This year’s Lord of the Manor, Jay Izzo, followed tradition by delivering a satiric sendup of all things Fordham, along with a few gentle jabs at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and a heartfelt goodbye to his fellow classmates.
“Fordham has always been a very welcoming place,” Izzo said, referencing a welcoming ceremony for first-year students that left him petrified.
“Let me paint the scene for you: We’re all standing there by Keating, this tall gothic building bathed in a deep red light,” he recalled. “What could be more welcoming to a group of freshmen who just left mommy and daddy for their first night away from home?”
In her remarks to classmates, co-valedictorian Maja Soto recalled a similarly harrowing first night.
“I was curled up in bed in Martyrs crying on the phone to my mom and asking her if I could transfer. I just felt so far from home,” she said, adding that she’d probably be crying that evening, though for different reasons.
“Tonight is my very last night at Fordham and after tonight, you’ll probably find me exactly where I started, curled up in bed crying on the phone to my mom, but this time I’ll be telling her I never want to leave.”
Soto’s co-valedictorian, Molly Henschke, recalled that the initial stages of the pandemic, noting that they “felt as daunting and unknown as the virus itself.”
“I found myself missing the home I had built here at Fordham with all of you, the people who had made that home feel full,” she said.
Even when she returned, she said, the situation was far from normal.
“We logged on to courses at Eddies and had freezing outdoor picnics in February,” said. “Needless to say, a very different New York than expected became our campus.”
She said that it wasn’t until this school year that the class returned to a full-fledged campus experience.
“We have had the unique opportunity to experience a premature homecoming,” she said, adding that the experiences have prepared her and her classmates. “The world we are entering into is very different than when we started. There will be countless challenges, tests, and tribulations waiting for us, but there will also be moments of joy, accomplishments, and pride.”
In her dean’s valedictory address, Maura Mast, Ph.D., gave students some final homework that directly addressed the challenge that lie ahead.=
“My assignment is simple. I ask that you do good and be well.”
She then clarified the distinctions between doing great, doing good, and being well.
“Doing great is all well and good, but doing good is what’s really great. And here’s why. When you focus on doing great things, you focus on yourself, not others. But when you focus on others that’s when you do good.”
She said that by caring for their community, students will find ways big and small to work with others to do good, such as being an anti-racist.
“I challenge you to think of what you can do every day to disrupt racism in our society, in our country, in our world,” she said to great applause.
She then cited four apostolic preferences put forth by the Society of Jesus in 2019 as a roadmap for students to do good, saving the first preference for last in her presentation.
First, in her order, was to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.
“Justice comes from love, not the other way around,” she said. “Walk with them learn their truth and walk with them to do good.”
The second preference she noted was “to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.” But as they themselves are still somewhat young, she charged the students to promote the dignity of young people, by lifting up their own voices, finding ways to build community, and expanding opportunities for those with less.
The third preference, she told them, was to “collaborate in the care of our Common Home.”
“When we harm the Earth we jeopardize the future of young people,” she said. “Climate change is violence. It is destructive to the Earth and its people. Care for creation with little actions,” she said.
She closed with the first of the preferences: “To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.” She said that by way of discernment students can make sure that they are well.
“Be well,” she said. “You need to be well if you want to do good,” she said.