It was a gloriously sunny New York day that greeted new students and their parents on both campuses for Fordham’s Opening Day on Aug. 25. Unseasonably cool and with no humidity, it prompted Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, to joke with students that “this is the way it is all the time.”
In welcoming remarks made between the actual move-in and getting-to-know-you exercises, Father McShane doled out practical advice alongside words of encouragement and comfort. For parents, he said, it’s natural to “ping pong between pride and panic.”
“You are dealing with the reality of saying goodbye to an adolescent who has already become an adult and who remains the joy of your heart and the pride of your life,” he said to the parents.
To the students, he said the University has been preparing for their arrival for 178 years, since the first class arrived on June 24, 1841. With 47,871 students applying for just 2,273 seats in the Class of 2023, this year’s first-year students are a far cry from their 18th-century brethren. They come from more than 50 countries with a mean test score of 1355 and a mean GPA of 3.64. Seventy-eight percent were in the top 25% of their high school class.
Father McShane told them that a world-class faculty who have never lost their love of the classroom awaits them. He added that their professors will “never insult them with low expectations.” And while he was on the theme of expectations, he said much would be expected from them, too. Referencing scripture, he said, “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.”
An Early Start in the Bronx
As early as 7:30 a.m., new students and their families began rolling onto the Rose Hill campus. One family drove across more than five states to reach their daughter’s new home. They arrived to cheers from their fellow Rams and bottles of water being handed out by Father McShane.
“We drove from Mississippi, which is about a 21-hour drive,” said Noelle King, a first-year student whose family rented a minivan and drove from Wiggins, Mississippi, to move her into the residence hall, Queens Court Residential College. “We broke it up into three days.”
Other students had already settled into their residence halls a few days before. Angela Payne from Fort Worth, Texas, was among the first-year undergraduate students who participated in Urban Plunge, a pre-orientation volunteer program that introduces students to the Bronx community. Payne said she and her new peers spent time uprooting invasive species at the New York Botanical Garden, where they learned how much work goes into maintaining a public space. They also embarked on a hip-hop history tour in the Bronx. And the night before, she tried tacos at the Bronx Night Market and took the subway to Koreatown in Manhattan, where she bought boba tea.
“I got to learn about the Bronx, its history, and Fordham’s place in the Bronx,” she said, perched atop her new bed in Loyola Hall.
So did Francis Brown, a first-year student from Connecticut who plans on studying finance in the Gabelli School of Business.
“People talk about Arthur Avenue and the Botanical Garden, but they haven’t really explored the Bronx and interacted with the people who live there,” said Brown, who lives in Queens Court. “That was really special for me.”
The day was also special for first-year students who, after months of texts and emails, finally met their roommates in person, like Noah Kennedy and Ahan Dhar. Kennedy is a Connecticut native who plans on studying environmental studies; Dhar is a communication and culture student who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and raised in India. They soon discovered that they shared something identical—their navy blue towels from Bed Bath & Beyond.
“We ended up buying very similar bedding and exactly the same towels,” Kennedy said with a sheepish grin.
“By pure coincidence,” Dhar chimed in.
Kennedy also shares a special history with the University. His grandparents, who are Fordham alumni, were expecting their first child—his mother, Lea Graner Kennedy—during their first year of college. On the day of her final exam, she went into labor.
“Lo and behold, she failed her first and only exam because her water broke during the exam,” said Lea, who was born at Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx.
A few floors up from the Kennedy family were the Schmidts from North Carolina, moving in their daughter Jordan Schmidt. Her parents, Bill and Laurie, had already dropped off her twin sister in Boston. Today was Jordan’s turn.
“School [is your]first [priority], right?” said Bill, giving his daughter advice for the next four years.
“Yeah,” echoed Jordan. “Go to class.”
“Stay safe. Make good choices,” Laurie said.
“The most important thing, though—have fun,” said Jordan’s father. “This is going to be the best four years of your life.”
Later that evening, a candle-lighting ceremony and carnival rides on campus provided plenty of opportunities for the fun and memory-making to begin.
Living Up High at Lincoln Center
At Lincoln Center, 60th and 62nd Streets were closed to traffic so that families could pull up McKeon and McMahon Halls with ease. Like the Bronx, the newcomers were greeted by their fellow students with raucous cheers and bottles of water. The newcomers were told that they didn’t have to lift a finger—the student volunteers brought all their belongings to their rooms. It was a gesture that put many a parent at ease. Sonya Jefferson of Dallas said it made all the difference.
“The student welcome eased all the tension and made it easy for me to relax,” said Jefferson, whose daughter Miah hopes to major in screenwriting at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC).
After serving in the Navy for 23 years, Sonya said she had only been separated from her daughter once, when she was deployed to Guantanamo Bay. After moving around a bit, they settled back in her hometown of Dallas.
“It’s bittersweet; there’s a fear of the unknown,” she said. “I’ve never left my baby except for when I was deployed to Cuba.”
Down the hall, Griffin Harrington chose a bed near a window overlooking the Metropolitan Opera. He said that he’d been to campus several times before to see his sister McKenna perform plays with the Theatre Program and even stayed in the residence halls one summer when he went to The School of the New York Times, which rents space on campus each year. He said that the decision to come to Fordham wasn’t a clear one at first.
“I came to see the campus partly to humor my sister, but Gabelli [School of Business] ended up being the obvious choice for me,” he said, as his mother Lisa hung hangers in his new closet.
With two students at Fordham, Lisa said she and her husband were now empty nesters. The two will be taking a well-deserved vacation to Montreal and Lake Placid, she said. But she’ll be back to visit soon enough.
“We’re excited to come back and see the Fordham shows, we’ve never missed a show,” she said.
Outside of McMahon Hall, Mukund and Arti Kshirsagar waited by their car for their daughter Srushthi to register and begin to move in. Arti said that she was glad that as a Gabelli global business student, her daughter would be exposed to an international business community in New York. The couple came to the United States from India for their education and stayed on to raise their family in Maryland.
“Now this is home,” said Mukund of life in the U.S.
Meanwhile, downstairs outside of the Ram Café, Patricia Gillespi waited in line to rent a locker for her son Andre, a commuter from Manhattan’s Upper East Side. A born and bred New Yorker, Andre went to the Loyola School and Manhattan School of Music.
Mother and son live not far from the Carlyle, where Andre’s father headlined as a pianist before he passed away in 2017. Andre credits his dad for his musical talent and said that he felt he could have gone to gone one of the prestigious music schools in the city.
“Jazz and classical are literally in my blood,” he said.
But he only applied to one school—Fordham. His mother said he made the decision after a campus visit when he was a sophomore in high school. While he expects to major in music, he said he wanted to come to Fordham so that he could have a broad-based education with an opportunity to shift focus should he choose.
“I chose one school, and I got in to that one school,” he said, as his mother beamed a smile.
— Story co-author: Tom Stoelker
— Video by Dianna Ekins, Dan Carlson, and Elizabeth Houston