“I used to call him the mayor of Forest Hills,” she said. “As we’d walk to the train, he’d wave and smile to strangers along the way.”
Morales joined Fordham IT shortly after a department-wide reorganization that included a renewed focus on customer service. Roslyn Nedd, director of operations/business, said he bonded fast with him.
“He was fun, smart, dedicated. It felt like I knew him for a long time. In the seven years I’ve been here I never bonded with someone like that. He was like a ray of sunshine,” said Nedd.
“He was the first in and the last to leave. I would try to encourage him to take lunch or leave early. Ten weeks was too short, but I saw nothing but greatness.”
Gerard Cariffe, associate vice president of special projects and chief technology officer, concurred. He said that Morales was recruited to improve customer service including the implementation of an entirely new ticketing system in time for the new year.
“He accomplished a lot in a very short period of time, and he did it in a way that was congenial that you liked him almost immediately. He was definitely a people person,” said Cariffe.
In addition to supervising a fairly large group in IT, he also served a variety of constituencies in and outside of the department, including faculty, students, and staff, said Cariffe.
“He touched a lot of lives in a very short period of time,” he said.
His daughter noted that same could be said of his life as well. She said that she was taken aback at her father’s Sept. 16 memorial by the coworkers from his 30-year career in technology that spanned the worlds of finance and academia.
“They said he was always smiling, always offering to help, and always asking about life and family. It was consistent throughout, from Merrill Lynch folks, the Columbia Business School folks, and the Manhattan School of Music. I was just blown away by the community,” she said.
Morales was raised in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood, attended Bronx Science High School, and earned a bachelor’s degree at Pace University and a master’s degree in tech management at Columbia University. He was a first-generation Puerto Rican who identified as “American” and was the first in his family to go to university.
Xylina said that while he shined at technology, it was his people skills that brought him into managerial and, later, more senior directorial roles. Those same skills came into play at his co-op where he kept an eye out for the elderly and helped them with tax forms. He was also a mentor to several young men working at the building.
“He was always looking out for the guys they were hiring for the doormen positions. One of the guys told me, ‘I don’t work there anymore, but your dad inspired me to go back to school. And I was like, ‘Okay, well, I’m gonna follow up with you in my dad’s honor, because I know how important education was for him,’” she said.
Xylina said that she and her sister Kiara were blessed to call Morales their father and they both marveled at how much attention he paid the rest of the family, including being a present son to his mother Amy and a doting “pop-pop” to his two-year-old granddaughter Iris.
Morales also leaves behind friends of his daughters whose fathers were no longer around or didn’t live close enough to help take them to the mechanic when the car broke down, to the hardware store to pick out tiles for the bathroom. His duties also extended to painting flower pots for a community garden and playing Santa Claus, depending on what the seasons called for. He spent hours at a time at the gym with buddies to the point that his daughters would have him paged over the loudspeaker when they needed him. Last, but certainly not least, Xylina said, he could cut a carpet with his dance moves.
“He taught me how to rave,” she said with a chuckle.
At the service, she asked the assembled to imagine her father crooning along with song and showing off his dance moves to Bruno Mars’s “It Will Rain.”
“Although it feels like our hearts will never stop crying, my hope for us all is that the Ray of sunshine my dad shared with each and every one of us will brighten our days,” she said at the service. “I do know that somewhere, in the vastness of whatever lies beyond, my dad is smiling down at us and wishing us well.”
In addition to Xylina, Kiara, and Iris, Morales is also survived by three sisters, Ingrid, Nancy, and Lucy, and a brother, Junior. Donations in the name of Ray Morales can be made to the American Heart Association.