The ceremony, which took place in the McGinley Center’s student lounge, brought together about 400 students, faculty, administrators, friends and families, who sat on three sides of a stage.
Speaking to graduating seniors at the McGinley Center Ballroom, Dean Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., implored them to remember the helpers in their lives. The notion that one can be successful all on their own is a lie, she said.
It’s also useful to remember organizational psychologist Adam Grant’s theory that people are generally givers, takers, or matchers, she said. We vacillate between the three at different points in the day, but in general, those who gravitate toward one specific model are more successful.
“In business, you might think it’s the takers: Hard-charging, take-no-prisoners types who pull themselves to the top no matter what. Or you might think it’s the matchers: People who master the delicate negotiation of ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours.’ But it’s not. It’s the givers,” she said.
Their accomplishments are many, including jobs at the likes of Barclays, BlackRock, J.P. Morgan Chase, Blackstone, Amazon, Instagram, Adobe, BBDO, Nike, and all of the Big Four accounting firms, and Rapaccioli lauded them for being supportive of each other in hard times. Deep down, Gabelli School graduates are givers, she said.
“You have completed four years at a business school that is caring, not cutthroat. You have learned to use your business skills to advance society and the plight of others. You are interested not only in a great salary and a great apartment, but in doing something that adds good to the world,” she said.
Caroline Dahlgren, GABELLI ’11, recipient of the Alumnus of the Year Award, echoed that refrain, telling graduates that it’s now their turn to help each other. That’s how she connected with Tiffany & Co., where she is currently manager of global consumer insights, she said.
“Fordham said yes to you when you were accepted, and along the way, professors, deans, mentors, peers, coaches, parents, and maybe even some alumni said yes to you,” she said.
“But I ask now that no matter how busy you are, to find the tiniest block of time for that Fordham student who inevitably reaches out to you. Now you might say, ‘I can’t hire them, I can’t give them profound career advice—I just graduated.’ That may be true. But I ask that you not be afraid to impart even the smallest nugget of wisdom and experience with them. Its valuable. That’s the beauty of the Fordham community. We can support each other even in seemingly small ways.”
Gastaldi, a finance and marketing major who minored in fashion studies and was a member of the women’s soccer team, compared her acceptance to Fordham to the U.S. welcoming her parents from Argentina 20 years ago. Her parents, she said, taught her the value of embracing the unknown with that move.
“Through hard work and dedication, they opened a world of opportunities for me and my three brothers. Whenever I had even the wildest of dreams, you always had my back and pushed me to do everything to my fullest potion,” she said, pausing to address her mother in back of the McGinley Center ballroom.
“Mom, please don’t cry.”
A “passion for fashion” that she had since she was a little girl, walking around in pink plastic high heels, led her to Fordham.
“I knew that my future was in New York. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I packed my bags, made the switch, and reported for preseason in August of 2016,” she said.
“In the same way that the United States welcomed my family, Fordham University and Fordham athletics took me in when I transferred to the Bronx from the University of Georgia, just after my freshman year, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.”
For Lichtmann, an accounting major who commuted two hours to campus from New Jersey and is pursuing an M.S. in public accounting at the Gabelli School, his time was bittersweet, tinged with the sudden loss of his mother right before Christmas his sophomore year. He was devastated, and unsure he’d be able to return to Fordham, he said.
“However, I kept faith that God would guide her safely to heaven, and I learned to trust the people around me to help adjust to my new lifestyle. I decided that I had to work harder and focus even more on school so I could make her proud,” he said.
Lichtmann was able to maintain a sense of humor as well. He joked that he was not really in any position to tell anyone what to think, because he only got to be on stage “because I was able to balance debits and credits for four years.”
“What I can tell you is, people will remember you for your actions. Opening the door for a stranger, greeting a co-worker with a hello—kindness and respect are contagious. At the end of the day, knowledge is power, but how you use that knowledge to affect lives of others is even more power,” he said.
“I hope to see a future where accountability is a virtue, dreams can become a reality through hard work, and people choose cooperation and collaboration over division.”
Capstone student awards include the Alumni Chair Award, which was given to Maxwell Lynch, the Mozilo Future Distinguished Alumnus Award, which was given to Morgan Mezzasalma, and the Dean’s Award, which was given to Amanda D’Antone.
In addition to recognizing dozens of students from the Gabelli School at Rose Hill with awards throughout the evening, the event also celebrated faculty contributions. The Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence for full-time faculty went to Stanley Veliotis, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting and taxation; the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence for adjunct faculty went to Linda Luca, adjunct professor of marketing; the Faculty Cura Personalis Award went to Nancy McCarthy, lecturer of communications and management; and the Faculty Magis Award went to Barbara Porco, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of accounting.