The University announced that Andrea Mennillo, PAR ’16, managing director and founding partner of IDA Capital Ltd., London, has been named chair of the London Centre Advisory Board. He replaces Juanita Foley, FCRH ’95, who served as chair since 2017. Mennillo’s appointment began June 1.
Drawing on their collective experience and networks, members of the advisory board offer guidance to students, leadership, faculty, and alumni and assist the University in the center’s strategic planning.
Mennillo, whose son Francesco Maria graduated from the Gabelli School of Business, has already served as the advisory board’s vice-chair and has remained a very active member of the Fordham community even after his son graduated in 2016. He has served as chair of the International Parents’ Leadership Council, and is a member of Gabelli School of Business Advisory Board and chair of its Globalization Council. He was also the inaugural recipient of the Fordham London Gabelli School of Business 2018 International Awareness Award.
“We give great importance to global perspectives—a distinctive trait of Jesuit education. Great Jesuits of the past, like Matteo Ricci, S.J., showed us the path. Father Ricci, in the 17th century, was the first European to enter the Forbidden City in Beijing,” Mennillo said, adding that the priest dressed as a local and learned Mandarin.
“At Fordham, we prepare our students to be informed and compassionate leaders and to understand before making decisions,” he said. “Our backyard has become the global world,” he said, noting that for many students their semester abroad may be their first true international experience away from home.
An Expansive Career Informed by a Global Perspective
Mennillo’s expansive career in international finance began at Price Waterhouse in 1986. He would go on to leadership roles at Banca Popolare di Brescia (Bipop) in 1994, where he helped transform the small local bank with the rollout across Europe of a new multichannel banking model. Bipop soon became Italy’s first online bank and a leader in online trading. A series of advisory and leadership roles followed, including a role as an adviser to the Italian government’s Ministry of Finance. In 2014, he founded IDA Capital, Ltd., a London-based firm specializing in investments, diplomacy, and financial advice for developing nations. He refers to his current role as that of a “business diplomat” working at the intersection of international public and private sectors.
“We help bridge the differences in perception and communication that often separate these vital segments,” he said by phone from his home in the Principality of Monaco, with the sounds of mopeds buzzing nearby and the bells of the famous Sainte Dévote chapel tolling in the background.
“I greatly enjoy working with my colleagues at Fordham to develop a broader international view for the students, because the world is not domestic; the world is global. I strongly believe in that,” he said.
Search for a New London Centre Head
Mennillo’s appointment came shortly before the announcement from the provost’s office that study abroad will be suspended this coming fall, and a few months after an announcement that Richard Salmi, S.J., head of London Centre, will be stepping down at the end of June to return to the U.S. on a new assignment from his Jesuit province. During his six-year tenure, Father Salmi oversaw the expansion of the center’s programming and its 2018 move from a tenancy at Heythrop College to a dedicated building in London’s Clerkenwell district. Fordham’s provost, Dennis Jacobs, said Father Salmi “helped turn Fordham’s ambitious vision for a vibrant London academic hub into a reality.”
The University will soon be launching a search for a new head of London Centre. The search committee is chaired by Ellen Fahey-Smith, associate vice president in the Office of the Provost, and includes five additional members: former London Centre advisory board member Michael Holman, S.J.; current board member Greg Minson, FCRH ’98, Global COO, MBD Real Estate at Goldman Sachs; Dean Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., of the Gabelli School; Dean Maura Mast, Ph.D., of Fordham College at Rose Hill; and Assistant Head of London Centre Matthew Holland. Nici Blake, director of London Centre operations, will coordinate the search effort, which will be aided by global executive search firm Witt/Kieffer.
The Close of London Dramatic Academy
In addition to Salmi’s departure, the Office of the Provost also announced last semester the London Dramatic Academy would be closing after a nearly 20-year affiliation with Fordham (and an additional 20 years with Marymount College, before Marymount and Fordham consolidated).
This summer, the academy’s acting studios will be reconfigured to become much-needed classroom space, which will take on a new dimension with social distancing rules. About 150 students each fall and about 300 each spring study at London Centre, which offers liberal arts and business courses to Fordham students and other university students who want to study abroad.
Keeping Students Safe
As a father from Europe who sent his son to the Bronx to study, Mennillo intimately understands parents’ anxieties about sending children away to school.
“My wife Brunella [former co-chair of the International Parents Leadership Council] and I were simultaneously concerned and excited to send our son abroad; it was a difficult choice,” he said. “My primary commitment is to be sure our students will be kept safe and healthy during their experience in London.”
He also noted that the unwelcome public health crisis has created an opportunity to reassess the center’s goals.
“My goal is to lead us to find the right angle in any difficult situation,” he said. “According to Dr. Jacobs, we will have more room to think about the future and how we want to reshape the academic offerings.”
Any move forward, he noted, will need to be attuned to how the British government responds to the pandemic, so that London Centre complies will all regulations in place to keep the virus at bay. “I am already in personal contact with the education secretary of the United Kingdom, Gavin Williamson, to pave a lawful and effective path for Fordham.”
Planning for 2020-2021
In addition to conducting the search for the new head, the provost’s office is working to develop a flexible academic model of instruction for the London Centre that aligns with that of Fordham’s New York campuses. Staff is also working in tandem with Fordham’s Office of Student Affairs in New York to identify lodgings that will be ready to accept students when authorities deem it safe, and to modify public space and classrooms to meet new regulations.
“Though we will not open in the fall,” said Fahey-Smith, “we’ll be closely watching safety regulations as well as the progress of the virus. We’re hopeful that students can return in the spring.”
She said the University is looking forward to an exciting future for the London Centre.
“We’re continuing to plan for a robust study-abroad experience for our students,” she said, “and we’re working on creative and comprehensive ways to meet this unprecedented challenge.”
For his part, Mennillo said he will be there to “offer support Fordham leaders and give them my experience as a corporate leader.”
He noted that this is not Europe’s first plague.
“In the U.S. you say, ‘The path is in the past,’ and in Europe as well, we listen to our ancestors to find wise consideration,” he said, before referencing the Meditations by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, which he called “the most important philosophical text in Western Culture.”
“Marcus Aurelius told us that the happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts. That is why I strongly believe in a culturally advanced education, and that is what we offer at London Centre,” he said.