| Oct 14, 2021 | Fran Jankowski
Homecoming Weekend Draws Alumni, Families, and Friends Back to Campus
For the first time in nearly two years, Homecoming returned to Rose Hill—and the Fordham football team rose to the occasion, defeating Wagner, 56–7, on Oct. 9. Following the game, players took turns boosting each other up to ring the Victory Bell, capping a weekend abuzz with school spirit.Several thousand Fordham alumni, family members, students, and friends took part in the festivities, which included special receptions for the classes of 1970 and 1971, a 5K Ram Run, the launch of the first-ever Alumni Book Club, a jaunt to the New York Botanical Garden, and the traditional Homecoming tents on Edwards Parade, where attendees of all ages mixed and mingled for the first time since November 2019. (Last year’s Homecoming was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
“This is Fordham—active, students running around, Edwards Parade full of people,” said Mary Boland, a 1979 graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill.
For Joe McAteer, a 1999 graduate of the Gabelli School of Business and a former Fordham football player, the day was a chance to resume a family tradition. He and his wife, Anne, took their daughters, Brigid and Melaney, to the family tent, where an artist drew caricatures of the girls and made balloon figures for them.
“I haven’t been on campus since the pandemic,” McAteer said. “And my daughters would come up here for years and loved, loved coming up here—it’s the family atmosphere. Being back on campus with my kids, it’s great. It’s just that ambience, that feel that you get walking back on campus.”
The celebrations commenced on Thursday evening, Oct. 7, when Fordham athletics inducted 13 alumni into its Hall of Fame during a ceremony under the Homecoming tent on Edwards Parade. Among this year’s honorees were record-breaking quarterback Mike Nebrich, FCRH ’15; former Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara, GABELLI ’13; former women’s basketball star Abigail Corning, GABELLI ’14; and Joe Moglia, FCRH ’71, a former CEO of TD Ameritrade and former head football coach at Coastal Carolina University.
Celebrating the Golden Rams
Moglia, who will be honored at the Fordham Founder’s Dinner on Nov. 8, was among the members of the classes of 1970 and 1971 who were invited to a special reception on Friday evening to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Fordham. While the Golden Rams are traditionally honored during Jubilee weekend in June, the celebrations for both class years were delayed until Homecoming this year, when the alumni could be feted in person.
Prior to the reception, they visited Butler Commons in Duane Library, home to a quarter-scale replica of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco—a gift from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Fordham in 2018. Art history professor Maria Ruvoldt, Ph.D., gave alumni and their guests a sweeping history of the storied fresco, gesturing above their heads to indicate specific areas of Michelangelo’s masterwork.
For Timothy Buckley, FCRH ’71, LAW ’74, and Eileen McDonough Buckley, TMC ’71, the space was a far cry from the Duane Library they knew 50 years ago, when the two met on campus as undergraduates. After the lecture, as they headed to University Church for a Mass honoring the Golden Rams, they recalled their wedding at the church in 1975, the year after Buckley graduated from Fordham Law School, as well as the charm of the old library.
“Walsh Library was long overdue,” Buckley said, referring to the William D. Walsh Family Library, which opened in 1997, “but when you came from where I came from, [the Finger Lakes region of New York], Duane was a big deal.”
“I loved those spiral staircases” in the old library, McDonough added.
Likewise, Peter Dolan, GABELLI ’71, ’75, and his wife, Mary Marcia Dolan, arrived on campus Friday afternoon with 50-year-old memories of a place that has changed dramatically in the intervening decades. Dolan took only a few classes at Rose Hill, but he recalled a scrappy population of students who, like him, often worked to pay for tuition while pursuing their studies. Mary Marcia attended Manhattanville College, a Fordham football rival at the time, but the couple had little time for Homecoming games until this year. Dolan said that by the time he was in graduate business school at Fordham, they already had two children. For him, college rivalries played out in job interviews.
“I’m grateful to Fordham for my career. I went on so many interviews going up against Princeton and the like and they’d say, ‘Finally, somebody from Fordham is here,’” he said on the steps of Keating Hall, standing next to his wife and grandson Patrick, a first-year student at Rose Hill, before heading into the tent on Edwards Parade for the Golden Rams reception.
Dolan said he had tried to convince his children to go to Fordham, but they all went to other Jesuit colleges, making his grandson’s presence at Rose Hill all the more special.
“To have my grandson come here is a thrill of a lifetime,” he said.
Dancing the Night Away, Amid Views of Keating Hall and the Manhattan Skyline
On Friday evening, approximately 1,000 young alumni from the classes of 2011 to 2021 began their Homecoming weekend on a yacht cruise around lower Manhattan. For members of the classes of 2020 and 2021—who made up the majority of the sold-out crowd—it was one of their first opportunities to reconnect with classmates and friends since graduation. Many also saw it as an event that made up for a tradition they missed as undergrads: Senior Week programming.
“I don’t think any of us have been in that kind of crazy-busy celebratory environment since before 2020,” Finley Peay, FCLC ’20, said after the event.
Meanwhile, at Rose Hill, current undergraduates resumed another tradition: the annual President’s Ball. The dance had a new location this year—the Homecoming Tent on Edwards Parade, following the Golden Rams reception—and it drew more than 3,400 students, one of biggest turnouts in the history of the ball.
A Flying Start
On Saturday morning, about 50 students, alumni, staff, and other members of the extended Fordham family took part in the 5K Ram Run, which started and ended in front of the historic Rose Hill Gym. Their path, three loops around campus, took them past the new campus center, which is undergoing an extensive renovation and expansion that will enhance services, programming, and resources for Fordham students.
For Fordham College at Rose Hill senior Kyle McAuley, who placed first, the race was a chance to enjoy an early-morning run and be part of the larger Fordham community.
“I’m a distance runner—I recently finished the Bronx 10-mile and I just really enjoy running in the Bronx. I think we need more races here, so to have one on Fordham’s campus was pretty cool,” he said. “It’s a good time to be a part of the community—I’m graduating this year, so it felt nice to be able to do this, especially after not having really any type of Homecoming last year.”
Sophomore Michael Parrinello, who finished second, brought a family feel to the event, running with his sister, Lauren.
“It was exciting to welcome family onto campus after all this time,” he said. “There’s just a lot of energy, which has kind of been missing the last 18 months.”
Catching Up on Campus
Homecoming attendees also had the opportunity to learn about some of the work that’s been taking place on and off campus in the past couple of years.
The deans of Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center shared how the Cultural Engagement Internships program, which they launched in 2020 with support from Fordham alumni, has grown from two partners to more than 20 for the current semester. The program provides students with paid internships at local nonprofits and cultural institutions such as the Bronx Book Festival, the New York Hall of Science, and the Brooklyn Museum.
“Many of these organizations were introduced to us by alumni or by faculty or by other members of the community,” said Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
One of Fordham’s partners is the Elmhurst/Corona Recovery Collaborative, which unites the efforts of 24 nonprofits in Queens. Fordham College at Lincoln Center sophomore Arika Ahamad supported the collaborative’s communications efforts this past year, working on a newsletter and other publications to help connect residents to community resources such as vaccination locations and help with government forms. “What they were all doing was working together to help the area recover from COVID-19,” she said.
Alumni also had the chance to welcome Sally Benner, FCRH ’84, who will become the chair of the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA) advisory board in January.
“I come here today, and I think of when I was a [student] trying to study on Homecoming Saturday,” she said, while speaking in the McGinley Center’s North Dining Hall. “I was wondering what was all that fuss? Who are these old people in that tent? And now, I am that person, and I want a bigger fuss—more noise!”
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, led a champagne toast at the FUAA reception, after which he called for attendees to join him in singing “The Ram,” Fordham’s fight song.
“I want to thank you for everything you do for Fordham,” he said. “I want you to be proud of Fordham—be as proud of Fordham as Fordham is of you. Pray for Fordham that we might always be true to the vision and the mission that John Hughes had,” he said, referring to the University’s founder.
Benner will succeed John Pettenati, FCRH ’81, the FUAA’s founding advisory board chair, who congratulated her on her new role. He said although he didn’t know her when they were students, he knew she was a member of Mimes and Mummers, the theater group at Rose Hill, “and I know how passionate she was about that organization: She’s going to bring that passion to the FUAA.”
Benner’s fellow Mimes and Mummers alumni also reunited on Saturday morning, enjoying coffee and catching up outside Hughes Hall before visiting Collins Auditorium, where they reminisced about their old college shows and marveled at the building’s new elevator and display of show posters framed by light bulbs.
Under the Tent
The Homecoming tent, however, was the main attraction. Alumni, students, families, and friends gathered there for pre-boxed lunches and drinks, played Jenga and other games, enjoyed each other’s company, and shared their favorite Fordham memories with friends and loved ones. (After the day was over, the alumni relations office donated 500 meals to Bessie Green Community Inc., a nonprofit organization that has been serving the underprivileged in Newark, New Jersey, since 1978.)
For Ruddy Castillo, a 1998 Fordham College at Rose Hill graduate, and his wife, Gloria, Homecoming was the first time they had the chance to share the campus experience with their daughters, Emma and Victoria.
“I’ve never done it before—there’s so much change, and it’s great to actually see all the changes and to see people again,” Castillo said. “It’s even better [with my daughters], to share in the memories and show them around the campus that I came to school at, and get them exposed to this type of event.”
Several attendees took the opportunity to meet Mary Bly, Ph.D., chair of Fordham’s English Department, who signed copies of her novel Lizzie & Dante (Random House, 2021), which was recently selected as the inaugural selection of the Fordham Alumni Book Club.
It’s the first novel she’s published under her real name, but she’s well-known in the romance genre for the more than 7 million books she’s sold under her pseudonym, Eloisa James.
The book club will meet via Zoom for two, one-hour sessions on Wednesday, October 20, and Wednesday, November 10. The first session will be moderated by Fordham English Professor Stuart Sherman, Ph.D., and the second session will be moderated by Phillip Cicione, Ed.D., FCRH ’87, one of the alumni who stopped by the tent to pick up a copy of Lizzie & Dante.
Cicione, an English teacher in New York’s Commack school district, met Bly through a former student who recently graduated from Fordham. “[Mary and I] had lunch right before [the COVID-19] shutdown, and she was asking me for ideas of how to get English alumni more involved with Fordham and, specifically, the English department,” Cicione said.
They stayed in touch, and eventually he was asked to serve as a moderator for the Fordham Alumni Book Club. “It’s a perfect fit, as an educator, to be moderating,” he said. “Every day in my classroom is a book club.”
Game Time—or a Walk in the Botanical Garden
As the 1 p.m. kickoff approached, the Fordham cheerleaders and dance team helped get the crowd hyped up before the big game, while the Fordham band played the University’s fight song. But not everyone made their way to Coffey Field.
Several attendees decided to tour the New York Botanical Garden at a discounted Fordham rate, a new option offered at Homecoming this year. The Ciciones each chose their favorite, with Phillip heading to the game and Jackie opting for the garden.
She cited her love of the botanical garden and the ease of touring it solo as reasons why she trekked across the street instead of going into the stands.
Fran Phair, PCS ’05, said that while she’s attended the Homecoming game in the past, this year she felt the garden would be more fun than football. “There’s a great exhibit going on right now. That’s why we made this decision.”
But for Fordham football and their fans, the scene at Jack Coffey Field was fun too.
Senior quarterback Tim DeMorat put on a show for the Ram faithful, throwing for four touchdowns and 339 yards in the first half, as he led the Fordham to a 56–7 victory over Wagner in front of an excited home crowd.
At the end of the first quarter, the 1971 crew team was honored on the 50th anniversary of an exceptional season. Despite the challenges of losing varsity status and having to find a new coach that year, the team won first place in the Deering Cup, beat eight of nine competitors in the Grimaldi Cup, and won first place in the Hudson River Presidents Cup.
The team’s coach, Ed Witman, GSAS ’77, was pursuing a doctorate at Fordham when he found a torn piece of loose-leaf on the windshield of his Volkswagen prior to the 1971 season. “Interested in coaching crew?” it asked.
It was a difficult time for the team, whose members had embraced the “cultural revolution,” Witman said, with their long hair and beards. They didn’t have a lot of support.
“And then we lost the boat,” he said. “So we had to row in borrowed shells. If these guys had not persevered and hung in there, though, I think the crew at Fordham would have vanished.”
Team member John J. Fischer Jr., FCRH ’72, said the team has remained close. “We’ve been good friends and we get together every year, almost, to celebrate our team and go out on a row—we used to go out on rows. We’re now in our 70s.”
The Rams put on most of their show in the first half, going up 42–7, thanks to DeMorat; senior wide receiver Fotis Kokosioulis, who had 101 yards and two scores; and first-year linebacker James Conway, who held Wagner’s offense in check by completing a game-high 12 tackles and forcing a fumble.
The weekend concluded with a Homecoming Mass in the University Church.
Chris Walchuk, FCRH ’84, GSE ’87, who attended Homecoming in 2019, said that she loved getting to share the experience of the day with her daughter Katarina, a first-year student at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
“It’s the people,” she said. “It’s so nice. I was thinking about that as we were sitting inside the tent. This is just like the previous one, [in 2019]. It’s so nice to be back.”
—Taylor Ha, Nicole LaRosa, Sierra McCleary-Harris, and Tom Stoelker contributed reporting to this story.
Photos by Chris Taggart
Originally posted on Fordham News.