Joe Cirillo: Parent and Mentor

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“I have yet to find a college campus nicer than Fordham Rose Hill,” says Joe Cirillo, GABELLI ’82. So he was surprised when his daughter, Clare, decided to attend Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

“I really fell on the floor. But when I took her to visit the Lincoln Center campus, with all the sirens, and the horns beeping, and the drilling in the street, and everything going on, she loved it. It was music to her ears.”

Though they thrive in two very different environments, Cirillo says that “we both love our Fordham experiences.”

“I loved throwing myself in the grass and lounging on Eddies Parade. She’s a city person who needs action all the time. But it’s still Fordham—it’s the same supportive people, the same outstanding classes, the same community.”

Case in point: both Cirillo and his daughter, now a senior, are members of the Fordham Mentoring Program. When Fordham’s various mentoring programs were combined and relaunched in 2012, Cirillo was one of the first to sign up.

“When the University asked if I would want to mentor current Fordham students, I said, ‘Absolutely, I’m in!’”

Cirillo is particularly excited about the program because he credits Fordham’s alumni connections with launching his own business career. When an IBM executive and Fordham alumnus came to campus looking for interns during Cirillo’s junior year, he says, “I went to meet him, heard him speak for an hour in Freeman Hall, submitted my resume, and three days later I got an offer.”

The internship at IBM was Cirillo’s first professional accounting job. He is now a vice president and chief accounting officer for a consumer products company.

“A resume isn’t built in a day,” he says, “and mine started at Fordham, with the wonderful professors and that internship that came from an alum.”

Now he is offering to provide the same kind of advice and support to current Fordham students.

Each year, Cirillo is matched with a Gabelli School student who has applied and been accepted into the mentoring program. “I hear myself in them,” he says. “And I always tell them: ‘Make your mistakes with me. Don’t make them on an interview or in business.’”

And, last year, his daughter joined the program as a mentee. A communications major and part-time model with her own fashion blog, Clare was paired with Andrea Heaney, FCRH ’07, a marketing professional.

“As a college student you don’t always get to connect with people in your potential future field. The program really gives you a feel for your industry and gives you a one-up against other college kids,” says Clare. “And I think it will help me combine my modeling experience, my major, and my blog so I can do something bigger and more collaborative after graduation.”

At this past spring’s Mentor Appreciation Dinner, Cirillo and his mentee sat at the same table as Clare and her mentor. “It doesn’t get better than that,” says Cirillo.

Clare agrees. “My dad and I are super close. And it’s cool that we have these Fordham and Jesuit values in common. I had to explain to people at the table that he wasn’t my mentor; he is my dad.”

When the pair left the Lincoln Center campus after dinner that evening, Clare hailed a cab for her father. “He’s not the biggest city person,” says Clare, “so the roles sometimes reverse. I kind of show him the reins with that, and he shows me around the Rose Hill campus.”

When in Manhattan, Cirillo says, “I have to follow her lead. She’s a real New York City girl.”

But he thinks the mentoring program will help his daughter jumpstart her career the same way Fordham once helped him.

“And, you know, it’s very typical of Fordham,” he says. “Fordham alumni do things like this—they’re caring, they love the school, and they don’t forget.”

 

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