Gabriel Vitalone, FCRH ’44, fought in Germany under General George Patton with a rosary in one hand and a rifle in the other. He said that when the war was over, only the cross and three beads were left.
Vitalone was singled out by Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, as he welcomed alumni and friends back to Fordham’s Rose Hill campus for this year’s Jubilee weekend. For the May 31 address,
Father McShane also wished Vitalone a happy birthday, as the World War II veteran celebrated his 92nd year alongside Evelyn, his wife of 60 years.
Vitalone’s story was one of many shared among former classmates and friends of Fordham throughout the weekend. Some of the stories, like Vitalone’s, were shared publicly, while others were shared privately across elegant white tablecloths as well as picnic blankets.
At a wine tasting sponsored by Macari Vineyards, sommelier Gabriella Macari, GSB ’09, revealed that her grandfather started making wine out of a row home in Corona, Queens. The family now produces the Macari label out of a 500-acre estate on Long Island’s North Fork. But despite the tony locale, Macari keeps a common touch, saying that the vineyard’s 2008 Cabernet Franc would be a perfect pairing for “a chicken roll from Pugsley’s.”
Jessica Harsch, FCRH ’08, came for the first time last year for her five-year reunion, but was back again this year, meeting up with friends who, like herself, live in the New York area.
“We were going to wait for the 10-year (reunion), but we just couldn’t,” she said.
In bringing the alumni up to speed on Fordham’s progress, Father McShane mentioned the students’ 1.2 million hours of community service in the 2013 academic year. Steve Stadaro, GSB ’64, said that the Jesuit discipline of giving back led to his own “hundreds of thousands of hours volunteering.”
Father McShane said the University received 41,000 applications for 2,100 spots in next year’s freshman class. He noted the more than 100 national and international academic, cultural, and service-oriented awards won by students, as well as 12 Fulbrights. He ticked off the major facilities projects, including the Hughes Hall renovation, new residence halls, the new 22-story law school and residence hall at the Lincoln Center campus, and the conversion of the Ramskeller beer hall into a fitness center.
“Talk about redemption,” he said.
He also mentioned the football team’s 12-and-2 “best record ever”—which surpassed the famous era of the Seven Blocks of Granite—and the women’s basketball and softball teams that took home Atlantic 10 championships. Fordham welcomed a few of its newest alumni into the fold by conferring degrees on four softball players who missed their May 17 commencement in order to compete in the NCAA softball championships.
Christiana Siesta, Gabby Luety, Elise Fortier, and Brianna Ciuffi made their way to the front of Tognino Hall to a standing ovation in what could be described as a mini-commencement ceremony. In his last official act as dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Michael Latham, Ph.D., asked Father McShane to grant the players their bachelor’s degrees, while their coach, Bridget Orchard, looked on with pride.
After the ceremony, alumni fanned out to a variety of events, including the Macari wine tasting, the Jubilee picnic, the Thomas More luncheon, Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden tours, and the Marymount awards ceremony, to name but a few. At the University Church, music director Robert Minotti demonstrated the new Shoenstein & Company church organ, which replaced the 133-year-old behemoth. Several alumni got a chance to play.
In addition to a morning tour of the University’s Museum of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Art with Curator of University Art Jennifer Udell, Ph.D. Jubilarians were also invited to a talk by Janna C. Heyman, Ph.D., associate dean and professor at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service. Heyman delivered Fordham at the Forefront’s 13th lecture, “The New Old Age,” highlighting strategies to increase the quality of life for the elderly.
All the day’s events led to a glittering evening at the Jubilee Gala, where, under festive lighting inside the big tent on Edwards Parade, more than 2,000 alumni and friends—the most ever to attend Jubilee—dined and danced into the night. Dotting the tent’s periphery were oversized “checks” representing class donations, with this year’s total coming in at more than $8 million.