The Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) Class of 2010 said farewell to the University at an Encaenia ceremony that was the first for Michael E. Latham, Ph.D., in his role as interim dean.
The annual event, which was held on May 20 in the Rose Hill Gymnasium, drew students, friends and family to celebrate outstanding achievements by members of the class, including:
• induction in honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa;
• winning Fulbright fellowships and other prestigious awards; and
• a host of additional achievements.
Latham, who began as interim dean last summer, told the soon-to-be-graduates that their liberal arts educations would serve them well, and that they should remember to put them to use in the cause of combating poverty, illness, war and starvation.
“Beyond your minimum 36 courses and 124 credits, I expect that each of you has also acquired a valuable set of essential, critical abilities that will serve you well wherever you go,” he said.
“Employers might teach you how to do specific jobs, but they cannot teach you how to write, how to think and how to analyze. Those skills will stay with you for the rest of your lives.”
Latham also reflected on how, while teaching history in China in 2001, he found himself debating a student who insisted that rights were not automatic, but had to be earned. That experience made him think more deeply about beliefs that he had taken for granted as universally accepted.
“If the concept of essential human rights was indeed a principle that I held dearly, then what was I obligated to do about that? What direct responsibilities to that conviction rested upon my shoulders and upon the shoulders of all who would share that view?” he asked.
“One thing became increasingly clear to me. Whether in China or America, cultures driven primarily by the desire for an ever-greater level of personal accumulation and consumption seem to present an awfully thin foundation for moral responsibility,” Latham said.
“Misguided quotations of Adam Smith, made by those who would argue that all one really has to do is pursue one’s own self-interest, and that the entirely natural courses of the market will take care of everything else, don’t really get us very far,” he said.
The Claver Award, which is named for St. Peter Claver, an 18th-century Spanish Jesuit, was presented to Maria Fitzsimmons, who was also named to Phi Beta Kappa. Fordham’s Jesuit community gives the prize annually to the Rose Hill senior who most exemplifies the University’s dedication to community service.
John Tully Gorton received the Fordham College Alumni Award, which is a chair presented to the student who best shows the Fordham spirit of excellence in academic, service and extracurricular activities.
In her valedictory address, Jennifer Rose Kwapisz wondered what college meant to her and her classmates.
“I was always told that college was the goal. Why, exactly, was college so important? The answer I heard time and time again was that, ultimately, it was about getting a good job. It is now four years later, but is that really all college has meant to us?
Kwapisz cited her first day in a class taught by Michael F. Suarez, S.J., as the perfect example of what she decided her time meant. Although the class was about 18th century English poetry, Kwapisz, who will be attending St. John’s University Law School in the fall, said Father Suarez began by writing a complex chemical equation on the blackboard.
“After a few minutes of us staring at him in confusion, he asked if we knew why he was starting the class this way,” she said. “When nobody did, he told us, ‘Well if there’s something you don’t understand, you better start asking questions.’
“What has Fordham meant to us? It has meant asking questions. Not only when we encounter difficult subjects in our classes, but also when we come in contact with injustices in our world.”