Remembering John Granville

by Collin Bonnell

John Granville embodied Jesuit values through devaluing material items and putting a greater emphasis on family. (Courtesy of Collin Bonnell/The Fordham Ram)

I imagine the night of Jan. 1, 2008 was a quiet one on the streets of Khartoum when the motorcade carrying John Granville, Fordham University Class of ‘97 and US Diplomat working for USAID, was abruptly stopped by several terrorists. When the smoke cleared, John Granville and his driver were dead.

Despite his tragic death, the life of John Granville, “Uncle John” to myself and his relatives, was truly remarkable. A model student and Fulbright Scholar, he chose to dedicate his life to others rather than seek riches for himself.
With a road laid out before him of infinite potential for personal gain, John chose a life of public service. Rather than managing stocks, John spent the best years of his life distributing 450,000 radios to villagers in the hope that they would enable them to participate in their country’s politics.

John dedicated himself to furthering his ideals of good works to the extent that, upon his sudden death, my own uncle Sean McCabe described his brother-in-law’s career in Africa with seven words: “That was his life; he loved it.”
John was not remarkable due to a great skill, talent or deed. Rather, he was inspirational because of his possession of a simple trait all too rare in our society: selflessness. In truth, anyone can accomplish what John did. Anyone can dedicate themselves to serving mankind. Anyone can choose to stop the endless cycle of greed, materialism and selfishness which pervades our society. Yet we seldom make this choice.

Instead, we all too often choose to worship ourselves. We get lost in a relentless pursuit of material wealth. We trample over each other ceaselessly in order to better our own economic and social status. We romanticize our greed as “the American Dream.” We justify these acts of selfishness as pursuit of progress, a necessary side effect of innovation. Many who enter public service nowadays do not do so to spread democracy and serve others, as John once did. They do so for the prestige. The Trumps of the world do not enter politics in order to better humanity. They do so for the power. For the fame. Even in entertainment we choose to support the careers of people like Logan Paul, who openly boast of their materialist motivations, rather than those of intellectuals and public servants.

We have lost our morals. Yet this loss is not due to the decline of “family values,” religion or demographic change often scapegoated by politicians. Our moral rot is due to greed and our lack of love for mankind. Even at Fordham, a Jesuit university which prides itself on inspiring young men and women like John Granville to lead a life of service to others, many students choose to limit themselves to a career chosen solely for financial security.

Yet, this does not have to be the case. We can choose to break the cycle and live as John once did. Not for ourselves, but for all mankind.


Collin Bonnell, FCRH ’21, is a history and political science major from Hingham, Massachussettes.