The 10 Fordham employees who gathered in the Duane Library on Dec. 14 represented more than two centuries of service to the University. The workers, who hailed from departments ranging from Facilities Operations to Development and University Relations, received the 1841 Award Medal for Service on their 20th and, in one case, 40th anniversaries at Fordham.
The 1841 Award lauds more than just professionalism and loyalty, said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham; it recognizes the recipients as members of the University family.
“It’s not just an award moment or a moment of recognition—it is a feast. And for me, it’s probably the sweetest feast in the Fordham calendar, because if you look around, this is family,” he said. “We are the Fordham family gathered together in love to celebrate the extraordinary generosity of our colleagues.”
After two decades on campus, many of the recipients have themselves come to feel that Fordham is a second home.
Winston Alexander, a 40-year medalist, was a high-pressure operator in Jamaica before joining his family in the Bronx. Resolving to continue his work as an engineer, Alexander joined the Fordham staff while taking classes to obtain his operating engineer license.
Forty years later, the campus is an integral part of Alexander’s life.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Alexander, who adds his most recent 1841 Award to the one he received 20 years earlier. “Forty years here—it’s going to tear me apart when I have to leave because I love the University.”
As lead engineer in Facilities Operations, Alexander “has toiled ceaselessly and relentlessly in the machine and boiler rooms of Rose Hill,” Marco Valera, vice president for facilities management, told the ceremony’s participants. “Like a modern-day Hephaestus, Winston tends the flames of Fordham’s forges, providing heating and cooling, as needed, to every room on this campus.”
“I just love Fordham,” Alexander said. “That’s all I can say.”
Twenty-year medalist Noel Nevin, a steam refrigeration engineer in Facilities Operations, was described as “the face and voice” of the physical plant.
“Unfailingly,” Valera said, “he is able to calm frayed nerves as adeptly as he repairs leaking steam lines.”
In addition to his professional endeavors, Nevin has seen the University from a student’s and a parent’s perspective. He completed a degree in English in 1996 and his son, Michael, is a freshman in the Gabelli School of Business.
“It’s the people that really make Fordham,” Nevin said. “Twenty years just flew by.”
Ismael Maldonado, of Custodial Services, used to play baseball and football on campus with other neighborhood children when his father, Ismael, Sr., was the head painter at Fordham.
Gerardo Conte, a foreman in Custodial Services, bears a similar familial legacy—his wife, sister and two children have all traversed the campus either as staff members or as students.
“They’re the men and women who keep us truly a family,” Father McShane said. “They work remarkably hard to produce great results quietly so that everybody in the University has a life that’s easier, a career that’s easier. We depend on [them]every day.”
Established in 1982 by James C. Finlay, S.J., former University president, the 1841 Award commemorates the year Fordham was founded by Archbishop John Hughes.
The recipients of the 29th annual 1841 Award were:
• Winston Alexander Facilities Operations
• Victor Birone Facilities Operations
• Gerardo Conte Custodial Services
• Peter Cotaj Custodial Services
• Ismael Maldonado Custodial Services
• Noel A. Nevin Facilities Operations
• Judy E. Porter Development & University Relations
• Jaime Sanchez Facilities Operations
• Luis M. Vargas Facilities Operations
• Vera Zadrima Custodial Services