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With Hugs and Handshakes, Students Thank Their Supporters


It was an evening for expressing gratitude, sharing dreams, and honoring an intergenerational Fordham tradition that has been transforming the lives of young people for years.

On April 28, approximately 300 people gathered at the University Club in Midtown Manhattan to celebrate the generosity of the Fordham community at the annual Scholarship Donors and Recipients Reception, which allows Fordham students who receive scholarships to meet their benefactors and personally thank them.

This year’s reception marked a special celebration, as it came one month after the successful close of Excelsior | Ever Upward | The Campaign for Fordham. The campaign raised $540 million for the University, including $108 million in gifts that created more than 220 donor-driven scholarships.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, gave thanks to the donors for supporting the campaign, and for opening the “golden door” of educational opportunity to the next generation of the Fordham family.

“The students here are our most precious representatives. And if they have walked through the door, and they have, it’s because of you,” he said.

Rebecca Ivins, FCRH ‘14, was one of several recipients of the Henry S. Miller, FCRH ‘68, Endowed Fellowship for International Education. Thanks to the Miller Fellowship, Ivins participated in a weeklong health immersion study trip to Colombia in March. She said meeting Jesuit medical students abroad helped confirm why she wants to practice dentistry.

“Though we live in very different cultures, we all have a desire to give and to help others. The concept of being ‘men and women for others’ truly crosses borders,” Ivins said.

As Miller heard about his scholars’ experiences, he said he chose to support an international study scholarship because of the impact studying in France made on him.

“Studying internationally changed my perspective on life. It was very transformative for me, and I wanted to give back,” Miller said.

F. Jay Breyer, Ph.D., GSAS ‘81, and Margaret Breyer are benefactors of a fellowship for graduate students in the field of psychometrics, which uses science to measure psychological concepts. Breyer said he also chose to give back to help today’s students pursue his passion.

For Joseph Grochowalski, GSAS ‘15, receiving the fellowship was not only a great financial help as he prepares to work on his dissertation, but also a welcome encouragement.

“You know that people are rooting for you, and I think that everyone in the program benefits from that,” Grochowalski said.

Breyer added that it’s vital that the field is being expanded by the work of excellent student scholars.

“We want to make sure that people like Joe are successful, to help ensure innovation in psychometrics,” he said.

Student speaker Troy Coonrad, GSB ‘14, recipient of The Robert E. Campbell Endowed Scholarship, Nuňez Family Scholarship, and Christopher Smith and Ellen Fahey-Smith Endowed Scholarship, thanked the donors on behalf of his fellow students. He summed up donors’ roles in scholars’ lives by introducing a new term: the “Ramily.”

“All of the incredible experiences I have had over these past four years would not be possible without the generosity of donors like you. I couldn’t be happier that Fordham hosts a night like tonight—a chance to thank you,” Coonrad said.

University Trustee William J. Toppeta, FCRH ’70, and his wife, Debra, established the John and Rita Toppeta Endowed Scholarship, named for Toppeta’s parents—both Fordham alumni. He said they support scholarships and faculty at the University “to build the best possible future for all of us, and for our children and grandchildren.”

Benefactors John and Patti Heller, PAR ‘03, ‘07, ‘11, became a part of the Fordham family when three of their children attended the university. In addition to funding a scholarship for students from the Midwest, they have hosted receptions at their home in Chicago for Fordham families and helped their scholars find jobs after graduation. Patti Heller said developing a relationship with the students has been “great fun.”

“It’s wonderful when you hear from these students, and to hear them say ‘thank you,’” Heller said. “I wish I had gone to Fordham. It’s like it’s my school now, too.”

Contact: Jennifer Spencer


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