A little over a month after first setting foot on campus, the very first cohort of the Maurice and Carolyn Cunniffe Presidential Scholars met their advisers and benefactors in a lunch meet-and- greet at the Rose Hill campus.
The gathering, held Oct. 19 at Cunniffe House, brought together six first year students from Fordham’s three undergraduate colleges, faculty and administrators, and Maurice J. (Mo) Cunniffe, FCRH ’54, and Carolyn Dursi Cunniffe, Ph.D., GSAS ’71, whose transformative $20 million gift last fall created the scholarship program.
In his remarks to the students, Cunniffe spoke of one’s personal history and of leverage. Students’ families had shaped their character thus far, he said, and college would do the same. Even if the end result is that they are simply kind people, Fordham will have succeeded.
Once you reach a certain level of success, however, and you’ve satisfied your obligations to your immediate and extended family, you start to think of other ways to leverage that success, Cunniffe said.
“We thought if we fund the best and brightest for 10 years, we’ll have 60 really bright people. We know that out of all those people, there will be people who make the world a better place,” he said.
“Your obligation—as the best and brightest of your generation—is to leave something that’s better.”
Carolyn Dursi Cunniffe said it was a joy to finally meet in person the students whose biographies she’d become so familiar with on paper.
“We are thrilled to be here, we wish you well, we know you will go out in the world and do good,” she said.
The six inaugural awardees were chosen for their excellence in academics and extracurricular activities, and demonstration of leadership in their personal and academic lives. They are Fordham College at Rose Hill freshmen Ashley Conde and Andrew Souther; Fordham College at Lincoln Center freshmen Natalie Grammer, Rose O’Neill, and Lucie Taylor; and Gabelli School of Business freshman Erin O’Rourk.
Taylor, a native of Virginia, grew emotional when she spoke about how the scholarship has made it possible to explore fields as varied as physics, psychology, and international relations before committing to one area.
“I love that Fordham has encouraged me to explore all of that, and is going to help me, no matter what I choose, [to]use my skills to help other people,” she said.
O’Rourk, a native of Spokane, Washington, echoed the sentiment.
“I have a lot of things that I really love, but none of them connect. I’m passionate about music, but I’ve always been really good at math. I feel like Fordham is the perfect place for me to discover my passion,” she said.
Thursday’s gathering was the first time O’Rourk and her mentor, Gayane Hovakimian, Ph.D., met in person. Hovakimian, an associate professor of finance and business economics in the Gabelli School, said she sees her role as making sure O’Rourk leaves Fordham with no regrets.
Frank Boyle, Ph.D., director of the honors program at the Lincoln Center campus, said the Cunniffes’ scholarship program stands out because of the additional resources it provides for a student who might want to study beyond the curriculum—say, learn a language that is not offered at Fordham.
“When the mentors, the students, and the deans decide there is something important for the students to do, we will have the resources to get [it]to the students directly,” said the professor of English. Boyle will mentor to the Lincoln Center Cunniffe scholars until they’re paired up with someone who matches their interest.
“Matching exceptional students with professors happens all the time in the honors program, and it’s really great. This scholarship is a genius way of building on what’s already a University strength.”