From the Golden Rams Soiree to the family-friendly picnic on Martyrs’ Lawn to the Saturday night gala under the big tent on Edwards Parade, alumni relished the opportunity to be together and see how Rose Hill has both stayed the same and changed for the better.
The attendees spanned eight decades—from a 1944 graduate and World War II veteran who had just celebrated his 100th birthday to those marking their five-year Fordham reunion. Some brought their spouses and young children to campus for the first time. More than a few came to pay tribute to Joseph M. McShane, S.J., who is stepping down this month after 19 years as president of the University. And all were rewarded with idyllic early June weather in the Bronx.
‘A Place of Great Value’
On Saturday morning, alumni filled the Great Hall of the Joseph M. McShane, S.J. Campus Center to hear from the new building’s namesake.
Sheryl Dellapina, FCRH ’87, who traveled from the U.K. to attend her 35-year reunion, introduced Father McShane, calling him “Fordham’s most effective ambassador.” She said she first met him at an alumni gathering in London about four years ago, and “it just felt like family.”
“I came away from that thinking, ‘Wow, [Fordham] has so evolved since I had been here that I wanted to be part of this again.’” Her son is now a member of the Class of 2024, and Dellapina is one of the leaders of Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student, the University’s $350 million fundraising campaign to reinvest in all aspects of the student experience.
“I had a choice between [attending] this Jubilee” and staying in London for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations honoring Queen Elizabeth II. “I came to this one,” she said to laughter and applause from the audience.
In his address, Father McShane described the new four-story campus center as a place where “the rich diversity of our student body is very evident—commuters, resident students, students from all over the country, all over the world, all ethnicities are [here], and everyone is interacting. It is spectacular.”
He detailed some of the strategic decisions that primed Fordham’s decades-long evolution from highly regarded regional institution to national and international university. And he emphasized how Fordham has met the fiscal, enrollment, and public safety challenges of the pandemic and emerged, in the opinion of a former editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, as one of the elite universities “that are really secure, really prestigious, and therefore desirable.”
“We are now, in a certain sense, a place of great value,” Father McShane said. “I’ve known this all my life. You’ve known it all your life. Now the world more broadly knows it.”
In closing, he urged alumni to “be proud of Fordham,” to “continue to be contributors to the life of the University,” and to “take the place by storm” this weekend.
Fun, Food, and Face Painting on the Lawn
Jubilarians did just that at the all-classes picnic on Martyrs’ Lawn. The family-friendly event featured food, drinks, a DJ, games, face painting, and a caricature artist—along with plenty of grads reminiscing and making new connections.
One of the liveliest sections belonged to the Golden Rams, those celebrating 50 or more years since their Fordham graduation. At one table, Richard Calabrese and Tom McDonald, who got paired as Fordham roommates in fall 1968 and have been friends ever since, reflected on what made them so compatible. “We were both not high-maintenance people,” McDonald said with a smile.
At a neighboring table, Maurice Harris—who was careful to clarify that he graduated in January 1973—talked about the way Fordham helped him turn his life around. After growing up in public housing in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, he enrolled at Fordham College at Rose Hill in 1968 and, shortly afterward, started working as a nurse’s aide at the nearby Fordham Hospital.
Although he had trouble balancing classwork and the job at first, a doctor at the hospital convinced him that he should apply to medical school. Despite thinking that he didn’t stand a chance of getting in, he was accepted to SUNY Downstate Medical School in Brooklyn and, three years later, to the Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, where he eventually became an assistant professor of medicine and practiced cardiology for more than four decades.
“I come up [to Jubilee] every five years. Fordham changed me,” Harris said, adding that for those like him who grew up in tough circumstances, “when you came and ran into the Jesuits, they set you straight.”
One 25th-reunion table featured a group of friends from the Class of 1997—several of whom drove down together from Boston.
“Being on this campus this time of year is second to none,” said Lisa Bell, FCRH ’97, who majored in communication and media studies and works as a public relations professional in the Boston area. “It’s gorgeous, and it’s so great to see all the new developments.”
Looking around at the group of friends sitting around her, she added, “Fordham has been so beneficial—not only the education but our network, the friendships.”
For Michelle and Regis Zamudio, Harlem residents who met during their senior year in 2010, got married in the University Church, and recently welcomed their third child together, getting the chance to bring their kids to campus and to see friends felt particularly special after missing out on the chance to celebrate their 10th reunion in 2020.
“We went to our five-year Jubilee in 2015, and we keep in touch with a lot of our classmates from freshman year,” said Regis, a Gabelli School of Business graduate who majored in finance and works as a vice president of operations for Elara Caring. “When our reunion was canceled two years ago, we were really bummed out that we wouldn’t have the experience to bring the kids to.”
Michelle, who majored in communication and media studies and is a writer and producer for A&E Networks, echoed her husband’s sentiments.
“We were really looking forward to seeing all our friends from Fordham,” she said. “So now, being able to come back, it just feels good to bring our kids and show them where we met, where we fell in love, where we got married. It’s really special to be here.”
Cherishing Lifelong Connections at the Golden Rams Soiree
Like the Zamudio family, Jack Walton, FCRH ’72, was eager to catch up with old friends. He did just that at Friday evening’s Golden Rams Dinner and Soiree. This year’s event officially welcomed the Classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972.
Although Walton has stayed in touch with many of his classmates by coming to past Jubilees and participating in a Facebook group dedicated to the Class of 1972, seeing folks in person as Golden Rams was different, he said.
“It’s fulfilling to have gotten this far and to see so many of the guys and gals that I grew up with in the late ‘60s and very early ‘70s,” he said.
For Gabe Vitalone, FCRH ’44, this year marked 28 years since he became a Golden Ram. On May 31, just three days before the dinner, he celebrated his 100th birthday. A World War II veteran and a longtime fixture at Jubilee, Vitalone has continued to accomplish extraordinary things well into his 90s, even singing the national anthem for the New York Yankees in 2020.
It was slightly bittersweet for him and his wife, Evelyn, to return to Jubilee after a two-year absence, he said, because for the past three decades, they were joined by his best friend, Matteo “Matty” Roselli, FCRH ’44, who died in 2020. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be here. But I almost said, ‘Look, that’s enough, now’s the time [to stop coming], now that Matty passed away. And then I thought of Father McShane,” he said. “I wanted to say goodbye.”
Toni DiMarie Potenza, TMC ’72, GSE ’73, and Alice Dostal-Higgins, TMC ’72, GSAS ’84, became fast friends early on in their time at Thomas More College, Fordham’s undergraduate school for women from 1964 to 1974. They met by virtue of alphabetical seating that placed them next to each other and went on to become roommates and fellow psychology majors. They also each earned a master’s degree from Fordham and, upon graduation, entered the teaching field.
Potenza, who had flown in from Chicago, said she found herself surprised to be in the ranks of the Golden Rams.
“I think as you get older, the person that you are, even when you were in your 20s, is still there and you don’t really see that you have changed,” she said. “So, it’s very surprising to realize that 50 years have gone by.”
Higgins said it was tough to pin down a few memorable moments of their time as undergrads.
“You know, it was every moment together,” she said. “It was having coffee in the morning before going to classes and then having to run out the door to get to classes on time. It was talking about the classes that we took together and experiences that we laugh about that we won’t talk about now,” she added laughing.
The Brave Women of TMC
More of Thomas More College’s trailblazing women reunited for a luncheon in the McShane Center on Saturday afternoon. Linda LoSchiavo, TMC ’72, director of the Fordham University Libraries, called TMC the University’s “great experiment” and described its earliest students as “the bravest of us all.”
“TMC was born on the cusp of societal changes and upheavals—the fight for women’s equality, civil rights, gay rights: They were all raging while we were studying for finals,” she said.
Introducing Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, LoSchiavo noted just how far Fordham women have come. Today, “four of the nine deans of schools are women and, in less than one month, Fordham will have its first layperson and first woman as president,” she said, referring to Tania Tetlow, J.D., whose tenure begins on July 1.
Mast, the first woman to serve as dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, thanked the TMC alumnae for paving the way, whether they meant to or not. “You may have come to Fordham saying, ‘I’m going to be a trailblazer.’ You may not have. But either way, you were.”
For Marie-Suzanne Niedzielska, Ph.D., TMC ’69, GSAS ’79, the prospect of reconnecting with women from other class years is what drew her to Jubilee this year.
A retired IT professional who splits her time between Central Florida and Glastonbury, Connecticut, Niedzielska remembers having a wonderful academic experience amid the tumult of the Vietnam War and social unrest. “It really colored the whole thing,” she said, before noting that each generation has its challenges, and perhaps attending college during tumultuous times is “not as unusual as it seems.”
Unusual or not, she said she is impressed by what Fordham students are accomplishing these days.
“I just went to the Student Managed Investment Fund presentation,” she said, referring to the Gabelli School of Business program that gives junior and senior finance students an opportunity to invest $2 million of the University’s endowment. “I’m just really impressed with the way that’s set up, with the lab, with what the students did, and what a leg up they get.
“In our time, an internship was just sort of a part-time job. It wasn’t a launchpad, and that’s a big difference.”
—Video shot by Taylor Ha and Tom Stoelker and edited by Lisa-Anna Maust.
Growing Up Fordham
Elsewhere in the McShane Center, about 50 graduates from the Class of 1972 met for an interactive chat titled “Growing Up Fordham: Risks and Challenges That Paid Off.” Psychologists John Clabby Jr., FCRH ’72, and Mary Byrne, TMC ’72, helped facilitate the discussion, and Bob Daleo, GABELLI ’72, chair of Fordham’s Board of Trustees, was also in attendance.
Daleo talked about the many changes that have taken place at Fordham over the years, from the additional buildings on campus and the much more diverse student body to the fact that all students are now “natives of a digital world.” He added that, while the University has seen much change in the past 50 years, “Fordham is still a place in which cura personalis is practiced every day by every member of the faculty and staff.”
Urging his classmates to remain engaged in both small and large ways, Daleo drew their attention to campus greenery of all things.
“The beautiful elms on this campus are hundreds of years old,” he said. “They were planted by people who knew they would never see the trees in their full grandeur. Fellow classmates, I believe that is our calling: to nurture an institution [that] will continue to flower long after we’re gone.”
Celebrating Alumni Achievement
One of the ways in which the University flourishes is through the lives and accomplishments of alumni. And on Saturday afternoon, three Marymount College graduates were recognized by their peers.
Maryann Barry, MC ’82, the CEO at Girls Scouts of Citrus in Florida, received the Alumna of Achievement Award, which recognizes a woman who has excelled in her profession and is a recognized leader in her field.
The Golden Dome Award went to Maryjo Lanzillotta, MC ’85, a biosafety officer at Yale University, in recognition of her commitment to advancing Marymount College, which was part of Fordham from 2002 to 2007, when it closed.
Lanzillotta spoke to her former classmates about the satisfaction of giving to the Marymount Legacy Fund (an endowed scholarship fund that supports Fordham students who carry on the Marymount tradition), and of witnessing the joy on a recipient’s face when they receive the award.
Lastly, Mary Anne Clark, MC ’77, accepted the Gloria Gaines Memorial Award, Marymount’s highest alumnae honor, which is given to a graduate for service to one’s church, community, and the college. Knowles said she was genuinely surprised to receive the award.
“It just shows that sometimes it’s enough to be kind to others and always give back whatever way you can,” she said. “You don’t have to build big libraries; you can go feed someone at the homeless shelter.”
At Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony, a Tribute to Seven Fordham Luminaries
Celebrating alumni achievement is par for the Jubilee course, but this year, for the first time since 2011, the festivities included a Hall of Honor induction ceremony.
Three Fordham graduates were inducted posthumously: Reginald T. Brewster, LAW ’50, a Tuskegee Airman who fought against racism and inequality; Jim Dwyer, FCRH ’79, a journalist and author who earned two Pulitzer Prizes; and Herb Granath, FCRH ’54, GSAS ’55, an Emmy Award-winning TV executive who was chairman emeritus of ESPN.
Also among the honorees were two beloved Fordham educators—Elizabeth A. Johnson, C.S.J., distinguished professor emerita of theology; and Peter B. Vaughan, former dean of the Graduate School of Social Service.
They were honored at the ceremony alongside Jack Keane, GABELLI ’66, a retired four-star general and former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army; and Joe Moglia, FCRH ’71, former CEO and chairman of TD Ameritrade, and former head football coach and current executive director for football at Coastal Carolina University.
“Here you have on display the greatness of Fordham,” Father McShane said at the Saturday evening ceremony, held outside Cunniffe House, the Rose Hill home of the Hall of Honor. “The thread, I think, that joins all of our recipients today is character—men and women of character—and this is something that Fordham rejoices in.” Turning to the inductees, he added: “We will point to you when we want to tell students who we want them to imitate, what we want them to become.”
Ringing in the Gala
After a full day of mini-reunions, luncheons, and fun on the lawn, Jubilarians of all ages united Saturday evening under a big tent on Eddies Parade for the Jubilee Gala.
Phil Cicione, FCRH ’87, PAR ’18, president of the Fordham Alumni Chapter of Long Island, had the honor of kicking off the evening’s celebration with something new: the ringing the Victory Bell. Typically rung by students to celebrate athletic victories and signal the start of the annual commencement ceremony, on Saturday night, it doubled as a dinner bell.
The gala also served as an opportunity to celebrate the generosity of the Fordham alumni community: This year’s reunion classes raised more than $11.2 million in the past year; an additional $1.8 million and $1.1 million were raised in 2021 and 2020, respectively, by the reunion classes who missed their in-person gatherings due to the pandemic. All of the money raised supports the University’s Cura Personalis campaign.
A Fitting Jubilee Mass
Shortly before the gala, Father McShane, who was presiding over his final Jubilee Mass as Fordham’s president, told the alumni gathered in the University Church that it was “fitting” for Jubilee to coincide with Pentecost.
“All weekend, we’ve been celebrating in quiet and also boisterous ways the many gifts that God has given to us, as a result of him sending his spirit to be among us and filling our hearts with deep love and great gratitude,” he said.
Alumni participated in the Mass in a variety of ways, including carrying banners representing their class year and serving as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and gift bearers. For one alumnus, Dennis Baker, S.J., FCRH ’02, GSAS ’09, participating in Mass meant giving the homily.
Father Baker, who was celebrating his 20-year reunion, said that after Father McShane asked him to deliver the homily, he told his group of Fordham friends, and they provided a “flood of advice” on what he should say. “At least they considered it advice, I think,” he said with a laugh.
After gathering suggestions that included taking part of a homily from a friend’s wedding, sharing stories of trips up Fordham Road, or using an old sign from a local hangout as a prop, Father Baker said he began thinking about the celebration of Pentecost and how it relates to his time at Fordham with his friends.
“This weekend, the worldwide church celebrates Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles,” he said. “And I think it’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that the same dynamic happened to my friends and to me during our time at Fordham. I think the same is true of you and your classmates as well.”
Father Baker said that Fordham “helped him better understand the gifts of the Holy Spirit in my life. Maybe that’s true for you too.” Those gifts include wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe, he said.
“The love of God is so powerful, and so real. I think we got to see a glimpse of it when we were young men and women here.”