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Bonded by Volunteerism: Five Questions with the Freemans

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A few months after Antoinette Mirsberger Freeman and Trevor Freeman met at a Fordham Young Alumni Committee meeting in 2004, the two Gabelli School graduates had their first date—a weekday lunch at a Chinese restaurant near their Midtown Manhattan offices. “Today I would call it an informational interview,” Antoinette jokes.

They were married in 2007. Though they never overlapped at Fordham—Trevor graduated in 1999 and Antoinette in 2003—they agree that there was a comfort in being with someone who “shared the same passion and pride for the place we attended college.” In fact, for their second date they chose to see Man on Fire. “The reason,” says Trevor, “is because Denzel Washington [the film’s star]went to Fordham!”

“Trevor was the first person I met who understood the importance of my staying connected to Fordham and my high school volunteer work,” Antoinette says. “People wearing ‘F’ hats and shirts are popular in our lives.”

Fordham Beginnings

The couple first came to Fordham from opposite coasts. An Astoria native, Antoinette says the University has always been a presence in her life. She grew up knowing family members, neighbors, and teachers who are Fordham alumni. But it wasn’t until she toured the Rose Hill campus during her senior year of high school that “I knew I’d found my home,” she says.

“At Fordham, I was not just a number but an actual person,” says Antoinette, who commuted to campus. When her parents would pick her up at the Bathgate Avenue entrance, Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., then president of Fordham, “would come over to say hello and have a conversation,” she recalls. “I don’t think presidents at other schools do that.”

Growing up in Novato, California, Trevor didn’t know much about Fordham until he was recruited for the water polo team. Now a managing director at Signature Bank, he says that Fordham “turned out to be a tremendous call” in terms of his experience as a student-athlete, financial aid support, and an education that “set me up for success in the world of finance.”

Giving Back

Antoinette with Trevor, who dressed up as Santa Claus for many Young Alumni Committee Christmas parties, in 2005

Together and individually, Antoinette and Trevor have spent a lot of time supporting Fordham causes. They were both longtime active members of the Young Alumni Committee—an advisory and programming board for graduates of the past 10 years—and advised students through the Fordham Mentoring Program. Trevor still supports the water polo team. And together they’ve supported HEOP, the Ailey/Fordham BFA in Dance program, and Founder’s scholarship students; participated on Jubilee reunion class committees; and supported several athletics programs.

A newer family tradition is attending Fordham games on campus as well as regional alumni chapter events around California, on Long Island, and in Westchester with their daughter, 3-year-old Aria. Antoinette is a self-employed accountant who works from home to be with her.

“I know how important it is to help our future leaders of tomorrow, and I love volunteering with people and collaborating to improve,” Antoinette says. 

Shared Roots

Besides being passionate about similar causes, the couple shares a certain Fordham mentality that they say brings strength to their marriage.

“A Jesuit education and the Fordham experience definitely provides us with a core of our relationship. We choose to live and lead by example,” Antoinette says. “Marriage is a mix of individual and teamwork. That’s why I say you should find ‘the partner,’ because ‘the one’ is not realistic. Find someone who supports you, helps you be happy, and is open to you and the inevitable change that happens.”

Trevor agrees. “I think one of our strengths is that we both realize when something is important to the other person, and we support that,” he says.

“Plus, we are both big Star Wars and Marvel fans.” 

 

What are you most passionate about?

Antoinette and Aria dressed as superheroes

Antoinette: I love being a mom to a toddler. I recognize that I’m her role model, even her caped crusader—sometimes I wear a cape! I set an example for her in the only way I was taught—through volunteerism and advocacy work on social justice projects. It’s the change for the greater good. Yes, I’m also an accountant. But I say I do accounting for fun and my real job is volunteering. I like knowing that Aria can look back and see results of what I did to make the world better for her generation.

Trevor: I’m most passionate about my daughter, Aria. The best part of my week is watching her progress in swimming, and now mixed martial arts. She is only 3 and has been promoted into a swim class with 5-year-olds! She has zero fear of the water and can already swim about five yards by herself if I let her go. If I tie a noodle around her, she can swim an entire length in a 25-yard pool.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Antoinette: Jeff Gray, my former work-study boss at Fordham [who is now senior vice president for student affairs], once told me that sometimes when you become overwhelmed by everything happening, you focus on one thing and forget to see how things work and affect each other—the big and little pieces. You need to learn to step back and then look in at the big picture, he said. Only then can you fully see what you are missing.

Trevor: My junior year of high school, my water polo coach told me that a big shot is just a little shot who kept shooting. I know it is a famous quote [by writer Christopher Morley], but that was the first time I had ever heard it. Playing sports teaches you a lot of things, but for me the most important is to never be scared to shoot your shot.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
Antoinette: In New York, it’s Rockefeller Center and the tree. I’m probably biased since it’s where my first full-time role was after graduating from Fordham. It’s also where my husband picked me up for our first lunch date. It’s a place that everyone in the world is drawn to visit. Now we take our daughter to visit the tree annually. It’s a nod to how places that are so chaotic or crowded can still be symbols of faith in the holidays, togetherness, and our own true wish that something better will come in the next year.

My favorite spot in the world is walking the beach and watching the sunset in Waikiki. They have fireworks on Friday nights at the Hilton Hawaiian, and I think it’s gorgeous to sit in the sand and watch the waves hitting the beach while the cool air gently blows. Trevor’s grandparents lived there for more than 30 years, and we would go every summer when we first got married. Hopefully we’ll return this fall for the Fordham football game.

Trevor: My favorite places in New York are Astoria and Fordham. Both places just kill it from a restaurant standpoint. I would say that Bahari Estiatorio in Astoria is hands down the best Greek restaurant on the planet, and Omonia is the best bakery in New York City; its baklava cheesecake is ridiculous. Fordham obviously always means a lot to me. I love the campus; it just always seems warm and inviting. Being a water polo player, the uniqueness of having a 38-meter pool is now something I smile about as well. Most pools are either 25-yard short-courses or 50-meter long-courses. NCAA Division I and international water polo are played at 30 meters, so Fordham’s unique pool still works.

Like Antoinette, my favorite spot outside of New York is Hawaii, specifically Waikiki. My Oma and Opa lived there for basically my entire childhood and through my early adult years. Perfection is sitting with a Mai Tai in the beautiful Hawaiian sun!

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
Antoinette: Gone with the Wind shows how you can go from rich to poor, poor to rich, but still have faith and a fire within to excel. Life is full of trials and tribulations. It’s not life if you can’t take the ups and downs. It takes perseverance to stay focused and overcome in order to build or rebuild. You always need to be able to self-reflect and be grateful for who and what you have in your life. Sadly, Scarlett was not able to find balance between work and life. She was always focused on someone else, but he was not worth all of the effort she spent trying to win his love. Scarlett had everything and lost the one who loved her the most. But with conviction, she concludes that she will get him back.

Trevor: I read a lot of books, but this is a tough question. It’s not my favorite, but the book I read as a kid and read again recently that probably stuck with me the most is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I think as you rise up the ladder, it’s important to keep the lessons that Dickens tried to impart in the back of your head.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Antoinette: Joseph Cammarosano, longtime professor of economics. He taught us that “it’s not about making a living, but making a life worth living.” He helped New York state create the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) for academically and economically disadvantaged students, an invaluable program to those who qualify. I credit much of my passion for volunteerism, philanthropic efforts, and even political focus, especially in education, to Dr. C’s teaching. I don’t think you can get more Jesuit than him inspiring others to follow the core principle of men and women for and with others. I also love and admire Donna Rapaccioli [now dean of the Gabelli School], not just as my former accounting professor but for the exemplary woman she is ethically and for all of the amazing relationships and advancements she has created and continues to grow (work in progress). I hope to see more women in business, especially finance!

Trevor: Another tough question. My favorite professor at Fordham was a history professor named Robert Jones. While my concentration was finance, I have always loved history. I think I took all of my electives in classes that he taught.

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