Gabelli School of Business (GSB) graduating seniors were both honored and challenged at a May 16 ceremony at the Rose Hill campus.
“You are leaders in your own lives, and leaders of others,” said Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of GSB and of the Fordham business faculty, at the ceremony at the McGinley Center.
She noted that just as the school had changed since 2009, when they entered what was then named the College of Business Administration, so too had they transformed.
“The more remarkable transformation, though, is yours. You are far from the wide-eyed, uncertain freshmen you were four years ago,” she said.
“I don’t believe transformation happens because of any single thing or event, but I do believe it requires one factor: Strong leadership.”
Nearly 100 of the school’s most distinguished seniors received medals for achievements in accounting, finance, management, entrepreneurship, and marketing. Students also were recognized for excellence in academic, community and humanitarian endeavors, and for their leadership skills.
Rapaccioli said the class of the 2013 is the first to receive a special soapstone ram that was carved by a Fair Trade artisan collective in Kenya. They are a symbol of their connection to Fordham, as well as a symbol of responsible leadership.
“I hope that after graduation, the ram reminds you of your responsibility to do business with purpose. As graduates of a Jesuit business school, this can be your leadership story. It takes guts and strong leadership to push back against the motive of sheer profit. It is not always easy to ask questions about the impact of actions on society,” she said.
“But if you do, you will reshape the world. You will be the next leaders of companies like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Patagonia — companies that show, according to a recent Harvard Business Review column, that “Conscientious capitalism is not an oxymoron.”
The college also honored William J. O’Hagan, GSB ’82, with the 2013 Alumnus of the Year Award. O’Hagan, a tax partner with Price Waterhouse Cooper, told attendees that Fordham had given them a tremendous foundation they’ll to use to make the world their own.
“You may not think it now, but something you learned here that you dismissed as totally useless is going to hit you when you’re sitting in some conference room,” he said.
“Somebody is going to mention something, and you’ll say ‘You know what? I actually remember something about that.’ It does happen. It’s happened to me all these years.”
Students Timothy Lynch and John Ketcham addressed their fellow classmates, as Salutatorian and Valedictorian, respectively. The two hit upon the twin themes of the past and the future.
Lynch compared his classmates to trees who started as saplings at the Rose Hill campus.
“Immediately we buried our roots into Fordham. Over time, as we have grown in strengthened personally, they have become thick and grown deep,” he said.
“Our roots now stretch deep across campus, like an intricate network, intertwining with and supporting each other.”
Ketcham took to the podium with the flourish of a clergyman preaching to his flock, beseeching his classmates to think of graduation as a time to toss away their student identity, and confront the two choices they face as adults: Pursue self-centered goals or “live an astonishing adventure by placing your restless heart at rest in god’s loving providence.”
Don’t play society’s game of “you’re worth what you have,” he warned.
“We can find true happiness by forgetting ourselves, obtain true freedom by casting off the shackles of self-centeredness, defend ourselves against the caprices of a hostile world by building an interior castle whose walls are fortified enough to withstand rejection, loss and suffering. And we can passionately pursue the three things that we can never have enough of: beauty, goodness, and truth,” he said.