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Stories of Faith & Hope

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The next wave of scientists, journalists, actors, business leaders, and more—meet some of the Fordham students whose dreams are being brought within reach by the financial aid campaign.

In March 2017, during the University’s yearlong 175th anniversary celebration, Fordham launched Faith & Hope | The Campaign for Financial Aid, an effort to raise $175 million to help make a Fordham education more affordable for the best and brightest students. Alumni, parents, and friends of Fordham responded by making the 2017 fiscal year the most successful single year of fundraising in the University’s history. As of April 2018, Fordham donors have contributed more than $131 million toward the $175 million goal, creating more than 130 new scholarships for students.

Here are some of the people who have benefited from and supported the campaign.

The Denzel Washington Scholars

From left: actors Darby Davis, FCLC ’16, Mayaa Boateng, FCLC ’13, Daniel Velasco, FCLC ’14, Eric Lawrence Taylor, FCLC ’18, and Amber Avant, FCLC ’15; and costume designer Siena Zoë Allen, FCLC ’15. Not pictured is Cesca Wolos-Fonteno, FCLC ’17, who studied lighting design at Fordham and is currently spending a year in service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California.

From left: actors Darby Davis, FCLC ’16, MaYaa Boateng, FCLC ’13, Daniel Velasco, FCLC ’14, Eric Lawrence Taylor, FCLC ’18, and Amber Avant, FCLC ’15; and costume designer Siena Zoë Allen, FCLC ’15. Not pictured is Cesca Wolos-Fonteno, FCLC ’17, who studied lighting design at Fordham and is currently spending a year in service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California.

“In a very cool, non-publicity-seeking way, Denzel Washington has been mentoring artists of color for a long time and really providing space for a lot of us to succeed,” says Eric Lawrence Taylor, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center senior and current recipient of the Denzel Washington Endowed Scholarship.

“I would not be here right now without this scholarship,” he adds, noting that by supporting Fordham Theatre students, the acclaimed actor shows that he has “not forgotten where he came from.”

Washington graduated from Fordham in 1977 and has long been a champion of Fordham students. In 2011, the Oscar and Tony award winner established a scholarship fund and an endowed chair to offer students positive influences, like the kind he received from his Fordham mentor, Robinson Stone, who once predicted that Washington’s talent would be “among the most exciting and fulfilling of our time.”

Taylor is the seventh recipient since 2012, when MaYaa Boateng became the first.

“The scholarship gave me a beautiful sense of hope and encouragement to stick to that thing which I love,” says Boateng, who recently met up with Taylor and four other past Denzel Washington Scholars on the Lincoln Center campus. They expressed deep gratitude for the generosity of someone they consider a role model, and for the mentorship they’ve received from Fordham faculty.

Boateng says Washington’s support has created a resounding buzz about Fordham Theatre among students and faculty, not to mention casting directors. “It just felt like a huge shift in this program,” she says. “And I felt a sense of electrifying energy.”

Armando Nuñez: Media Executive Pays It Forward

Armando Nuñez

Armando Nuñez

As a Fordham business student, Armando Nuñez, GABELLI ’82, took the D train to Rose Hill from his home in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Today, when he comes to town from Los Angeles, the president and CEO of CBS Studios International looks out over his old neighborhood from the company’s 30th-floor New York executive offices.

“I don’t think you can realize how fortunate you are when you’re getting a quality education. … It can take years to realize the benefits,” says Nuñez, adding that his father, a Cuban immigrant who worked in the media business, was a big proponent of Jesuit education.

“The moral compass the Jesuits instill in you, the idea of being men and women for others—that drives me to do what we do for our scholarship students,” Nuñez says. He established the Nuñez Family Scholarship Fund to help give Gabelli School of Business students the same opportunities he had, and he hopes its recipients “go out to change the world—and give back themselves.” Several students receive the scholarship each year, including eight in 2017–2018.

Nuñez, a Fordham trustee, has also boosted Fordham’s presence in California—one of Fordham’s largest feeder states—by hosting high-profile events, including a tribute to sportscaster Vin Scully, FCRH ’49, held on the set of CBS’s Entertainment Tonight. He hopes the events “show prospective students and parents how incredible Fordham is, and encourage alumni to stay connected and give back.”

Jessica Kar: A Vibrant Community with Jesuit Values

Jessica Kar

Jessica Kar

When Jessica Kar heard that Fordham had awarded her a Susan M. Wallace Memorial Endowed Scholarship, she felt that a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “I knew I had to think about my parents and my younger sister,” she says. “I had a responsibility to make sure I didn’t become a burden of debt.”

Kar emigrated from India with her family when she was 4 years old. She’s now president of the South Asian cultural awareness group as well as vice president of the Commuting Students Association at Fordham. The senior mathematics and economics major also participates in the Fordham Mentoring Program.

“My mentor has given me recommendations and helped me decide what programs and companies in the financial industry might be better for me,” she says. “I feel like the alumni network is really strong.”

It’s this sense of community that attracted Kar to Fordham in the first place, and something she hopes to take with her. “I knew there were strong academics, but I also really liked the diversity and vibrancy of the college and the city,” she says. “Even though I’m Hindu, the Jesuit values have really shaped not only my education but the way I look at things. I make sure to integrate that into everything I do.”

Patrick Casaccio: Defining Success as Helping Others

Patrick Casaccio

Patrick Casaccio

As he nears his graduation from the Gabelli School of Business, Patrick Casaccio looks to the future with a twofold vision of success: achieving his own career goals and helping others achieve theirs.

Of all his endeavors at Fordham, he takes the most pride in mentoring Fordham students in the Social Impact 360 business plan competition. He loves to give guidance—“I think that being successful yourself is exciting, but knowing that you have that ability to lead is very important and rewarding as well,” says Casaccio, an applied accounting and finance major from Commack, N.Y.

He hopes to work in finance after graduation and build a broad skill set before founding his own company. A Fordham Fund Scholarship gave him more freedom to choose jobs in which he’ll learn and grow the most, but it also gave him the idea of giving back by eventually being a teacher. And it fuels his desire to come back to the Scholarship Donors and Recipients Reception one day—as a benefactor.

“I want to be in that position where I get to shake Fordham students’ hands 20 or 30 years down the road,” he says, “and thank them for choosing this school and continuing the Fordham legacy.”

The Toffolon Scholars: Supporting Women in Business

Longtime Fordham benefactor John Toffolon (right), a former University trustee, with two beneficiaries of the scholarship he and his wife established in 1995: Cindy Vojtech (left), the inaugural Toffolon scholar, who is now a principal economist at the Fed; and Samantha Barrett, a first-year student at the Gabelli School.

Longtime Fordham benefactor John Toffolon (right), a former University trustee, with two beneficiaries of the scholarship he and his wife established in 1995: Cindy Vojtech (left), the inaugural Toffolon scholar, who is now a principal economist at the Fed; and Samantha Barrett, a first-year student at the Gabelli School.

Cindy Vojtech makes John Toffolon proud. She was valedictorian of the Gabelli School of Business Class of 2000, earned a doctorate in economics, and serves as a principal economist at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C. And, Toffolon says, “she’s a terrific volleyball player.”

Vojtech was the first recipient of the scholarship fund created by Toffolon, a former Wall Street executive, and his wife, Joan, to support women studying at the Gabelli School, where Toffolon earned a bachelor’s degree and where both he and Joan each earned an M.B.A.

“During my formative years on Wall Street, it was generally male dominated,” says John, a Fordham trustee fellow. He and Joan thought the Joan and John E. Toffolon Jr. Presidential Endowed Scholarship Fund “would be a way to not only give back but to help balance the ranks.”

Inspired in part by the Toffolons’ generosity, Vojtech recently joined Fordham’s President’s Council and has given in support of scholarships as well as the volleyball and crew programs in which she took part as a student. “I can’t imagine my college experience without sports,” says Vojtech, a California native.

Toffolon says he and Vojtech “have a really lovely friendship.” He even co-signed an apartment lease for her when her father couldn’t, since he lived out of state. The two recently met up at Fordham, where they got to chat with the current Toffolon scholar, first-year Gabelli student Samantha Barrett, who plans to use the award to make the most of her time at Fordham. A global business honors student, she expects her studies to take her to London; Santiago, Chile; and Beijing. “I will be forever grateful,” she says.

Lauren Beglin: Striving for Sustainability

Lauren Beglin

Lauren Beglin

Lauren Beglin was in fourth grade when environmental experts came to her school to talk about the polluted Passaic River—two blocks from her Lyndhurst, N.J., home—and the species that were coming back as a result of cleanup efforts. The presentation fueled her interest in the natural environment, and that interest brought her to Fordham, in part because of all the research opportunities at its Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y.

She has since spent a summer at the Calder Center, collaborating with a professor on a study of a disease afflicting North American bats, which will be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Today she is working with a chemistry professor to develop a more efficient solar cell, serving on the University’s sustainability committee, and planning to pursue graduate studies right after earning her degree in environmental science. Her ultimate goal: working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, conducting research into renewable energy and ways to implement it.

Scholarships made all of this possible. “They’ve had an absolutely amazing impact for me,” she says. Her awards include the Clare Boothe Luce Scholarship for women in science and engineering and the Dennis and Patricia Ruppel Endowed Scholarship. By allaying her financial worries, she says, “they helped me focus on the things that I wanted to accomplish.”

Peter Vergara: A Career in the Global Art World

A Fordham Scholar and a Masterpiece at the Met: Cristóbal de Villalpando’s Adoration of the Magi (left)—a 1683 painting that has been part of the Fordham art collection since the mid-19th century—was featured in a major exhibition of the Mexican artist’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017. Fordham senior Peter Vergara wrote his final undergraduate seminar research paper about.

A Fordham Scholar and a Masterpiece at the Met: Cristóbal de Villalpando’s Adoration of the Magi (left)—a 1683 painting that has been part of the Fordham art collection since the mid-19th century—was featured in a major exhibition of the Mexican artist’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2017. Fordham senior Peter Vergara wrote his final undergraduate seminar research paper about.

Peter Vergara’s arts education began early. Born in Washington, D.C., he later moved with his family to Madrid, where he spent countless hours at the Prado Museum. “Some of my earliest memories are of just lying on the floor of the gallery,” he says.

Fordham was “a huge draw” for him because of the opportunities to work in New York City and experience its art museums. With support from his professors, he landed internships at the Hispanic Society of America; the Met Cloisters; and Sotheby’s, the global art auction house. After graduating from Fordham this May, he’ll take part in Sotheby’s prestigious 12-month paid trainee program, which prepares graduates for long-term opportunities at the company.

None of it would have been possible without scholarship support.

“In addition to letting me attend, the scholarships have motivated me,” says Vergara, who has received the UPS Endowed Scholarship; the Annenberg Foundation Endowed Scholarship in honor of John L. Marion, FCRH ’56; and the Anthony C. Howkins, FCRH ’48, and Marguerita C. Howkins Endowed Scholarship. “Each summer, my family has been unsure about my ability to come back,” he adds. “But scholarships and jobs, as a resident assistant and a work-study tutor, have allowed me to complete four incredibly productive and fun years.”

Erica Scalise: From the Windy City to the Big Apple

Fordham student Erica Scalise in the WFUV studios

Erica Scalise

Erica Scalise wanted to leave her tight-knit Chicago neighborhood and go away for college, and she chose Fordham in part because of the opportunities to learn and practice journalism at WFUV, Fordham’s public media station.

But with a brother heading to college soon and a sister in medical school, her family was concerned about cost. Scalise, however, had faith that it would all work out. And she was right.

“I was sitting in my room last spring when I saw the email,” says the sophomore journalism major, describing how she learned she had received a Heller Family Scholarship, established by Fordham parents Patti and John Heller, who sent three of their four children to Fordham. “It was that feeling that my hard work was paying off. I called up my parents right away; they were so happy and really proud.”

Scalise is now an editor of The Ram student newspaper and a newscaster at WFUV. “Being in the Bronx has been so eye opening,” she says. “Seeing the injustices around me … there are so many people whose stories never get told.” And she has embraced service, taking part in urban gardening with the Bronx is Blooming, a community nonprofit, and tutoring young men at Cardinal Hayes High School. “I’m so grateful that they chose me [for this scholarship],” she says. “It’s great incentive to do more.”

Arnell Stewart: Finding Support, Building Community

Fordham student Arnell Stewart

Arnell Stewart

After her older brother died suddenly last fall, Arnell Stewart feared she wouldn’t be able to continue at Fordham. Her parents needed to travel to the Southwestern U.S. several times to put his affairs in order, which strained the family’s finances.

She stayed home in Mount Vernon, New York, commuting to Fordham, interning at Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, and helping her two younger sisters get ready for school every day. But she didn’t know if she would be able to register for spring classes.

She spoke with Tiffany House, her academic counselor at Fordham’s CSTEP, a New York state-sponsored program to help minority students prepare for science- and health-related careers. She told House about the kind of support, financial and otherwise, that she needed. And then, after a nail-biting week or two, she learned that she would receive a Christina Seix Dow College Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) Endowed Scholarship.

“I told my mom, and she was really happy. That probably was the first good thing that happened since the whole tragedy,” she says. “Now life just seems so much clearer.”

The Fordham sophomore recently declared her major—business administration, with concentrations in finance and the business of healthcare—and she participated in a Gabelli School-sponsored Women in Business retreat. “No matter what career I have,” she says, “I want to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”

The Consenzas: From Recipients to Donors, A Shared Experience

Elizabeth Pinho-Cosenza and Todd Cosenza

Elizabeth Pinho-Cosenza and Todd Cosenza

Todd Cosenza and Elizabeth Pinho-Cosenza met at Fordham and would later get married in the University Church. They also had similar Fordham experiences that continue to inform their efforts on behalf of the University’s students.

Having graduated from Catholic high schools, they had some idea of what to expect at Fordham, but didn’t know just how much mentoring and personal attention they would receive. They also received critical help from scholarships, which only reinforced their awareness of how others were invested in their futures.

Today they serve on the Fordham University President’s Council and regularly give guidance to students, among other efforts. “People along the way helped me, so I think it’s incumbent on me to help others,” said Todd Cosenza, GABELLI ’95, LAW ’98, a partner at the law firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

They have generously supported Fordham priorities including the Founder’s Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, and it’s always a joy to learn more about the scholarship recipients, says Elizabeth Pinho-Cosenza, FCRH ’98, a Harvard Law graduate and associate professor of law and ethics in the Gabelli School of Business. “I feel grateful,” she says, “that we’re able to help students get a high-quality Fordham education the way we both did.”

Amanda Jara: Aspiring to International Service

Amanda Jara

Amanda Jara

Fordham was appealing to Amanda Jara because of its emphasis on service, something she had always been interested in. Growing up in Bergen County, N.J., she volunteered at a summer camp for disabled children—giving them one-on-one support throughout the day—to fulfill a high school graduation requirement, and found that the work felt like anything but a requirement. “It was really rewarding,” she said.

She kept volunteering at Fordham, serving at Bronx agencies including the Rosedale Achievement Center, where she was a tutor and mentor. And in sophomore year, something happened that transformed her ambitions for helping others. She was awarded a Founder’s Scholarship, which relieved her concerns about student debt and brought service-related career options into greater focus.

An international political economy major who’s interested in law school, she hopes to work for a nonprofit in international development after graduating. And she also hopes to one day give back in a way that’s more personal—by offering another student the kind of scholarship support that made a deep impression on her.

“It really makes you feel special and motivated that you’re worthy of this scholarship, that all of these people believe in you, she said. “I felt so honored.”

Elodie Huston: Service and Learning

Elodie Huston

Elodie Huston

In her first semester at Fordham, Elodie Huston began volunteering at Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries in Manhattan as part of a service-learning course in theology. She worked in programs supporting young immigrants and homeless children at the nonprofit, and the experience sparked her passion for education policy.

But by her second semester, the Wisconsin native wasn’t sure she and her family could afford another year at Fordham, especially with two younger sisters who would soon be applying college. Just before her sophomore year, however, Huston earned both a J.T. Tai & Company Foundation Scholarship and a Joan M. Pease Endowed Scholarship. She later earned the Peter and Kitty Quinn Endowed Scholarship. The extra financial aid allowed her to stay—and thrive—at Fordham.

“Getting the scholarships was absolutely incredible. The money was going to run out, and I didn’t know if I would be able to finish,” Huston says. “But Fordham really rallied for me.”

Since then, the English major has interned at a small mobile marketing startup company; revamped Lincoln Center’s literary magazine, The Comma; and worked extensively with the Office of Prestigious Fellowships to apply for postgraduate awards to further her academic career.

That work paid off this spring, when she earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award to Germany, where she has some relatives and where some of her ancestors lived before immigrating to the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s. After completing her Fulbright, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in international education policy.

“I get to have this education because my parents and grandparents and others put me in this position,” she says. “Now I want to be able to use that and spread that to other people.”

 

Photos by Michael Falco, Bud Glick, John O’Brien, Matthew Septimus, Chris Taggart, and Robert Voets

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