Hon. Paul. A. Victor, JD, Class of 1950
Supreme Court Justice, New York State
Judge, Civil Court of New York City
Father of a Prep Graduate
With his parents Albert and Antoinette and sister Catherine — as well as a grandmother, Rose Martinico — Paul Victor, born Paul Viggiano, was living on Beaumont Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx, just south of Rose Hill, when he transferred into the Prep during the middle of the term. The transition was not easy.
His first day at Hughes Hall was fairly intimidating. As Victor has described it, though home was only blocks away, he felt as if he were on the other side of the world. Few boys from his neighborhood were attending the Prep in those days, so there really were no familiar faces. Moreover, his former schooling had been at public school “where the focus was more on developing a trade, not scholastic achievement.”
Surrounded by classmates he judged to be better educated, and faced with a new dress code and standards of discipline, young Paul felt “humiliated — confused, isolated and terrified.“ By Paul’s recollection, he was standing in line at assembly that first morning when he felt the uncomfortable weight of a gaze. Called over by Father Shea, legendary Prep prefect of discipline — and today a fellow Hall of Honor member — Paul recounts thinking that he looked “pretty dapper” when Father sent him to look at himself in the mirror. Shea disagreed. “He squinted and frowned; he made me button my top button and pull up my tie — I had jug my very first day.”
Things began to turn around quickly, however. “Mike Stanton came over, befriended me, and introduced me around” Victor and Stanton — also a Class of 1950 man and a Prep Hall of Honor member — remained close friends from that day on.
Victor has described his time at the Prep as a rich experience. He walked to school every morning, leaving the small, all-concrete enclave of Belmont for the Rose Hill campus. “It was like entering Wonderland. It was green. There were majestic buildings and towers. And we had instruction from legendary teachers. They were all stern, but also kind and gentle.”
Looking back, Paul credits the demands of the Prep with helping him develop a work ethic that left a lasting mark on his academic and professional life. Believing that he had a lot of catching up to do, he started getting up at 5:30 am so he could be at school by 7 am to go over his lessons from the day before and to preview what the material for the day ahead. “And as a judge, I was the first person in the courthouse in the morning before the hustle and bustle started. And the Prep gave me the tools to organize my thoughts and think analytically and logically—necessities for lawyers and judges.”
Soon enough, Victor caught up. The boy from Beaumont Avenue was confused, isolated and terrified no more.
At the beginning of his sophomore year, Paul developed a spinal problem that kept him out of sports for two years. When he was finally able to return to athletics, Paul learned yet further Prep lessons of perseverance and hard work on the basketball court. The team’s tallest center was barely over six feet tall, and the team won just three games and lost seven during his senior year, most of them by just one basket. In Victor’s words “It was heartbreaking, but fun” — and a challenge.
Academics and athletics aside, the spiritual life of the Prep also left an indelible imprint on Paul. He had received the basics at home, and had had religious training in preparation for Communion and Confirmation, but it was at the Prep that he really began to deepen his relationship with God. Through four years of religious instruction, retreats and Eucharistic devotion, Paul Victor was able to explore his spiritual dimensions and to grow in his faith. But for that foundation, the Judge has often remarked, the tragic events in his life would have been unbearable.
After graduation from the Prep, Paul would have two more Fordham graduations, making him a classic “3F” man — Fordham Prep, 1940; Fordham College, 1954; and Fordham Law School, 1959. He played basketball for four years in college — two of those years on the Fordham University varsity squad — with an intensity and sense of dedication that would have made his old Prep coach, Edward McInnis, proud.
Victor also went on to serve as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force and was stationed at the Air Force Missile Test Center at Patrick Air Force Pace in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Sure enough, he played basketball during his time in the service as well.
In January 1962, Paul Victor married Teresa Grekulak. They raised three sons: Albert, Paul and Eric. Paul would graduate the Prep as a member of the Class of 1983.
Between 1959 and 1961 Victor was a law assistant to Judge Adrian Burke in the New York Court of Appeals, and from 1962 to 1964, he served as assistant district attorney in Bronx County. For more than 30 years, from 1964 to 1998, he had a private practice in civil, criminal and election law cases, arguing dozens of cases at the Appellate Division and New York Court of Appeals.
Victor also served as counsel and parliamentarian to the executive committee of the Bronx Democratic County Committee. Mayor Edward Koch appointed him to the New York City Conciliation and Appeals Board, and Governor Mario Cuomo appointed him to the Law Revision Commission.
In 1998, Paul Victor was elected Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York. In 2000 he was elected a justice of the Supreme Court of New York. He has been a lecturer and faculty member at the Office of the Court Administrator as well as at the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. He has authored a chapter in a two-volume publication by the New York State Bar Association on structured settlements and settlement of claims by infants and impaired persons. Retired from the Supreme Court, he is now a judicial hearing officer at the New York State Supreme Court and a mediator at National Arbitration and Mediation.
Judge Victor was honored by the Bronx Bar Association in 2008 and received the Rapallo Award from the Columbian Lawyers Association, an affiliate of the National Italian American Bar Association. Previous recipients of this award included Samuel Alito, Jr., George Pataki, Rudolph Giuliani, Antonin Scalia and Alphonse D’Amato.
Staying true to the Jesuit lessons of service and compassion from his Prep days, the Honorable Paul A. Victor has served on community planning boards, volunteered with various groups, founded a nonprofit corporation for affordable housing and worked with the National Italian American Foundation to help students in need.
Paul says that being inducted into the Fordham Prep Hall of Honor is “marvelous and humbling.” He says that several core principles he developed while at the Prep have helped him throughout life, including the belief that “it’s easier to sleep at night if you treat people the way you want to be treated.”
“Find the time to meditate, talk to God, and thank God for your blessings,” the good judge advises. “Pray for opportunities to help others.”
“Fordham Prep changed the course of my life. I often ponder what might have happened to me if my parents had not made the sacrifice of sending me here. Few people in Belmont had the opportunity to become lawyers or judges.”
Paul Victor did become a lawyer and judge, and has proven himself a loyal son of Fordham and man for others, as well.
The Victors live in Mamaroneck, New York.