How do you follow up a $25 million gift—the largest in University history—to transform the undergraduate business college at Fordham?
Here’s a hint: it’s got four hooves and bleats.
Mario Gabelli (GSB ’65) used the occasion ofhis guest lecture on Dec. 1 to restore a part of Fordham’s athletic and campus tradition in the form of a live ram mascot.
Its appearance at the McGinley Center that afternoon was greeted with stunned looks, cheers and more than a few fist bumps from students who got to pet and pose with the Fordham icon.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Clifford Philogene, a freshman in Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH).
“When you think of a ram, you think of brute force,” he said. “You touch the wool and you expect it to be a little bit rough. But it melted in my hand. It’s like cotton candy.”
In much the same way that rock concerts never begin on time, the ram’s appearance was pushed back from its noon start while finishing touches were made to its tent outside McGinley.
After resting comfortably in its very own “ram van” across the street, “Buster” emerged just after 12:30 p.m. to the astonishment of passers by.
Once inside the tent, it donned the mantle of Rameses, a felt-and-wool blanket emblazoned with three Block F letters. The garment was made to replicate the ones worn by Fordham rams of decades past.
Sensing the moment’s import, the ram began hopping about in a small circle, tugging at the rein held by its handler, Bambi Brook of the Dawn Animal Agency.
About a dozen students witnessed the quasi-coronation. Scores more would seek out the ram as word began to spread across Rose Hill. Still others took to the tent to escape the day’s downpour. All were quick to register their impressions.
“That’s really cool.”
“I love the ram!”
“Can I touch him?”
“He’s soooooo cute!”
“Whoa! Go ram!”
“I think he should be here all the time,” said Michelle Ioannou, an FCRH sophomore. “Having an actual ram would help school spirit, especially at events like Homecoming and Spring Fling.”
Anna Gildea, also a sophomore in FCRH, agreed.
“I told my mom about the ram, and her first response was, ‘Where did they get him, and why wasn’t he at all of the football games?’” she said.
If Gabelli wanted some extra publicity for his lecture, he chose the best way to spread the word. Students who came to see the ram were told of the event, and left the tent with Gabelli School of Business t-shirts and magnets.
“Come see Mario Gabelli at 5 p.m. in Keating First. He brought the ram back. He brought it back for you,” was the rallying cry of Angela Giovine (GSB ’04, GBA ’05), an event planner who works with Fordham’s business schools.
For its part, Buster showed remarkable poise in the face of near-constant camera flashes and adulation from its admiring public.
The specimen was eight or nine years old and weighed just shy of 200 pounds, Brook said. She explained that Buster’s double horns were a trait of Jacob Sheep, while his nicely formed curls were a product of his Suffolk lineage.
Though appreciative of a chance to mug for the camera with a live animal, the vast majority of students were unfamiliar with the history of Rameses, the live ram mascot that Fordham housed at Rose Hill for decades.
Mary Burke, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of economics at Fordham and a graduate of the University’s Thomas More College, said she remembers those days.
“He was over at the edge of campus between Martyrs’ and the railroad tracks in a little brick house all to himself,” Burke said.
“One of my students told me yesterday that there would be a ram here and I decided I had to go see him,” she said. “I haven’t seen him in a long time. He’s handsome.”
After standing patiently for more than two hours, a break in the storm allowed the ram to be walked around the Rose Hill grounds.
Gabelli himself arrived not long after, and helped to escort Buster to its second location on the terrace in front of Keating Hall. He said the ram was a fond memory of his time at Rose Hill that he was happy to share with today’s students.
“It’s different than the ram I remember,” Gabelli said. “but it’s a nostalgia trip.”
So striking was the animal that it drew high praise from Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham.
“He’s a handsome beast,” he said. “Does he mind being petted?”
Father McShane said he remembers attending games when a live mascot was present. The demise of the live ram on campus, he said, occurred when students from another college stole it and painted it green.
The fee for the ram’s appearance will go to the Sanctuary for Animals, a home in Westtown, N.Y. for rescued animals that Brook’s parents opened in 1959.
“Today, Buster helped buy some groceries for the other animals,” she said.
Though Buster’s appearance was a singular event, many who met the “Fordham ram” said the experience will resonate for a long time.
“There should be a ram farm on Edwards Parade—rams walking around everywhere,” said Clifford Philogene, before quickly adding, “as long as they’re tame.”
Senior Staff Writer Janet Sassi contributed to this report.