlow from the moment we met her,” Fordham Board Chair Robert Daleo said in a letter to the community. “She is deeply rooted in and a strong proponent of Ignatian spirituality and will be a champion of Fordham’s Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity.”

Tetlow replaces Father Joseph McShane, who is leaving the position on June 30 after leading the university for 19 years and building Fordham’s endowment to more than $1 billion.

“Tania Tetlow has in abundance the qualities of leadership one needs to run a major university, among them discernment, patience, decisiveness, self-awareness and magnanimity,” McShane said. “Her commitment to Jesuit pedagogy and to Fordham’s Jesuit Catholic mission is both deep and well-informed. I shall rest easy with her in the office I have occupied for almost two decades.”

Tetlow, who was born in New York, has strong connections to the university and a family history rooted in the Jesuit faith. Her late father, a former Jesuit priest, earned both his master’s and doctorate degrees from Fordham and her mother received two master’s degrees in philosophy and theology. Her uncle was the former president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University and the head of the Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality in Rome.

“I grew up in New Orleans, but Fordham is the reason that I exist,” Tetlow said. “My parents met there as graduate students and got married. They taught me that faith and reason are intertwined. They instilled in me an abiding curiosity to find God in all things … They sang me to sleep with a Gregorian chant and taught me the absolute joy of learning. Fordham loomed large in my family. I come to Fordham because I believe in that power of Jesuit higher education and that the possibilities of New York are limitless and thrilling.”

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Tetlow began her post-secondary studies at age 16 at Tulane University and earned her bachelor’s degree before graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After a five-year stint as a federal prosecutor, she returned to Tulane as senior vice president and chief of staff before moving to Loyola, where she became the first woman to be named as president in more than a century.

During the past four years, she has not only boosted outcomes for students but also helped the university rebound financially while overseeing a huge expansion of online programming and new academic programs such as neuroscience, nursing, environmental law and cybersecurity. Enrollments have risen 11% during her tenure, with one of its most diverse classes entering this past fall.

“We are so grateful for President Tetlow’s dedicated leadership, and are thrilled for her and her new colleagues at Fordham University,” said Steve Landry, chair of Loyola’s Board of Trustees. “We wish her great success as she moves on to this prestigious position at a fellow Jesuit university.”

Father Joseph Daffron, Vice President of Mission and Identity, will be interim president at Loyola after the transition, carrying through the new strategic vision that Tetlow put in place. The search for a permanent president is expected to take a year.

“It has been the greatest privilege to serve as president of Loyola, an extraordinary institution that means so much to me and generations of my family,” Tetlow said. “My decision to take on this new position is bittersweet, but I know Loyola is in excellent hands. I am so proud of the work we accomplished together and will be celebrating Loyola’s continued success from New York.”

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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