Matthew McGarry (GSAS ’04) was honored on April 13 with the 2011 Swanstrom-Baerwald Award at a ceremony on the Rose Hill campus.
A graduate of the International Political and Economic Development (IPED) program, McGarry recently finished three years of service as the CRS country representative in Afghanistan. Before that, he performed aid work in Nicaragua, the Gaza Strip, Zimbabwe and Darfur.
“Fordham is dedicated to educating men and women for others, whose lives are marked by conscience, compassion and a deep commitment to justice in the cause of the human family,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J.
“This afternoon we gather to celebrate that mission and the ways in which that mission has been lived out by one our own—Matthew McGarry, a graduate of the IPED program and a man who is on fire.”
McGarry described the extremely challenging environment that Afghanistan presents for aid workers, but also focused on the successes that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has had since it established a full-time presence there in 1998.
Although CRS originally sought to provide disaster relief, in recent years it has taken a proactive role in working to prevent catastrophes. Agriculture, water, education and disaster relief are four areas on which the group focuses.
The support that CRS workers receive in their efforts to provide education are especially inspiring, he said, even though “night letters” filled with threats are periodically tacked on the doors of places where girls are being taught.
“The community bands together and says, ‘We don’t care if they kill us; we don’t care if they kill our children; no one is taking our school away,’” McGarry said.
He told the audience that over the last four years, CRS has helped educate roughly 13,000 children, about 60 percent of whom are girls.
McGarry called the Fordham-CRS partnership one that is “made in Heaven.”
“Just as there are numerous relief and development organizations that get the rhetoric right while implementing shoddy, wasteful or unsustainable projects in places where it matters most, there are plenty of universities that talk a good game about educating the whole person, preparing students to improve their world and shaping the leaders of tomorrow, while doing nothing of the sort,” he said.
“At CRS and Fordham, we talk the talk, and we walk the walk.”
The award commemorates the memory of Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom (FCRH ’24, GSAS ’38) and Professor Friedrich Baerwald, L.L.D.
Bishop Swanstrom helped found CRS and served as its executive director from 1947 until 1976. Baerwald was Bishop Swanstrom’s dissertation mentor, and was devoted to the teachings of Rerum Novarum. Baerwald served in the German Labor Ministry during the Weimar Republic, fled the Nazis and eventually joined the Fordham faculty.