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Students, Donors Celebrate the ‘Life-Changing Events’ of Scholarships

On April 24, hundreds of members of the Fordham community came together to celebrate the impact of scholarships—which have, for some recipients, meant everything.

“These are more than scholarships,” said Fordham senior Sonola Burrja, giving an address at the University’s annual Scholarship Donors and Recipients Reception. “They are often life-changing events that have aided us in becoming who we are today.”

Burrja, who emigrated from Albania, got a scholarship at a time when she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to finish her degree at Fordham. Now she’s sitting on three medical school acceptances. “This scholarship truly changed the path that my life is about to take,” said Burrja, a biological sciences major at Fordham College at Rose Hill and recipient of the Eugenie F. Doyle, M.D., and Joseph A. Doyle, Esq., Endowed Scholarship.

The event at the University Club in Manhattan drew approximately 340 donors and students—some of whom were meeting the benefactors behind their scholarships in person for the first time.

Others already had relationships with their benefactors. One recipient in attendance, Gabriella Lopez, was considering transferring to a college back home in Florida a few years ago because of how the coronavirus pandemic shook up her family’s dynamics. She thought it would be impossible for her to come back to Fordham, “which really did sadden me tremendously,” she said. “I had already spent a year and a half here, and I wanted to stay committed and finish out my degree.”

Then Fordham connected Lopez to a scholarship created by Patricia Dugan-Perlmuth, FCLC ’79. “That basically just saved me and gave me the opportunity to finish out my career here at Fordham,” said Lopez, now a senior in the Ailey/Fordham BFA in Dance program at Fordham College at Lincoln Center. In addition to the scholarship gift, Dugan-Perlmuth’s “consistent communication with me has really helped keep me steady and grounded and graduate on time.”

To Dugan-Perlmuth, that’s just part of giving to Fordham. “It’s very cura personalis,” she said, using the Jesuit term for caring for the whole person.

The Cycle of Giving

In her own remarks, Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham, spoke of the cycle of scholarship giving and lauded the commitment of donors. “I’ve met so many of you, both in New York and around the country, and you tell me these stories—sometimes with tears in your eyes—about what it meant to have someone invest in you,” she said, “and how eager you are to keep investing in others.”

The night was full of stories of trials and triumph as students and donors sat together around tables, breaking bread. “It’s exhilarating to put a face to the name,” said Theresa Krembs, a sophomore at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and another recipient of Dugan-Perlmuth’s endowed scholarship.

Two donors also addressed the gathering—Mary Jane F. McCartney, TMC ’69, PAR, and her husband, George F. McCartney, Esq., FCRH ’68, LAW ’74, PAR, both of whom are longtime members of the Fordham University President’s Council. “To achieve our hopes for you, it’s important that you do more than graduate and get a good-paying job,” Mary Jane McCartney said. “We hope that you are spending your time here absorbing the full range of cultures, ideas, and viewpoints that an intense Jesuit education provides.”

One student in attendance, Kweku Andoh Jr., a sophomore in the Gabelli School of Business, came to Fordham to learn the business side of fashion and get experience in the industry, and is now doing shoots and working at Moschino, a fashion house. But he might not be at Fordham without the Richard R. Hayes, GABELLI ’51, Endowed Scholarship, designated for veterans and students from military families.

Andoh is the son of a federal employee and member of the U.S. Army; the family was relocating from a duty station in Germany around the time he entered Fordham, and needed help with his tuition. The scholarship “is really great, tailored to students like me, who have parents in the military,” Andoh said. “I think the scholarship has really helped with our transition.”

Richard Hayes, founder of the scholarship, passed away in 2018, but his wife, Margaret Hayes, came to the reception and met Andoh there. She said hearing recipients’ stories and connecting with students who have lived all over the world keep her coming back.

“They’re just so lovely and energetic and hopeful and creative,” she said. “I come every year.”

Jeff Coltin

Scholarship gifts advance the University’s current $350 million fundraising campaign, Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student. Learn more about our campaign.


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