Mo Osman, FCRH ’14, received the Trailblazer Award, which recognizes a graduate from the past 10 years whose leadership is an inspiration to their fellow alumni, and Jack Walton, FCRH ’72, and Jeanette Walton, TMC ’71, GSAS ’73, shared in the Ram of the Year Award as alumni who enhance the reputation of the University through their professional achievements, personal accomplishments, and loyal service to Fordham. They’re the first duo to be so honored.
The event marked the third biennial awards ceremony hosted by the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA), a dues-free group established in 2017 to unite alumni from all of Fordham’s schools. As alumni and guests mingled in the Penn Club’s second-floor ballroom, they were treated to the mellow sounds of the Fordham Lincoln Center Jazz Ensemble, playing from a small overhead balcony.
The Wednesday evening event featured a few firsts, too: It was the first time the reception was held in the landmark Beaux-Arts building that houses the Penn Club, which Fordham alumni and employees are now eligible to join. And it was the first FUAA reception for Fordham’s new president, Tania Tetlow, who has been busy on the road since last August, meeting with alumni across the U.S. and abroad. Alumni have been getting to know her on home turf, too: At homecoming last year, Sally Benner, chair of the FUAA Advisory Board, moderated a fireside-style chat with the president.
At the reception, Tetlow said that it’s a blessing to be able to look at the alumni community and see what Fordham “students will someday become.” She thanked attendees for the “lives of integrity that you have led, the impact you have had on the world, and the ways that you have mattered. It’s such a joy to know what these seeds we plant will become.”
Similarly, Michael Griffin, associate vice president for alumni relations and executive director of the FUAA, told attendees that his goal is to “engage as many of you as possible in a relationship that’s lifelong and meaningful.”
Education as a Gateway into Society
Upon receiving the Ram of the Year Award, Jeannette Walton said she and her husband, Jack, were “humbled to have been selected” by their peers, and they accepted the honor “in the name of all the alumni who worked so hard for Fordham and to support the students there.” She added that they have been devoted to Fordham for so long because they believe that education is important “not just for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren, but for every student who wants to learn and become a productive member of society.”
The Waltons met in the Fordham yearbook office during the late 1960s, when she was enrolled at Thomas More College (then Fordham’s liberal arts school for women), he at Fordham College at Rose Hill. She grew up in the Bronx, he in Ohio; she had a career in medical research, he in finance. In the ‘70s, they were married, and they’ve stayed close to Fordham through the years: Two of their three sons—Robert, GABELLI ’01, and Andrew, FCRH ’05—went on to graduate from the University.
“I can’t tell you how flattered we are,” Jack said. “I thank you immensely. We were a little bit reluctant because we didn’t know what we had done to deserve the award.”
Humility has been a common trait among FUAA award winners over the years, but there should be no confusion over why their fellow graduates nominated the Waltons: For decades, they have been sharing their time and resources to help make Catholic education more accessible to underserved populations.
They established the Walton Scholarship Fund to provide financial aid to high-achieving undergraduates. They were the principal benefactors of the statue of St. Ignatius Loyola at the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses and the Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam organ in the University Church. They also helped restore Rose Hill’s science labs and founded the John C. and Jeanette D. Walton Lecture in Science, Philosophy, and Religion at Fordham.
Before presenting them with the award, Benner thanked the Waltons “for your daily examples of expressing love for Fordham, which has added up to decades of loyalty that all of us could emulate.”
‘Grandmasters of Benevolence’
Osman was so surprised he’d been chosen by his peers that he didn’t quite grasp what he was being told.
“When I called Mo to let him know he was selected as the Trailblazer awardee, at first he thought I was inviting him tonight so we could all vote the slate of candidates live, like it was American Idol,” Benner joked.
Osman, the director of alternatives at Wellington Management, immigrated to the Bronx with his family when he was a child, after fleeing Sudan amid military unrest when he was just 3 years old. Today, he’s grateful to Fordham for the impact it’s had on his life. He earned a degree in economics, completed several internships, and landed a position in a two-year rotational program at JPMorgan right after graduating in 2014. He was able to afford Fordham with financial aid and support from the Higher Education Opportunity Program. And that’s why, he’s said, it’s important to him to pay it forward to other students like him.
Since graduating nine years ago, he’s helped strengthen the University’s alumni network by contributing to scholarship funds; sponsoring receptions for his fellow alumni; participating in events run by MOSAIC, Fordham’s Multicultural Organization Supporting Alumni Initiatives and Community affinity chapter; and helping to launch the Alumni Career Fair as an inaugural member of the FUAA Advisory Board.
As he accepted his award, Osman encouraged his fellow alumni to remember what he feels is one of Fordham’s greatest lessons: to make a positive impact on the world. He asked them to “continue to be the great grandmasters of benevolence, respect, and also remain charitable.”
“Without your philanthropy, I would not be here today,” he said. “There are many more kids who would love a Fordham education, who have the potential to attend this great institution of ours, but just need that little push.”