Patti and John Heller became Fordham parents in 1999, when their eldest daughter, Amy, FCRH ’03, decided she’d like to pursue a Jesuit education in New York. Four years later, as Amy graduated, her sister, Michaela, entered Fordham College at Rose Hill. She graduated in 2007, just in time for her younger brother, Tim, now a senior in the Gabelli School of Business, to begin his studies at Fordham.
As their children have thrived and matured at Fordham, the Hellers have become increasingly active at the University. In 2007, they began discussions with Fordham officials about forming a parents’ organization, which would help recruit students, support the University’s fundraising campaign, provide feedback on college programs, and leverage corporate relationships to promote internships for students and job opportunities for graduates.
Last year, Patti Heller was named to the Fordham University Board of Trustees, and this fall, the Parents’ Leadership Council—led by her and her husband—held its first meeting. The council’s founding members include parents from California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“It’s an opportunity for us parents to come together for Fordham,” Patti Heller says. “Our children have had such a great experience, I decided to give back what was given to them.”
The Hellers’ involvement has deepened in recent years. John Heller says he has had more time for his volunteer efforts for the University since 2003, when he sold his business, Heller Seasonings and Ingredients, which had been in his family for three generations.
The Hellers now split their time between Northfield, Ill., on Chicago’s North Shore, and midtown Manhattan, where they have an apartment. Both of their daughters have found jobs in Manhattan that evolved from internships they had while undergraduates at Fordham. Amy manages the retail stores at five Equinox gyms, while Michaela works in sales for NBC’s cable division.
“Being in New York City is a tremendous asset for Fordham, and my kids have taken full advantage of it,” John Heller says. “There’s such a wonderful community of people at Fordham.”
John Heller says Fordham wasn’t well known in the northern suburbs of Chicago when his daughter Amy started attending Loyola Academy in Willamette, Ill. At the time, those looking to continue their Jesuit education in college were more inclined to attend Marquette University, John Carroll University, Georgetown University or Boston College. In 1999, however, Loyola sent eight students to Fordham.
Parents can play an important role in helping Fordham spread the good word about the University at college fairs and regional receptions for prospective students, according to John Heller. They also help organize summer send-off receptions for students who travel long distances to Fordham, such as the one held in Chicago earlier this year.
“We think it’s important to get more Fordham families connected to the school,” he says. “That summer send-off in Chicago was a great way to start students off with a good feeling.”
by David McKay Wilson