“I didn’t expect that many Fordham people along the parade route wearing their maroon on St. Patrick’s Day, but they were out there,” said Robert Sutherland, FCRH ’14, vice chair of the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA) Advisory Board, who carried the University banner. “I think that’s a credit to where the University’s come: President Tetlow, the basketball teams … it’s a great time to be a Ram.”
Mixed in among the usual shouts of “Go Rams!” were more than a few cheers for Fordham basketball—a nod to the women’s team’s seventh straight postseason appearance and the men’s team’s most successful season in 30 years.
“We energized New York with the basketball team in February and March,” said FUAA board member Steve Centrillo, FCRH ’79, GABELLI ’81, who marched with his wife, Deidre, GABELLI ’81. “I’ve been going to games at [the Rose Hill Gym] for 40-plus years, and I’ve never seen six games in a row where the students were just going crazy, and every seat was filled.”
Extending the Tradition
Some marchers paid tribute to late members of the Fordham community who touched their lives in some way. Paul Stavish, FCRH ’73, for example, adorned his black coat with a shimmering green shamrock pin he received seven years ago, at the funeral of Joseph “Jay” McGowan, dean of student affairs during the 1970s and ’80s.
Other alumni brought members of their family into the Fordham fold. Jeana Somers, LAW ’22, came from New Jersey with her husband, Patrick, and her daughter, brother, and nephew. “It’s a good way to honor my husband,” she said. “It’s his birthday, so it’s a fun day to do a family event. [We’ve also been] to Ireland for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and we sat in the grandstand seats. [This is] very different.”
Celebrating 175 Years of Military Heritage
Cadets and instructors from the Fordham ROTC program also marched in the parade. Lt. Col. Paul Tanghe, Ph.D., professor of military science at Fordham, noted that the program has historical connections with the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment, which has strong Irish heritage. He said many Fordham alumni have served with distinction in the regiment, which was also represented in the parade.
“I think it’s wonderful to celebrate our affiliation with the Fighting 69th,” said cadet Diana Kim, the program’s battalion commander and a member of Fordham’s Class of 2024. She noted that cadets are presented with a ceremonial shillelagh, or traditional Irish fighting stick, when they graduate and are commissioned as officers within the ROTC program.
Given that the University is celebrating the 175th anniversary of military instruction at Fordham this year, “it feels really special to be a cadet here at Fordham,” said another cadet, Brian Inguanti, a member of the Fordham Class of 2025.
A Commitment to Raising Families’ Prospects
Earlier in the day, more than 200 members of the Fordham community brought a dose of Ram pride to the Yale Club, where they gathered for brunch before the march up Fifth Avenue.
Karen Sbaschnig, PCS ’15, took a day off work for the occasion. “I wanted to come this year because I haven’t been for a few years because of the pandemic,” she said, and “I haven’t met the new president yet. That’s another reason why I wanted to come: to hear her speak and to see what her vision is.”
Tetlow told attendees how excited she was about the parade and joked about her “suspiciously English last name.”
“Let’s get down to the important thing: I’m the first president [of Fordham] in generations not to have an Irish last name, and I know that’s a concern,” she said. “But rest assured, the grandmother I was closest to was a Mullen—that family came from Cork generations ago.”
She said the Catholic Church and Jesuit institutions of higher education helped raise her family’s prospects: “That is what we stand for as a church: To take a family from coal mining to university president in two generations.”
She paid tribute to Fordham’s founder, Archbishop John Hughes—and mentioned Hughes again during the parade, when she was interviewed by NBC 4. (Tune in to the 7:36 minute mark to see the interview, and the 25:40 mark to see the Fordham contingent march past.) At the brunch, Tetlow described the University as one that helps solve the world’s problems by pushing “on the boundaries of human knowledge”—and by understanding that talent is too often squandered when opportunity is narrowly disbursed. “We know we have assembled the best and the brightest of the world because they look like the world,” she said. “And still, 20% of our students are the first in their family to go to college, as many of you were.”
“For me, it is humbling beyond measure to take up this work—to lead Fordham into a future where education has never mattered more.”
Chris Gosier contributed reporting to this story.