Lance Forsdick Sr., AFSC (’61)
“I was originally going to major in civil engineering and physics when I started college. But I couldn’t do it. So, I switched to accounting.”
H. Lance Forsdick Sr. was raised in Catholic schools in Memphis. He was attending grade school at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School when he first visited the Christian Brothers College campus, hoping to play basketball in the De La Salle Gymnasium — which was the largest gym in the city at the time (and is now Canale Arena).
“My first memory of Lance, he was just a little kid playing basketball,” recalls Brother Terence McLaughlin. “I was a recruiter for the high school at the time and saw him playing at the Skinner Center. He impressed me.” Although Lance was too young to attend CBC at the time, Brother Terence arranged for him and his friends to play basketball in the gym. Lance entered Christian Brothers College as a high school student in 1953 and enrolled in the college after graduation in 1957.
Straight out of college, Lance married Kathryn O’Brien, went to work as a CPA and also worked part-time for O’Brien Construction, his father-in-law’s company, which was involved in hotel and apartment construction. When Mr. O’Brien passed away in the early 1970s, Lance took over the business. In 1974, he met Bob Solmson and they formed Realty & Financial Services, a real estate trust company involved in the development of shopping centers, hotels, and warehouses. Over the years, its business expanded to construction, development, hospitality, real estate, property management, and personal financial investment.
Lance and Kathy Forsdick raised four children — sons Lance Jr. and Andrew, and daughters Marie and Margaret. While raising their own children, they also took in more than 30 foster children from St. Peter’s Orphange over the years, raising them until they could be adopted. Many of them remained in contact for years. Kathy passed away in 1998 after an eight-year battle with cancer.
Lance was well known and well-loved in the Catholic Diocese of Memphis (CDOM). He served on countless community boards, including St. Francis Hospital, St. Agnes Academy and St. Dominic School, and Christian Brothers High School. He and Bob Solmson founded the Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST) in 1998 to award scholarships for low-income children to attend accredited private schools in Shelby County. He was one of the founders of the Catholic Memphis Urban Schools Trust, which created the Jubilee Schools for CDOM in 1999 and served more than 17,000 students in inner-city, low-income neighborhoods through 2018 (when they were absorbed by Compass Community Schools as charter public schools).
As a CBU alumnus, Lance went on to serve his alma mater in many important and valuable ways. He was president of the CBC Alumni Association in the 1970s. He also served on the Board of Trustees in the 1970s and 1980s and held the position of chairman from 1975 to 1984. He returned to the Board in the early 2000s and served until 2014, when he was named Trustee Emeritus.
Lance served as interim president of CBU from July 1, 2005 until Brother Vincent Malham assumed the presidency full time on December 1, 2005. He served as the Strategic Advisor to the President from December 2005 to May 2008, when due to the death of Brother Vincent, he again assumed the role of interim president until July 1, 2009 when Dr. John Smarrelli assumed the presidency.
Over the years, CBU has recognized Lance with numerous awards and honors recognizing his decades of service and as one of the University’s most generous benefactors — including the Distinguished Alumnus Award (1983), the Maurelian Medal (1986), the Edward Barry Service Award (2000), and the Honorary Doctorate of Letters (2004). The East Parkway entrance to the CBU campus was named H. Lance Forsdick Sr. Drive in 2009 in honor of his service and in thanks for his tenures as interim president.
In recognition of those and other countless contributions to both Christian Brothers University and Christian Brothers High School, Lance was made an Affiliated Member of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools (AFSC) in 1993. He was named the Humanitarian of the Year by the National Conference for Community and Justice in 1994 and received the Outstanding Civic Commitment Award from Unico Memphis in 1995. He received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, an honor awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy and laity for service to the Catholic Church, in 1999.
H. Lance Forsdick Sr., AFSC passed away on June 18, 2021.
My father brought all four of us up to believe that our job as a Christian and a Catholic was to leave the world a better place than you found it. From the smallest thing to the grandest thing, make it better. That’s what he taught us. And he didn’t just teach us, he showed us.— Lance Forsdick Jr.