Typically held in person in Manhattan, this year’s event celebrated Ram of the Year Mark Di Giorgio, GABELLI ’87, ’93, and Trailblazer award recipient Muhammad Hassan Sarwar, GABELLI ’14. The reception, held to honor not just these two award winners but all alumni volunteers, was organized by the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA).
Michael Griffin, associate vice president for alumni relations, said the event engaged alumni “as one Fordham with the knowledge and conviction that this will make us a better and stronger institution.”
The reception kicked off with a song from the Satin Dolls, a student a cappella group, and a blessing from the alumni chaplain, Damian O’Connell, S.J., FCRH ’70. And throughout the event, alumni chimed in to read Fordham-themed trivia questions and select random numbers for prizes to be raffled off to attendees.
When Di Giorgio accepted his award—which he said arrived at his California home just minutes before he joined the event—he expressed his surprise and gratitude at receiving the honor. “It’s humbling to receive this award, and it’s not mine alone,” he said. “I share this with all the other nominees. They’re ambassadors of Fordham, so to be selected out of that group is something that I cherish.”
He thanked the other members of the Northern California alumni chapter, of which he is president, as well as his wife and daughter for graciously sharing him and his time as he runs the chapter and its events.
Sarwar thanked his family, friends, and alumna Morgan Vazquez, FCRH ’13, the very first Trailblazer award winner, as he accepted his award. He said it was a long, nonlinear journey from his native Pakistan to Fordham Road, but “I believe that it was divine intervention—it was fate—that led me to Fordham University.”
He credits the University with enabling him and his family to advance socially and economically, “and it is because of that that I have dedicated myself to help spread access to education, both back in Pakistan as well as here,” he said. More than helping to expand access to education, Sarwar said he specifically champions a Fordham education for its Ignatian values and dedication to cura personalis, or care of the whole person.
Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., GABELLI ’83, dean of the Gabelli School of Business, said she was “proud of both Mark and Muhammed,” both of whom are Gabelli School graduates.
“Mark, you highlighted love and your love of the University,” she said. “I hope you feel the love coming back at you because … I have many, many stories of alumni who are out in California and you welcome them, and make them feel a part of something.”
Congratulating Sarwar, she said it felt like just yesterday that he was a first-year student. “I was proud of you from the day I met you, but I was sitting here and I was glowing as I listened to … how you’ve grown and all that you do.”
Rapaccioli also offered attendees an update on the Gabelli School, which marked its centennial in 2020, a celebration that continues this year with ongoing virtual events regionally throughout the U.S., as well as worldwide.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, also lent his congratulations, highlighting Di Giorgio’s spirit and Muhammed’s soul being “all in” to the Fordham community, even beyond graduation.
“Fordham is a moveable feast,” he said. “You bring Fordham with you. You make its values present. You embody our greatest aspirations, and you do so with grace and effortless ease. I can’t tell you how proud I am of you, how grateful I am to you, for embodying everything we stand for and everything we’ve committed ourselves to.”