From Fordham to Africa and Back: Alumna Wins 2015 Swanstrom-Baerwald Award

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A Fordham alumna who has traveled the globe working with the world’s sickest and poorest was honored on March 4 for her longtime service in the field of international development.

Photo by Dana Maxson

Photo by Dana Maxson

Sarah Weber, GSAS ’05, received the 2015 Swanstrom-Baerwald Award for Excellence during a special ceremony held at in Rose Hill’s Keating Hall. The biennial award—of which Weber is only the fourth recipient—recognizes members of the Fordham community who demonstrate stellar commitment to the service of faith and the promotion of international peace and justice.

Weber, a graduate of Fordham’s International Political Economy and Development (IPED) program, was honored for her work at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in support of the Global Fund for AIDS, TB, and malaria. Her work to secure three grants totaling more than $65 million has helped to distribute 450 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets in Africa to protect families against malaria.

Her service with the Global Fund is just the most recent instance of her international development career, which spans close to 20 years. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to Botswana after graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in 1997; served with the Peace Corps in Côte d’Ivoire; conducted a microfinance internship in Mali while in the IPED program; and has worked with CRS in Ghana, in post-conflict Liberia, and in Benin.

“You have to be an optimist if you want to stay in the field of international development for the long haul,” Weber told an audience of dignitaries, students, peers, and her former teachers.

She said one of the challenges of humanitarian work is “investing everything you have” into a project with no way of knowing whether you’ll get the results you’d hoped for.

“You want to do the right thing, and the people you’re working with want to do the right thing,” she said. “But when it comes to actually making that thing happen, you don’t always know if it’s going to work.”

From left, Henry Schwalbenberg, director of the IPED program, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Sarah Weber, Michelle Broemmelsiek, and Joseph M. McShane, SJ

From left, Henry Schwalbenberg, director of the IPED program, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Sarah Weber, Michelle Broemmelsiek, and Joseph M. McShane, SJ.
Photo by Dana Maxson

Weber works at CRS’ headquarters in Baltimore, providing technical support to CRS country teams around the world that are furthering public health.

Joining the ceremony were: Joseph M. McShane, SJ, president of Fordham; Archbishop Bernadito Auza, the Apostolic Nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Archbishop of New York; and Michelle Broemmelsiek, executive vice president of CRS for overseas operations.

At a dinner following the award ceremony the Father John F. Hurley, SJ Commendation was presented to Irene Baldwin, FCRH ’83, for her work in support of CRS. Also recognized were two Cardinal McCarrick travel fellows—Elvin Rivera and James Sheridan, both of St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.

The Swanstrom-Baerwald Award honors the memory of Friedrich Baerwald, PhD, former professor of economics, and Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom, FCRH ’24, GSAS ’38, a student of Baerwald’s and the founder of CRS.

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