Fordham Notes

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Alumni Relations Lecture Series Examines Political Unrest in Ukraine

Olena Nikolayenko, left, and Adriana Krasniansky 

Two members of the Fordham community gave context to the tensions in Ukraine at an April 15 installment of Fordham at the Forefront, which attracted more than 100 alumni, students, and friends to a panel discussion held at the New York Athletic Club.

Ukraine is often described as a hybrid regime, “a semi-authoritative country in which democratic institutions are formally present, but never effective,” said Olena Nikolayenko, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and a native of Ukraine.

When former Ukrainian President Yanukovych rejected a trade agreement with the European Union last November, tensions mounted and demonstrators gathered in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, she said. The protestors, who demanded “a cleansing of those who have slowed down the reforms of the country,” were met with police violence, resulting in dozens of wounded and countless arrests. 

In order to facilitate conversation between the West and Ukraine, native Ukrainian Adriana Krasniansky, a junior at the Gabelli School of Business, said she started a grassroots news organization called Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine with five other Ukrainian-Americans—two others of whom were fellow panelists. The group aims to provide the fastest and most reliable information about the conflict in Ukraine by translating collected speeches, documents, and interviews for English-speaking audiences. 

Krasniansky visited Kiev, Ukraine, last fall, where she and Group for Tomorrow’s Ukraine member, Julian Hayda, spoke to citizens about how the unrest has affected their daily lives and did video interviews. With the goal to put a face to the Maidan protestors, the panelists showed several video clips of average Ukrainians, including a shop owner and an impassioned 80-year-old man.

Michael Fedynsky, left, and Julian Hayda
The biggest misconception about EuroMaidan, said Krasniansky, is that the protestors are disorganized and motivated by violence. In reality, she said “these people were incredibly organized” and even “started their own soup kitchens for the hungry.”

Krasniansky and her group have worked with National Public Radio and the U.S. House of Representatives to help relay what they see as the facts—that these demonstrations were “rooted in peace,” she said.

Panelist Michael Fedynsky, a former Fulbright scholar working at the National Democratic Institute, offered international context to the rising conflict. After spending a year in Ukraine, Fedynsky concluded that in order to move forward, Ukraine needed a more coherent and effective political system. 

Currently, the Ukrainian political parties are all “personality, regional, or identity-based rather than issue-based systems,”said Fedynsky. This varying political spectrum keeps power in the hands of oligarchs, he said.

“No matter who you vote for, someone rich is going to throw a million dollars at someone else, and your vote won’t matter,” he said. 

President Yanukovych was removed from power in February, and new presidential elections have been set for May 25. Ukrainians continue to protest in Maidan Square, and the whole world has eyes on the upcoming election as Russian troops threaten the nation’s borders.

“Ukrainians really want a change of life and they don’t trust the regime,” said Krasniansky. “The citizens—both young and old—are willing to sacrifice everything for hope.”

--Angie Chen, FCLC '12

Return to Tomorrow

Fifty years ago, Fordham alumni brought Michelangelo’s first masterpiece to Flushing Meadows and helped make the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair one of the most memorable spectacles of commerce, culture, and innovation in the city’s history.

This week and next, as New York celebrates the fair's anniversary, Fordham Notes will publish excerpts from "Return to Tomorrow," a feature published in the Spring 2014 issue of FORDHAM magazine. 

For centuries Michelangelo’s Pietà has inspired awe in the hearts of the faithful. Carved from a single block of Carrara marble, it depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the crucified Jesus in her lap, her ever-youthful face and sorrowful eyes looking down at his slain body. But in March 1964, as John Murray, FCRH ’57, and two fellow shipping executives stared at the priceless sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica, their sense of wonder gave way to fear.
John Murray, FCRH '57 (in dark suit), supervises the
packing of Michelangelo's priceless masterpiece
(photo courtesy of John Murray Jr.)

Two years earlier, Pope John XXIII promised New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman, FCRH ’11, that he would send the Pietà—perhaps the world’s most famous religious sculpture—to the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. The pontiff had just opened the Second Vatican Council, and the decision to display the Renaissance masterpiece to throngs of fairgoers reflected the church’s new commitment to accessibility in a modern, increasingly secular world.

Now this trio of expert transporters was charged not only with removing the Pietà from the Vatican for the first time since 1499, but also with shipping it to New York and back in one very well-preserved piece.

Murray, who died last September at the age of 83, had joined his Fordham classmate’s family trucking firm, McNally Brothers, just after college. By 1964 he was vice president.

“When the idea [of bringing the Pietà to the fair] came to life, my father took advantage of the opportunity,” said John Murray Jr., GSB ’85. “He got involved with the committee and offered to do the moving for free.”

After Pope John died in 1963, his successor, Pope Paul VI, reluctantly honored the papal promise to send the sculpture to New York. Italians and art lovers fretted, however, about the safety risks as well as the perceived lack of reverence it would be shown by the American masses. But in March 1964, Cardinal Spellman told the Associated Press that critics may “have the money to go to St. Peter’s to see it for themselves. But I want 70 million people to see it for free.”

Populism won out, and the Pietà would soon set sail for the U.S. But before Murray and his colleagues could ship the 3-ton marble treasure, they had to pack it and protect it.

Italians had traditionally used wood shavings to cushion fragile items. But the Americans suggested a new material—expanded polystyrene, later trademarked as Dylite. According to one newspaper’s account, the Roman contractor quit in protest.

Save for Mary’s hand, which had been broken and repaired, X-rays revealed that the sculpture’s marble was perfect, just as Michelangelo had once proclaimed. Still, the packers assumed that minute fissures were present and could be worsened by the slightest impact. They gingerly removed the statue from its pedestal, placed it on cushioned scaffolding, and built a wooden case around it. Then they poured in the Dylite, thousands of tiny snow-like white foam beads, which had the added effect of making the crate and its contents buoyant despite a combined weight of 5 tons. 
The Pietà was ready for the first leg of its journey.

Look for Part II of "Return to Tomorrow," including the Pietà's voyage to Flushing, on the Fordham Notes blog later this week. 

—Nicole LaRosa

Waving the Fordham Banner in Zimbabwe

Patrick Ryan, S.J. (GSAS ’65), the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham since 2009, recently traveled to southern Africa for a few weeks with a Fulbright Specialist award to give a series of sixteen lectures (eight each week) entitled “Responding to the Call of Bilal: The Origins of Islam and its Development in Africa.” The host institution was Arrupe College in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, a Jesuit institution associated with the University of Zimbabwe over the past twenty years.  

One of those attending Father Ryan’s lectures was a
Zimbabwean Muslim, pictured at a tea break with Father Ryan.
This man had previously studied with former
students of Father Ryan’s in Ghana.

Father Ryan has previously lived in West Africa (principally Ghana and Nigeria) for twenty-six years. This was not, however, his first visit to Zimbabwe or the region of southern Africa. In February 2007 Father Ryan and Ilhan Akbil, associate dean at the Graduate School of Business Administration, first explored the possibility of what is now Fordham’s ongoing linkage with the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Dominick Salvatore, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics, first raised the Fordham flag in South Africa a couple of years earlier, when he lectured for the staff of South Africa’s Central Bank. 

Twenty Fordham students are currently spending their spring semester as students at the University of Pretoria, and students both from the University of Pretoria and Fordham have studied on their respective campuses each of the last few summers, primarily in the International Political and Economic Development program. 

Father Ryan in shade, but wearing a
Fordham baseball cap, with one
small part of Victoria Falls in the background.

While in Zimbabwe, Father Ryan also gave a guest lecture (a preview of his April McGinley lecture) at Bishop Gaul Anglican Seminary in Harare. He also met with staff of the University of Zimbabwe and the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy in Harare. One night in Harare he also explored the Emergency Room of the Baines Avenue Clinic when something he ate earlier that day (he suspects a rotten egg) caused him an allergic reaction, causing his tongue to swell up, obstructing his breathing. The staff at the emergency room, as well as the Fordham graduate who is the rector of Arrupe College, Chukwuyenum Afiawari, S.J. (FCRH ‘94, GSAS ‘95), handled this minor emergency with aplomb. Father Ryan has visited hospitals in Africa more than he cares to remember over the years, and was very favorably impressed by this medical facility in Harare.

Not generally an avid tourist, Father Ryan did spend an overnight at Victoria Falls in the company of two other Fordham alumni, Gerald Aman, S.J. (FCRH ‘69), the administrator of Arrupe College, and Philip Rossi, S.J., the latter a visiting professor at Arrupe from Marquette University. Father Ryan’s judgment on Victoria Falls: “Move over Buffalo! Mosi-oa-tunya (the indigenous name for the Falls, ‘the Smoke that Thunders’) makes Niagara Falls look paltry.”  While wearing his Fordham baseball cap at the Falls Father Ryan was greeted by a passing American woman tourist who introduced herself as the grandaunt of Fordham Football Quarterback Mike Nebrich.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Easter Bunny Visits Rose Hill

The Easter bunny came a little early this year to Fordham's Rose Hill campus, as the Fordham University Association held its annual Easter Egg hunt on Saturday, April 12 at O'Keefe Commons.

In addition to the traditional hunt for eggs on the lawn, the morning's festivities featured magician John Turdo, who performed tricks and pulled a certain floppy-eared mammal out of a hat for an audience of 118 children of Fordham staff and faculty. And as she does every year, former Fordham board member Georgi Arendacs did her part by donning a bunny costume and showing the University's littlest Rams how to hop down the path to an egg-cellent time.

Photos by Jill LeVine

Organizers, from right: Fordham University Association president Grant 
Grastorf, Marilyn Force, Peter Stults (behind Marilyn), Carol Murabito, 
Alan Force, Stacey Vasquez, Georgi Arendacs (Easter Bunny), 
Michelle Tomlinson, Gabe Bonilla, Roxanne Bonilla and Lester Daniels

—Patrick Verel

Monday, April 14, 2014

Media spotlight: Fordham professors discuss Jesus’ wife, gender pay gap on TV

Michael Peppard, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology at Fordham, got to flex his Coptic papyrologist expertise on national television this past weekend in an interview about on PBSNewsHour Weekend.

Michael Peppard on PBS NewsHour Weekend.

The segment, which aired on April 13, centered around a faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” Unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, it was then tested by scientists who concluded in an April 10 journal article that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Peppard told host Hari Sreenivasan that scholars, such as himself, that study early Christianity are “still kind of in this middle ground of mysteriousness about the text.

“That being said, some of the critics on the forgery side argue that there is bad grammar, that there are other indicators, bad penmanship and that kind of stuff. But papyrologists — that is nerds like us that study ancient papyri — we see bad handwriting all the time. The apostle Paul himself in the New Testament talks about his bad handwriting. So handwriting it’s a techne in Greek, it’s a skill, it’s acquired.”

Sreenivasan also asked Peppard what the religious ramifications are if Jesus did have a wife. 

“… this papyrus gives us another window into what were some live debates in early Christianity. Debates such as: is procreation a vehicle for holiness or is celibacy — voluntary celibacy– a vehicle for holiness. A second debate that it clearly was engaging was the worthiness of women as disciples, especially Mary the mother and Mary Magdalen, two of the main figures that were discussed,” Peppard said.

Watch the whole interview here via PBS NewsHour's website.

Fordham’s Christina Greer was also on television over the weekend. An assistant professor of political science, Greer joined a panel at MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show on April 12 to discuss a variety of topics, including the politics of the gender pay gap.

Christina Greer on MSNBC
In this segment, Greer says historical context should always be taken into consideration in the debate over equal pay.

“We constantly throw around that .77-to-a-dollar [figure], but we do also know that there is a very real racial divide within this. If white women are making .77 on the dollar, we know that black and Latina women are making much less than that,” she said.

Greer also discussed the downside of the bickering between the GOP and Democrats on such debates, and how there isn’t going to be a magic bullet to solve inequality.

Watch the whole episode here via the Melissa Harris-Perry Show website.
-- Gina Vergel

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nobel Prize Winner Amartya Sen to Speak at Rose Hill

Amartya Sen
Just before Easter break, the University will host the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, Ph.D., the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. Sen will deliver a lecture titled, "Why Do We Tolerate Poverty in a Rich World?"

Sen is particularly noted for his work on poverty, gender inequality, AIDS, and Indian history. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in welfare economics.

The talk will take place on Wednesday, April 16 at 3 p.m. at the Flom Auditorium in the Walsh Library.

As part of the Nobel Lecture Series, Sen's visit is sponsored by the Department of Economics and Dominick Salvatore, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Economics and the director of of the doctoral program.

--Tom Stoelker

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Panel to Discuss Bill DeBlasio's First 100 Days as Mayor of New York City

Photo via Agence France-Presse

Thursday, April 10, marked 100 days in office for New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio. How has he done as the top executive of the Big Apple?

via NY Daily News
Fordham political expert, Christina Greer, assistant professor of political science, gave him a grade of “B+” in the New York Daily News “report card” on the mayor's tenure thus far.

His strengths? “Attempting to be inclusive of all New Yorkers,” Greer said. Weaknesses? “Tardiness. I don’t let my students come in late; there’s a fine line between busy and disorganized.”

Greer was also interviewed for an article in Metro New York newspaper, in which political observers noted “the mayor still faces significant hurdles in the days ahead.

“He’s getting his footing,” Greer said. “That’s not easy after a 12-year reign of an individual that had a certain control over people.”

But the discussion on DeBlasio’s performance doesn’t end there. The Fordham community is invited to further analysis at a talk about “Bill de Blasio’s First 100 Days as Mayor of New York City” on Monday, April 14, at the Lincoln Center campus.

Karine Jean-Pierre, former senior campaign advisor and strategist for the Bill Thompson and Letitia James Campaigns; Ben Max, editor-in-chief of Gotham Gazette; Emily Ngo, political reporter at Newsday, and Morgan Pehme, editor-in-chief of City & State, will discuss the mayor’s performance on Monday, April 14, at 4 p.m.

This panel discussion, which will take place in the South Lounge in Lowenstein Center, will be moderated by Christina Greer, and is sponsored by the Deans of Fordham University. The talk is open to the public.

-Gina Vergel

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

University Press Editor Remembered by Friends and Family

In times of grief, words sometimes fail us.

Such was the case with French philosopher and author Jean-Luc Nancy, upon hearing of Helen Tartar’s untimely March 3rd death: “I have no words, no voice,” he wrote to Tartar’s husband, Bud Bynack. 

But where words might fail at capturing the life of Tartar, there are plenty of books: In her lifetime, the editorial director at Fordham University Press (FUP) helped shape and publish more than 600 scholarly books—many of which were on display in a rotating slideshow at a memorial held on April 8 at Fordham.

The event attracted 100 of Tartar’s authors, associates, family, friends, and fans, as her formative talent as an editor and her dedication as a mentor was recalled through emails, anecdotes, poetry, and passages from her own speeches. Tartar was killed suddenly in an automobile accident in Colorado on March 3rd. 

Co-worker Fred Nachbaur, director of FUP, described Tartar as one of those individuals who “add more light to the world than they take from it.” Nachbaur read several emails that he’d received from colleagues, upon hearing of Tartar’s death, in which she was recalled a person who took intellectual risks, who had a strong and nurturing influence on new writers, and whose sublime spirit understood well the humane priorities of life.

She was also someone, he said, that would have loved the act of friends remembering her through words.

“When I think of Helen, I think of words,” said Nachbaur, who was wearing a scarf that Tartar—an avid knitter—had presented him on a recent campus snow day. “Helen loved words so much that she found it difficult to end a conversation.” 

She also loved the printed book, he said, so much that she “bridled” at the suggestion of an e-book “but she also understood there was a market for it.”

Bynack, Tartar’s husband of 41 years, described Tartar’s upbringing in rural Oysterville, Washington, recalling the influence of her parents (her mother was one of the first female Naval officers in WW II; her father was a research biologist and university professor.) At age 18, he said, she grabbed the “first train smoking out of town” and landed at Swarthmore College, which nurtured her intellectual appetite. After earning two master’s degrees at Yale, she found success in academic publishing—first at Stanford and then Fordham. 

“She was the best-educated person I’ve ever met,” he said.

After a controversial departure from Stanford, Tartar found Fordham to be a “sanctuary” where the University’s mission and her vision for a press found a rich meeting of the minds.

“Her life was scholarly publishing; it’s what she lived for, he said. “Fordham gave it back to her.”

Fordham Provost Stephen Freedman called her “a star, a luminary in the field of academic publishing” and someone who was instrumental in raising FUP’s national and international profile. 

Author and philosopher Judith Butler, Fordham English professor Christopher GoGwlit, poet and author Kyoo Lee, and FUP co-worker Tom Lay also gave remarks at the memorial.

All the while a silent screen of images of rotating book covers offered a visual testimonial beyond words. 

“She was working for us,” summed up Butler, who had attended Yale with Tartar and who published her books with Tartar. “She gathers us, and gathers us still, and it is only now we realize how many of us there are.”

Fordham has established the Helen Tartar Memorial Fund, c/o Fordham University Development and University Relations, 888 Seventh Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

 -- Janet Sassi

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gabelli School to Hold Sports Symposium

If you want to play sports professionally, joining a team is the first step. But what if you just want to actually help run the team? 

The Gabelli School of Business' second annual Fordham Business Sports Symposium will help answer that kind of question next week by bringing legal counsel and senior executives from national sports associations, leagues and the media together at Rose Hill.

Thursday, April 10
4 p.m. – 9:15 p.m.
Hughes Hall Room 208, Rose Hill campus

The conference is sponsored by the Gabelli Business of Sports Society and the Sports Business Program.

This year's preliminary list of speakers includes:

Andrew Arcangel, founder and CEO, True Athelite
Michael Brady, senior coordinator, Identity Assurance, National Basketball Association
Adrian Burke, president, Business of Sports Society
Kevin Clancy, NYC blogger, Barstool Sports
Mark Conrad, director, Gabelli School of Business Sports Business Program
Curt Clausen, Esq., Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and U.S. Olympic team member, race walking (1996, 2000, 2004)
Laura Gentile, vice president and founder, ESPNW
Anthony Iliakostas, Fordham 2011 graduate and current JD candidate, New York Law School and founder, “Law and Batting Order”
Francis Petit, professor, Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business
Jill Pilgrim, Esq., Pilgrim & Associates, Miami, Florida and New York
Tom Richardson, founder, Talent League
David Roach, director of intercollegiate athletics, Fordham University
Bill Squadron, president, Bloomberg Sports
Max Tcheyan, start-up consultant

Keith Wachtel, executive vice president, global partnerships, National Hockey League

For more information and a schedule of talks, visit the Gabelli School of Business website

—Patrick Verel

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Theology Student Wins Prestigious Lilly Fellowship

Jennifer Illig
Contributed photo
For her theology dissertation, Fordham doctoral candidate Jennifer Illig's research took her all the way back to 14th-century England to study the sermons of John Wycliffe, who was branded a heretic. 

And now that she has earned her degree, Illig, a native of Long Island who also earned her master's at Rose Hill, will strike out for the plains of the Midwest.

Illig was awarded one of three prestigious Lilly Fellowships in Humanities, and will teach and do research for two years at Valparaiso University, a Lutheran university in northern Indiana.

J. Patrick Hornbeck II, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the theology department and Illig's mentor, said the Lilly fellowship gives space to young scholars who want a career that blends academic success and rigor with commitment to faith and spirituality.

“The great thing about this is its mentorship not just in ones’ own career field, but it’s also mentorship in a particular way of doing higher education,” he said. 

“In the Jesuit world, that’s about things like cura personalis."

For Illig, who earned her undergraduate degree at Malloy College in Rockville Centre, N.Y., it’s a big leap geographically, as it’ll be her first foray out of New York State. At the same time, she said the eight years she’s spent at Fordham have given her a lot of experience with faith in an academic setting.

“My faith is very important to me, and it’s very important to bring that out in my teaching, as well as to reflect on how that influences the work that I do as a theologian and a scholar of medieval history and medieval theology,” she said.

The fellowship will consist of teaching two classes at Valparaiso, including a high level seminar class on dissent and heresy in the early church, for which she’ll be able to rely on her dissertation “Through a Lens of Likeness: Reading English Wycliffite Sermons in Light of Contemporary Sermon Texts.”

She’ll also have time to develop of a database of the 269 sermons that Wycliffe delivered and that have thus far only been studied for their non-orthodox theological content. In fact, Illig discovered that the aspects of Wycliffe’s sermons that challenged the concept of Transubstantiation and Papal authority, were not the dominant content. For the most part, they lay out a program for how the hearers of the sermons can live a better and more authentic Christian life. 

“As a sort of methodological move, Jennifer is saying that when we look at materials that have been looked at traditionally as heterodox or heretical, that there’s actually much more to them than just the particular places where they deny established doctrine,” Hornbeck said.

Illig will join Franklin Harkins, Ph.D., an associate professor of theology, as Fordham’s second Lilly fellow, although she’ll always be the University’s lone "home grown" one though. Harkins, who came to Fordham in 2007, studied at Valparaiso upon graduation from Notre Dame. As chance would have it, he was one of Illig’s readers, along with Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Ph.D., professor and Mullarkey Chair in the Department of English.
—Patrick Verel