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Fordham Celebrates its Longest-Serving Employees


Fordham University honored 31 of its most dedicated staff and faculty members at the 2013 Convocation on March 3, saluting the group’s collective 700 years of loyal service to the University.

At a ceremony held in Lincoln Center campus’ Pope Auditorium, 14 staff members received the Archbishop John Hughes Medal for Service, honoring administrative employees who have been at Fordham 40 or 20 years, and 14 members of the faculty received the Bene Merenti medal for 40- and 20-year service to the University.

The Sursum Corda award, which recognizes staff who have made outstanding contributions to the life and mission of the University, went to Paul Thyagaraj, manager of custodial services and facilities management at the Lincoln Center campus; Judy Kelly, administrative assistant in the dean’s office at Fordham College at Lincoln Center; and Karl Mitchell, a carpenter in facilities operations at Rose Hill.

“I’m a Fordham guy,” said Thyagaraj, who, before taking the stage to receive his award, had worked tirelessly with his team to hang banners and set out chairs for the ceremony. “I couldn’t see myself working anywhere other than Fordham.”

For some medalists, the ceremony marked an opportunity to express their gratitude to Fordham, as well as to celebrate their longstanding service.

“It’s heartwarming—I have always thought of Fordham as my extended family,” said 40-year Bene Merenti recipient Margot Nadien, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology. “There is a feeling of connection and caring for the University and for its principles. They are my principles as well.”

A musical prodigy who left her family as a child to study music composition in New York, Nadien made Fordham history in 1980 by becoming the first psychologist tenured at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. And though her four decades of research in development, aging, and the psychology of women have earned her numerous accolades, Nadien remains humble about what the experience has meant for her.

“I don’t know if I can say I feel pride,” she said. “I care most of all for the students and for my interactions with them. They have enriched my life.”

For others, the ceremony was a reminder that time flies.

“It’s one of those things that creeps up on you,” said Nicholas Johnson, professor of law and a recipient of the 20-year Bene Merenti medal. “You think it doesn’t mean much, but it was actually a great thing. I was happy to be part of [the ceremony].”

Addressing the award recipients and their friends and family members, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, said that the last decades have brought “anything but peaceful and uneventful business” for these faculty and staff.

“The faculty members have been about the world-changing work of helping their students develop those habits of heart and mind that will help them transform the world,” he said. “They have, in short, been about the work of educating men and women for others—men and women with a deep sense of mission.”

Father McShane called the administrators “the quiet strength of the University.”

“From the first moment that they arrived in our midst, they have cared for us, nurtured us, protected us from harm, heat, and cold,” he said. “They have been valued and graced colleagues in all of our attempts to fulfill the mission that Archbishop Hughes left in our hands.”

The Fordham University Choir, led by choir director Robert Minotti, enriched the afternoon’s event with their performances of Eric Whitacre’s “With a Lily in your Hand” and the University Alma Mater.

The annual event was sponsored by the Office of the President.

(To read more on Sursum Corda awardee Paul Thyagaraj, see At Work.)

The 31 recipients of the Archbishop Huges Medal for Service, the Bene Merenti medal, and the Sursum Corda award, were recognized at the 2013 Fordham University Convocation on March 3. (All honorees are listed below.)


Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Convocation Honorees 2012-2013

Bene Merenti Medal (20 years)

Cathy S. Berkman, Ph.D., associate professor of social work

Vassilios Fessatidis, Ph.D., department chair and professor of physics

Maryann Forgey, Ph.D., associate professor of social work

Nicholas J. Johnson, professor of law

Frank Retzel, adjunct instructor of music

Natalie Riccio, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor of social work

Rita Seidenberg, adjunct clinical associate professor of literacy education

Patricia Shea-Bischoff, Ph.D., clinical professor of education

Susan R. Wabuda, Ph.D., associate professor of history
Bene Merenti Medal (40 years)

Mark Caldwell, Ph.D., professor of English

Edward Dowling, S.J., professor of economics

John C. Houtz, Ph.D., professor of educational psychology

Margot B. Nadien, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology

Gerard C. Reedy, S.J., University Professor of Humanities in the Office of the Provost

Archbishop Hughes Medal (20 years)

Juan I. Fernandez, manager of document delivery and interlibrary loan at the law library

Donald Gillespie, Ph.D., associate vice president for Institutional Research, Office of the Provost

Seth L. Knight, assistant manager of duplicating, ID, and mailing services at Rose Hill
Jorge A. Martinez-Santiago, associate director of the TRIO programs

Lesley A. Massiah-Arthur, associate vice president of government relations and urban affairs

Julia Olivo-Rodriguez, administrative assistant in the Office of the Provost

Shannon L. Ortiz, director of IT security

Fernando Ospina, manager of duplicating of ID and mailing services

Stephen J. Potsklan, head men’s and women’s swimming coach in the Department of Athletics

Wei V. Shen, conservation librarian in the William D. Walsh Family Library

Frances J. Tiburcio, administrative assistant in the Department of Biological Sciences
Leslie Timoney, resident manager at the Lincoln Center campus
Archbishop Hughes Medal (40 years)

Thomas E. DeJulio, general counsel for the Office of the President

Carol J. Rizzuti, Ph.D., assistant dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill


Sursum Corda Award

Judy Kelly, administrative assistant of the Dean’s Office at Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Karl Mitchell, craftsman of the carpentry shop in facilities operations at Rose Hill

Paul Thyagaraj, manager of custodial services and facilities management


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