The Gabelli School of Business welcomed its newest class to Rose Hill on Aug. 30 in an orientation that featured addresses by Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of the school; Mario Gabelli, GSB ’65; and Bill Sickles, GSB ’84.
It was the first orientation for Gabelli, the founder, chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors. The students to whom he spoke will be the first to attend the school that bears his name for all four years.
For Sickles, head for Google’s emerging sector, it was his second orientation, having welcomed the Class of 2014 to campus last year.
In her welcoming remarks, Rapaccioli noted that the students who filled Keating First make up the Gabelli School’s most talented class. Their 1260 average SAT score is higher than any other freshman contingent, and they are the first class with 40 percent of its members drawn from the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes.
Moreover, the latest class is also the first in the school’s history to feature 10 percent of its students from other countries; for the occasion, flags representing their home nations festooned the room.
“Historically, we only had a handful—1 percent in some years, 3 percent in others. But this year we’re delighted to welcome so many international students who will add to our community,” Rapaccioli said.
“You have many, many differences, but there is one thing you all have in common; you know how to make a good choice. You chose Fordham, and you chose the Gabelli School of Business,” she added. “What they say at Google applies to your quest for college: the search is over, and we truly welcome you.”
Gabelli, whose $25 million gift to Fordham last fall resulted in the University naming the school after him, encouraged the students not to be frustrated by the struggling economy. Instead, he urged them think of this as a great time to start a career. At his firm, he noted, they are always looking to hire people who are P-H-Ds—“poor, hungry and driven.”
“One of you will be the mayor of New York at some point,” Gabelli said. “One of you will be the CEO of a public company. Many of you will own your own businesses. One of you is going to come up with a great idea—like single-serve coffee,” he said.
“Everyone in this room is going to find something that they can be very creative at, and just do it. And that’s the fun part.”
In his talk, Sickles reminisced about his time at Fordham, noting that he met many of his best friends while on campus. Getting involved is crucial, he noted, recalling that he played soccer and edited The Paper.
“It sounds like fun, right? But when I went to interview, I could talk passionately about the work I did while I was at school,” Sickles said. “That was one element of how I developed my brand and the things that I felt I could bring to a company.”
Sickles also encouraged students to look for moments of truth experienced on campus that can point the way to future success.
“For you, it’s going to be a career-decision experience,” he said. “It could be your professors. It could be your fellow students. It could be when people come to campus and speak. It could be talking to graduates who have been working for a few years,” he said.
“That feedback gives you input on what you want to do. Make the effort over the next could of years to investigate and explore internships. Find out what you like; find out what you don’t like.”
Sickles sat down for a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with Frank Werner, Ph.D., associate professor of finance and economics; and Falguni Sen, Ph.D., director of the Global Healthcare Innovation Management Center and area chair of management systems.
He addressed the difficulties of holding on to the culture of a “scrappy startup” when his company has grown exponentially over the last five years, and acknowledged Google’s recent announcement that it will acquire cell phone manufacturer Motorola Mobility.
Students also peppered Sickles with questions about Google+, the company’s new social networking platform.
And what, Werner asked, did Sickles look for when hiring recent college graduates?
“It is hard to point to one thing, but overall I prefer someone who has a strong sense of his or her own direction that has been built up and learned over time,” he said.
“I am just as happy if somebody explains to me what they’ve done and tells me, ‘Yeah, I went to work for this financial company and I hated it. And I hated it for these reasons. And because of that, I went looking for something else.’”