A week after the National Football League crowned its champion at MetLife Stadium across the Hudson River, Fordham University recognized 329 student-athletes as champions for their academic prowess at the eleventh annual Breakfast for Champions in the McGinley Center Ballroom and Lounge. The Rams in attendance were honored for compiling a 3.00 cumulative GPA or higher at an event sponsored by the Fordham Athletic Department with assistance from the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and the Office of Academic Advising.
The 329 in attendance represented 67% of the student-athletes at Fordham.
Abagail Corning, GSB ’14, President of SAAC and a member of the women’s basketball program, welcomed the crowd and introduced Reverend Mark Mossa, S.J., for the invocation. Prior to the breakfast, Father Mossa celebrated a special Breakfast for Champions mass in the ballroom.
Following breakfast, David Roach, Director of Athletics, provided opening remarks, welcoming and honoring the student-athletes in attendance.
“This is one of my two favorite days of the year,” said Roach. “The Breakfast for Champions and the Block F Dinner are the two days I look forward to as both days are all about recognizing your accomplishments, both on and off the field.”
Roach mentioned a letter he came across online yesterday from a professor of Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson to the city of Seattle. In the letter, the professor speaks of how he originally thought Wilson was too good to be true. But as the professor got to know Wilson, he realized that Wilson was a person who showed up every day prepared for class, never had an excuse and never had, or wanted, a short cut. He talked about Wilson’s recipe for life which included hard work, respect, loyalty, and responsibility to others and an unshakeable faith.
“When I look out at you I see a lot of Russell Wilsons in what you do every day,” said Roach to the crowd. “Thank you for how you handle yourselves both on and off the field every single day.”
After Deputy Director of Athletics Charlie Elwood recognized the top team performer for each varsity program, Corning introduced the keynote speaker, Nicholas A. Romano, GSB ’89, a member of the swimming and water polo squads in his undergraduate years at Fordham, who is the CEO of AO Asset Management, an equity hedge fund.
“I want to sit up here as a mirror for all of you,” Romano told the students. “All of the strength and motivation I had in my life came from being a student-athlete at Fordham.”
Romano spoke to the student-athletes of his experience at Fordham and how those experiences helped shape his future, both personally and professionally. He spoke of his four characteristics of student-athletes, characteristics that they will fall back on for the rest of their lives: commitment, determination of goal setting, perseverance and visualization, looking at accomplishing what you want and then working backwards and seeing what it is you need to do in order to succeed.
Romano closed his talk with a quote from former NFL head coach Mike Ditka who said “Success and not guaranteed and is not something that sustains itself automatically. And failure is not fatal.”
“When you are successful you will learn to keep pushing yourselves and you won’t rest on your laurels because you never have,” said Romano. “My message to you is that all of you are in a great situation coming from an excellent school with great ethics, great morals and a great education, all the tools you will need to succeed.”
Following Romano’s address, Corning announced the presentation of the annual SAAC community service gift. This year the gift was presented by Devin Maloney, GSB ’14, a member of the cheerleading squad, and Nicolas Alemann, GSB ’14, a member of the swimming and diving team, to The Center for Discovery, a national specialty center for the advanced care and treatment of children and adults with significant disabilities, medical complexities and autism spectrum disorders. The gift was accepted by Romano, who has a son affected by autism.
“It is an honor to be able to accept this donation on behalf of The Center for Discovery,” said Romano. “As the father of a son with autism, I know that it has a big impact on my life and is a 24/7 job. The Center for Discovery is a delightful charity that helps with the kids who have a problem staying in the school systems here in New York and who may be forced to move. But center does a great job of taking those kids and keeping them at home.”
Corning touted the success of SAAC projects, announcing that the various teams have combine for 180 hours of community service so far in 2013-14 as the Rams are competing with other Atlantic 10 schools for most community service hours. She also mentioned the Golden Ram competition which awards Fordham teams for turning out to support their peers (women’s tennis is currently in the lead) and introduced an upcoming spring fundraiser for Heart of Our World, a charity that collects athletic gear and sends it to the youth of Cameroon so that they can experience the empowerment of sports.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, was called forward for a closing prayer and final comments. He first spoke of Romano, calling him “very loyal and generous to the university, a great son of Fordham, but I don’t think he would mind if I say his greatest achievement is he is a model father whose life revolves around his family and who has brought his son forward in ways that confound everybody.”
The Fordham president highlighted the connection between Jesuits and sports, noting that although St. Ignatius was not a great athlete he was a great dancer and a “spectacular lady’s man.” But St. Francis Xavier was a great runner who was the toast of the University of Paris for his athletic skills. And there’s Pope Francis, a big soccer fan who has said “Sports have the ability to unite more than to divide. Sports have the ability not only to unite but to create a community marked by respect more than competition, by cooperation more than division.”
“You unite us, you rise above divisions,” said McShane to the student-athletes. “I’m always shocked at an athletic banquet that those who win awards are quick to thank their teammates and how teams cheer individual achievements. And I want to thank you for uniting us, for giving us examples to followbut, most of all, for living like Fordham men and women should live, like men and women for others.”
McShane, a member of the Super Bowl hospitality committee, then increased the stakes of the Golden Ram competition by pledging his Super Bowl jacket and hat to the captain of the team that wins the Golden Ram Challenge.
McShane finished the event with one last challenge, challenging the student-athletes to sing the Fordham Fight Song. Led by the 34 football student-athletes, a group that sang the song following each of the 12 wins last fall, the student-athletes belted out the tune.
Included in the 329 student-athletes honored were 41 student-athletes who were recognized as four-year Breakfast for Champions attendees.
Kelly Alpaugh (Women’s Soccer)
Jennifer Amoroso (Rowing)
Anisa Arsenault (Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Emily Atwood (Volleyball)
Diane Bain (Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Brittany Batten (Cheerleading)
Nicholas Belfanti (Men’s Swimming and Diving)
Michael Belgiovine (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Brett Biestek (Football)
Krissy Buongiorno (Volleyball)
Patrick Burke (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Maria Luisa Capuano (Rowing)
Kaitlyn Carballeira (Women’s Soccer)
Brianna Ciuffi (Softball)
Abigail Corning (Women’s Basketball)
Angelika Dabu (Women’s Tennis)
James Doran (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Megan Feerick (Rowing)
Kara Field (Women’s Swimming and Diving)
Hanna Fritzinger (Women’s Tennis)
Casper Gimand (Men’s Soccer)
Joseph Hartnett (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Kevin Harvey (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Lisa Hipp (Volleyball)
Tim Kazanjian (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Devon Maloney (Cheerleading)
Rob McCunney (Baseball)
Shannon McKenna (Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Mackenzie Murphy (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Julian Nagel (Men’s Soccer)
Brandon Nolan (Golf)
Anthony Pesanello (Football)
Ryan Polo (Men’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Maria Rodenberg (Volleyball)
Christina Siesta (Softball)
Kerry Sorenson (Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Michael Stalker (Men’s Soccer)
Joseph Sullivan (Football)
Megan Sullivan (Rowing)
Karina Thompson (Volleyball)
Christina Vivinetto (Women’s Track and Field/Cross Country)
Also recognized were the following that have the highest grade point average for their team:
Baseball – Ryan McNally
Men’s Basketball – Nihad Musovic
Women’s Basketball – Abigail Corning
Cheerleading – Margaret Fisher
Football – Brett Biestek
Golf – William Fitzpatrick
Rowing – Nicole Arrato
Men’s Soccer – Ryan Walsh
Women’s Soccer – Kelley Alpaugh
Softball – Michele Daubman
Squash – Ross Garlick
Men’s Swimming – Nick Belfanti
Women’s Swimming – Hailey Cox
Men’s Tennis – Matty Najfeld
Women’s Tennis – Anika Novacek
Men’s Cross Country/Track – Michael Turi
Women’s Cross Country/Track – Anisa Arsenault
Volleyball – Michele Keathley
Water Polo – Robert Wurtz
– Joe DiBari