E. Gerald Corrigan, Ph.D., who earned masters and doctorate degrees in economics from Fordham in the 1960s, served as a university administrator, and had a long, distinguished career in both public service and Wall Street, died April 17, May at NewBridge on the Charles in Dedham, Mass., where he was being treated for Alzheimer’s disease. He was 80 years old.
“Jerry was known as one of the most honest and wisest men in international business,” Joseph M. McShane, SJ, President of Fordham, said in a statement to the university community of Corrigan’s death. “He always said his Jesuit education enabled him to navigate difficult financial issues and make good decisions. Thanks to him, our students and alumni are also better prepared.”
Corrigan accepted a job as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1968 while he was a graduate student at Fordham. He had taught at the university the previous year, and although he planned to return to teaching, he instead rose in the ranks of some of the country’s most prominent business institutions.
In 1979, Corrigan left the New York Fed – where he had become vice president of planning and domestic open market operations – to serve as special assistant to Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker in Washington, DC. The following year he was appointed President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where he served until 1984.
On January 1, 1985, Corrigan returned to the New York Fed as chief executive officer and vice chairman of the Federal Open Market Committee. When the stock market crashed on October 19, 1987 – a day that became known as Black Monday – Corrigan played a crucial role in getting the market back on its feet by convincing bank lenders to provide liquidity to the financial system .
“Let me tell you, if you haven’t been there, you can’t begin to understand how difficult decision-making is under these circumstances,” Corrigan said Fordham Magazine in 2009. “You have incomplete information. You have very little time. And you know that inaction is action.”
After nine years at the helm of the New York Fed, Corrigan transitioned to the private sector in 1994 when he became a managing director at Goldman Sachs. Two years later he was made a partner in the firm. Until his retirement in 2016, he held many responsibilities as a senior member of then-CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s leadership team. Corrigan has served as Chairman of the firm’s two deposit collection banks in New York and London, and has co-chaired several risk analysis committees, including the Global Risk Management Committee.
In 2008, as a member of the firm’s Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group at Goldman Sachs, he helped develop what many saw as a blueprint for reforming the global financial system, and as co-chair of Goldman’s Business Standards Committee, he worked on the Strengthening relationships with customers hit by the financial crisis.
In his 2014 memoir Stress test: reflections on financial crisesFormer US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner described Corrigan “as a sort of John Madden of finance – tall, gruff, old-fashioned, a respected student of the game, with a similarly lively rhythm in his commentary.”
When Corrigan retired, Blankfein and Gary Cohn, then-President of Goldman Sachs, wrote in a company-wide memo: “We benefited tremendously from his leadership in the global financial community, his experience as a central banker, his extensive knowledge of the complexities of financial systems and exceptional judgement.”
A passionate advocate of Jesuit training at Fordham
Corrigan was born on June 13, 1941 in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of an innkeeper and a librarian. He received his bachelor’s degree from Fairfield University in 1963, at which time he began his postgraduate studies at Fordham, where he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in economics in 1965 and 1971 respectively. While attending Fordham, Corrigan lived off campus in a residential neighborhood at 183rd Street and Park Avenue in the Bronx and supplemented his classes with a job as a grocery shopper at an A&P on Webster Avenue.
At Fordham, he developed a strong bond with Joseph Cammarosano, Ph.D., an economics professor and administrator at Fordham who had worked as an economist with the US Bureau of the Budget. Together they worked on an economic development study of the Bronx while Corrigan completed his master’s degree.
“He was a Pied Piper,” Cammarosano said of his former student, who recruited and led 50 students who participated in the study and knocked on doors in neighborhoods around the Fordham campus for information. “Jerry was a very charismatic young man and he had a doer attitude. … Before I could finish half a sentence, Jerry knew exactly what I wanted.”
In a 2009 interview with Fordham magazine, Cammarosano also noted Corrigan’s humility, saying, “Jerry is a product of the Jesuits. He’s not one to market himself openly. He nurtures himself through what he does.” Cammarosano also recalled Corrigan’s competitive spirit, including his “keen elbows under the basketball hoop.”
For his part, Corrigan credited his Jesuit training, both at Fordham and Fairfield, with being a key contributor to the critical thinking skills he brought to his career.
“The philosophy of education associated with the Jesuits for hundreds of years places a strong emphasis on the liberal arts and humanities,” Corrigan said. “But it puts even more emphasis on simple, no-nonsense suggestions to get people thinking. That’s the genius of it.”
And while Corrigan did not pursue a teaching career, he remained close to Fordham in many ways and was one of his most ardent supporters.
As a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1989, he made several generous gifts to benefit students and faculty at Fordham. In 2000, he established the E. Gerald Corrigan, Ph.D., Endowed Scholarship Fund, which supports full-time Fordham students who demonstrate both academic excellence and financial need, with preference given to minority students. Seven years later, he made another donation to further support the scholarship fund and create an endowed professorship, the Corrigan Chair in International Business and Finance at the Gabelli School of Business.
Along with the scholarship fund and endowed professorship, Corrigan’s name lives on on the Fordham Lincoln Center campus, where the 12th floor of the Lowenstein Center was officially named the E. Gerald Corrigan Conference Center in a 2013 ceremony. He was inducted into the Fordham University Hall of Honor in 2012 and a year later received the Fordham Founder’s Award, given to individuals whose “personal and professional lives reflect the highest aspirations of the university’s formative traditions as an institution devoted to wisdom and learning in the service of others.”
In addition to his gifts to the university, Corrigan was generous with his time and often returned to campus to share his experiences with students. In April 2005, he spoke to more than 120 students, alumni and faculty at the Department of Economics. In 2006 he gave the Gannon Lecture at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. And in 2010, Corrigan spoke to a Fordham audience in a lecture entitled “Leadership: Making the Right Things Happen” about the criteria that make great leaders.
“They recognize and embrace the thesis that there is a time when the public interest must come first – before the natural and proper responsibility to advance the interests of shareholders and other private concerns,” Corrigan said.
“They understand that there are principles that should never be violated. They have the courage to believe and the drive to do the right thing for its own sake. After all, they are men and women of the highest integrity.”
“Working for the good of the world”
In addition to his dedication to the Fordham community, Corrigan supported many other institutions. From 1981 to 1986 he was a trustee of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and he served two terms on the board of Fairfield University before being named trustee emeritus of his undergraduate alma mater. In 2004 he established the Ernesto Zedillo Fellowship at Fairfield and in 2007 endowed a new professorship at the university, the Corrigan-Minehan Professorship in Political Science, named for him and his wife, Cathy E. Minehan, who served as President and CEO of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston from 1994 to 2007.
He also funded scholarships at the University of Rochester, and among his and Minehan’s other philanthropic donations was a 2012 donation to Massachusetts General Hospital, which supports innovation and research in the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program and throughout the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center. Along with Minehan, Corrigan was a trustee of the Challenger Foundation (formerly known as the Corrigan Foundation), which supports education, health and social services, and research in international economics and finance.
Corrigan has served on numerous committees and associations, including the Bretton Woods Committee, the Group of Thirty, the American Economic Association, the American Management Association, the Joint Council on Economic Education, the Council on Foreign Relations (of which he served as director from 1993 to 1995 ) and the Economic Club of New York. He was also named a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In a lifetime of professional achievements and accolades, those who knew Corrigan point to his love of quiet moments with his family, or while enjoying fly-fishing and golf, as well as his honesty and down-to-earth attitude.
“Jerry was a problem-solver,” Minehan said. “He stepped into a situation and his clear thinking – which I know he attributed to his Jesuit training – was always the golden star when it came to how to overcome a crisis and how to prevent a crisis from happening again .”
She added that he cares deeply about the Jesuits’ focus on the common good.
“Working all out, working for the good of the world — that really spoke volumes to Jerry, and that’s what his life was about.”
Along with Minehan, Corrigan is survived by two children from a previous marriage, Elizabeth Corrigan and Karen Corrigan Tate; two stepchildren, Brian Minehan and Melissa Minehan Walters; a sister, Patricia Carlascio; and five grandchildren.
A private funeral service for close family and friends will be held on Monday, May 23 at 10 a.m. and will be streamed live on YouTube. A celebration of his life will take place in New York City at a later date.