Fordham Notes

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fordham Welcomes in the Christmas Season


Photo by Chris Taggart

A crowd of more than 700 gathered at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 1 to once again ring in the Christmas season at Fordham University.

With the Fordham choir singing and lights twinkling from every corner of the Koch Theater Promenade, the annual President’s Club Christmas Reception appeared to be joining the city in gearing up for a “megawatt” Christmas, said Fordham President Joseph M. McShane, S.J.

And yet, Father McShane said, a far smaller display captures the true sentiment of the season.

“Our eye more than anywhere else is drawn to the most unassuming, most understated of Christmas lights—the candle in the window,” he told alumni, parents, staff, and other members of the Fordham community.

However, there is more to the seemingly innocent Christmas candle than meets the eye, Father McShane said. During the time of British persecution against the Catholic Church in Ireland, Irish Catholics would place candles in their windows as a secret welcome to priests, to whom they would offer hospitality in exchange for a celebration of the Eucharist.

With this subversive-yet-sacred history in mind, the image of Christmas candle was chosen to adorn the 2014 Fordham Christmas ornament, Father McShane said, because “it is a symbol that speaks volumes about who we are, what we believe in, and what we do.”

“Fordham has been about the sacred work of being ‘subversive’ for nearly 175 years, providing a different kind of education,” he said. “At the heart of Fordham is a passionate conviction that the core of a transformative and liberating education must be the encounter between the human heart and God.”

Father McShane thanked those gathered for the generosity that has helped sustain this mission.

“Your generosity is making a Fordham education affordable and accessible,” he said. “You have made it possible for Fordham to keep the candle in the window.”

— Joanna Mercuri

Photos by Chris Taggart:










Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Autistic Like Me" Gets Its NYC Premiere at Fordham

Like father like son. Right? Well, what if the son is autistic?

“When you have a son it’s like, ‘Finally, I get to make a better version of me,’” said Charles Jones, producer and director of a new documentary, Autistic Like Me, that takes a paternal perspective on parenting kids with autism.

The film will have its New York City premiere at the Lincoln Center campus' Pope Auditorium this Thurs., Dec. 4 at 6:45 p.m. The event is free for Fordham students and faculty and, for everyone else, tickets are available here.

“We’re supposed to be the torch carriers, the protectors, the providers, and there are a lot of women who are uncomfortable when men can’t be that,” he said.

While a child’s autism affects everyone in the family, the father’s struggle often gets overlooked, said Jones, whose son has autism. His film explores a group of fathers as they open up to one another about the fear, disappointment, and ultimately the acceptance of a very different parenting experience than they had envisioned.

Jones, who is a Navy veteran, knows about being tough. He said that when faced with the reality of raising a child with autism, most of the men he interviewed tried to hide their feelings.

“Men typically hold it in and that does nothing but hurt the family,” he said. “But it takes a lot of strength to show how you’re feeling.”

Jones noted that most of the caretakers for autistic children are women, whether in the home or in the health care system. He added that current research has shown that autistic children benefit by interacting equally with men, but gender imbalances remain. Some men even shirk the responsibility of taking their kids to therapy because the rewards are barely perceptible.

“I hate to say it, but sometimes you’re going from below zero to just below zero—and there’s no carrot at the end,” he said. “But you have to do it. This is your child and there’s love there.”

The screening is being sponsored by Fordham's Autism Speaks and Circle K, the college student arm of Kiwanis International.

The Official Trailer 2014 for "Autistic Like Me: A Father's Perspective" from Seajay5 on Vimeo.

Tackling the 21st-Century Proliferation of Disagreement

Picture this: You believe capital punishment deters crime, but when you make your argument to a smart and well-informed friend whose opinion you respect, she disagrees. In fact, she presents an equally strong argument to the contrary. 

Where might the conversation go from here, if anywhere? 

Bryan Frances tackles this type of conundrum in Disagreement (Polity, 2014), which he describes as an introductory book on a subject that’s drawing heightened interest from philosophers in the Internet age. When everyone has access to the wealth of arguments and counterarguments that can easily be found online, deciding whether, and how, to disagree can be daunting. 

“It is one thing if you can say ‘they don’t have this key piece of evidence I have,’ but that doesn’t happen too often anymore,” said Frances, professor of philosophy. “No matter what you think, yo
u can go onto the Internet and find a whole lot of really smart people who disagree with you and have some evidence that goes against yours.

“So how do you conduct your intellectual life? It’s more pressing now than ever.”

Among philosophy scholars there hasn’t been much written on disagreement, says Frances, who was approached by the publisher to write the introductory book. The interest in the topic has its roots in philosophers’ increased focus on religious disagreement—most notably in English-speaking countries where mass communication has made global religions, such as Islam, more visible to westerners.

And while the book offers no hard-and-fast advice, it does come to a conclusion on how to approach highly controversial issues such as capital punishment or the morality of abortion. 

“In many of these instances, we probably would do well to suspend judgment and dig deeper,” said Frances, “even on those issues near and dear to our heart.” 

Frances did not come gently into his philosophical scholarship. Before turning to the humanities, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics with emphasis on quantum theory and relativity theory. 

“Eventually I realized that the questions I wanted to ask about those topics were more philosophical than scientific,” he said.

Even though disagreement has been around since the beginning of time, Frances said, philosophers have only recently written about it in a “rigorous and thorough way.”  In fact, the void of scholarship made writing Disagreement difficult.

“I’d write an article about this topic and, because there was so little to go on, I’d end up disagreeing with my former self a few years later.”


--Janet Sassi

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pace: Job Is Not Done in War Against Extremist

America’s failure to commit to Afghanistan and Iraq for the long haul has created an environment in which extremists are once again creating chaos in the countries we sought to liberate from despotic regimes, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a Fordham University audience this week.

“When you go in and occupy a country, when you occupy Afghanistan, when you occupy Iraq, you take on a 40- or 50-year responsibility,” said retired Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace on Nov. 19 following a leadership lecture at the Fordham Law School.

“Not four years or five years. Not ‘let’s go in, topple the government, give them a little bit of help’ and then say ‘good luck’ and leave.”

Pace served as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President Bill Clinton and chairman under President George W. Bush. Both men, he said, made thoughtful, considered decisions on the use of military force, but Bush’s decisions were not accompanied by a strongly made case to his constituents.

“President Bush could have done a better job of educating the American people about what this really means,” Pace said of the wars.


English Faculty Member Finds Closure in Mother’s Last Days

Angela Alaimo O’Donnell hadn’t planned to write a book about the last days of her mother’s life. 

O’Donnell, associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies and a member of the English & American Catholic Studies faculty, had already turned to poetry—her field of creative expertise—with Waking My Mother (Wordpress, 2013).

But after an essay that she wrote for Commonweal Magazine received positive feedback, she decided to revisit the topic. The result, Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell (Ave Maria Press, 2014), is equal parts memoir and meditation about the short but intense time when her mother Marion suffered a fall and died 48 days later.

As she and her sisters tended to her mother in the hospital, O'Donnell began to see connections between the rituals that they practiced every day and the sacraments of her Catholic faith. Going through the motions of helping her mother get around the hospital in her wheelchair, or feeding her a piece of pie, helped ease the trauma, she said--even if the rituals were unspoken at the time.

“I thought I’d meditate on the nature of sacrament and the ways in which human beings, whether they’re Catholic or not, devise rituals to get through difficult situations,” she said. 

“I’d read a lot about sacramentality, and thought I could incorporate all of these elements theoretically. But I realized as I was writing it that it [needed to be] tied to something concrete. Who cares about something abstract and theoretical when you’re talking about the experience of watching someone die?”

In addition to the Catholic Churches’ seven sacraments, O’Donnell created her own, such as the “sacrament of the cell phone.” She also sought and received permission from her sisters to reveal details that would not have otherwise been revealed through poetry. Details like the fact that, her mother was not a, shall we say, an easy-going sort. 

“We didn’t see eye to eye with her on anything,” she said. 

“I felt privileged to be back there in these circumstances, where really there was an unspoken forgiveness of all the years of neglect, and the years of being at odds with each other just sort of disappeared.” 

The chapter that she would call “the sacrament of the beauty” was the breakthrough chapter for her. O’Donnell’s mother was devoted to beauty in her own way, and she said she and her sisters did all they could to help her by decorating her hospital room.

“Saint Augustine was always in my ear at that point—‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new; late have I loved you,’” O’Donnell said.

Caring for someone who cared for her when she was a child also made O’Donnell realize that the tables could very well be turned later in life. And although her normal response would be to not make herself too much of a burden, she said her mother’s “spunk” made her rethink this attitude. 

“One of her favorite expressions was, ‘I’m the important person here.’ That used to drive us crazy. But when she was sick and really needed help, I admired that she demanded to get attention. She wasn’t just going to lie there and be neglected,” she said.

“She was terribly diminished by what was happening to her [but] her spirit wasn’t diminished. I admired that in her too, and I hope we all have a little bit of that undiminished spirit in us.”



Friday, November 21, 2014

Lockheed Martin Exec Shares Secrets to Success


Maryanne Lavan
Photos by Vicky Song 
If you want to get a legal job at Lockheed Martin, be prepared to answer some very important interview questions. 

On Nov. 18, Maryanne Lavan, general counsel/senior vice president at the Washington D.C.-based defense contract company and a member of the University's President's Council, shed some light on those questions for aspiring lawyers at Fordham Law School. 

-What did you do in the first 90 days of your last job?
(Her Answer: Worked with former colleagues whom she now supervises.)

-What’s been your biggest challenge?
(Her Answer: Leading an ethics investigation against a colleague.)

-How would people who work for you describe you? 
(Her Answer: Hardworking, but a nice person.)

-What’s one area you’d like to improve, and what are you doing about it? 
(Her Answer: Self-doubt.)

Why should we hire you?
(Her Answer: “It’s my privilege to work for the corporation, and that’s the way I approach it every day.”)

Lavan, who oversees 115 lawyers at a company with 113,000 employees in 70 countries, was there as part of the college’s Business Law Practitioner Series. She emphasized the importance of humility and remembering one’s roots, as one makes the way up the corporate ladder.

“I’m fortunate to have the career that I’ve have, and I couldn’t have had it without my family and the people who’ve helped me along the way,” she said. “I’d like you to think about this in five, 10, 15 years, and find a way to give back, because there will be people who will help you.”

She ascended to her current position in 2010 after serving as corporate secretary, and before that, president, internal audit. (She initially lost the position to James Comey, who went on to become head of the FBI. She applied again and got it.) Her job entails everything from mergers and acquisitions, compliance issues such as Sarbanes Oxley, securities filings, employment issues, and intellectual property law, which she said was a growing area. 

She noted that the one major area that Lockheed/Martin does not handle in-house is litigation, because to do it effectively, you have to do it consistently.


“I feel sometimes like it’s an inch deep and a mile wide. I used to be much more in-depth . . . to know a ton about government contracts . . .  a ton about litigation. Now I know a little about everything,” she said. 

Besides humility, other top leadership values included empathy, authenticity, good humor, a can-do attitude, and resiliency. 

In fact, she said she witnessed a perfect example of people who didn’t understand “empathy” when her train broke down en route to New York from Washington D.C that morning, delaying her Fordham talk by 20 minutes.

“There were people on the train today who were yelling not at the conductor, but at the person who had been serving us food. He had nothing to do with it,” she said.

“Sometimes as you progress in your career, you’ll see that kind of ethos in people. That’s not how I like to operate.”

She offered advice for where to seek out employment: Read the annual reports, listen to the earnings calls, and learn all you can about the board of directors at the company you want to work for. 

And when you do get a job and you’re filing papers, check, recheck, and triple-check the filing deadline.

“I say this to my children. Proof, reproof, proof again, and edit strongly. It’s easy to write a long paper, it’s a lot harder to write a short, concise paper,” she said.

—Patrick Verel



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mary Jo White Honored at Law School Ceremony

Fordham President Joseph M. McShane, S.J., congratulates
Mary Jo White.
Photo by Chris Taggart
Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White was honored on Tuesday, Nov. 18 with one of Fordham Law School's highest honors, the Fordham-Stein Prize.

First awarded in 1976, the award is presented annually to a member of the legal profession whose work embodies the highest standards of the legal profession.

Recipients who are chosen exemplify outstanding professional conduct, promote the advancement of justice, and bring credit to the profession by emphasizing in the public mind the contributions of lawyers to our society and to our democratic system of government.

White, who was was sworn in as the 31st Chair of the SEC on April 10, 2013, arrived with decades of experience as a federal prosecutor and securities lawyer.

She served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993 to 2002, the First Assistant U.S. Attorney and later Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1990 to 1993, and an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1978 to 1981 and became Chief Appellate Attorney of the Criminal Division.

Following her service as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Chair White became chair of the litigation department at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. Chair White has won numerous awards in recognition of her outstanding work both as a prosecutor and a securities lawyer.

Mary Jo White and Fordham Law Dean Michael Martin
Photo by Chris Taggart

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fordham's Janssen on Educating Entrepreneurs

Christine Janssen at a Fordham Foundry event.

Entrepreneurship. These days, it seems everyone – particularly young people – are clamoring for a shot at founding the next great startup, and being their own boss.

But what’s the best way to achieve entrepreneur status?

Recently, an article in the Wall Street Journal touched on the importance of networking and support systems while downplaying the importance of choice of school and grades in college.

This piqued the interest of Christine Janssen, Ph.D., director of the Entrepreneurial Program at the Gabelli School of Business and co-director of both Fordham's Center for Entrepreneurship and the Fordham Foundry, a small-business incubator in the Bronx launched in 2012 in partnership with New York City government agencies. 
So, in a guest OpEd with VC-List, a blog for the venture capital industry, Janssen dishes out her own advice:

“Where you go to school is important. Aspiring entrepreneurs should choose a school that possesses more than a longstanding reputation and brand recognition. What can really differentiate one’s experience and outcome are resources, mentors, and access to non-traditional learning experiences that the school can offer,” Janssen wrote in her piece, “How Should College Play a Role in Educating Future Entrepreneurs?

Janssen also doled out advice for how best to educate for budding and aspiring entrepreneurs:
  • Entrepreneurs evolve from any given major, but I would also propose that students should be able to customize their educational experience. While there are certain subjects that all aspiring entrepreneurs should master (accounting, finance, communications, management and just about anything related to technology), college can no longer be a one-size-fits-all proposition.
  • Do not ignore grades. A student’s grades don’t necessarily reflect what they have learned or if what was learned is relevant, but a healthy transcript still is a reflection of a student’s effort and commitment. I would certainly select someone with a 4.0 grade point average over a 2.8 GPA any day to join my startup.
  • Network. In every core class in my entrepreneurship program, students are REQUIRED to attend professional networking events – and they may not be university-sponsored events or events on campus. That’s too easy. My job is to expose them to the real world and begin building a toolbox of skills and resources so when they complete my program they will have dozens of relationships (and potential mentors) established to help them build out their careers – whether launching a new venture, working at a startup, or being the innovation catalyst at a larger organization. Pushing students out of their comfort zones is a one small step for students, one giant leap for new business creation. 
Read the rest of her piece at VC-List, and watch this video about a couple of young students--two brothers--who created and ran a boot camp for young teen entrepreneurs, with help from the Fordham Foundry.

--Gina Vergel




A Room with a View (And a History)

This fall, three first-year roommates won the residence hall lottery. Abigail Kedik, Sarah Kimball, and Leya Maloney, all freshmen in the Class of 2018, were among the first students to move into the newly renovated Loyola Hall on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

Left to right: Abigail Kedik, Sarah Kimball, and Leya Maloney
Loyola, a former Jesuit residence, was converted into a 121-bed freshman residence hall over the last two years, affording all its incoming students comfortable accommodations, but the three roommates got a little something extra: room 415, the old quarters of Fordham’s president, Joseph M. McShane, S.J.


“I feel really lucky, when I first found out (on move-in day) that it was Father McShane's old room,” Abigail Kedik said. “I was so excited, I almost took it as a sign that Despite the nerves I chose the right school.”

Kedik attended Guilderland High School in her home town of Altamont, N.Y. She plans to major in Political Science/International Studies with a minor in History or English. “I absolutely love living in Loyola. Besides the fact that the building is historic and gorgeous, the Manresa community is wonderful,” she said.

Father McShane lived in room 415 from 1992 to 1996, when he was dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill (he lived in Spellman Hall for the last two years of his tenure as dean, after the Jesuit community active in the University moved to Spellman). Father McShane extolled the room’s virtues when he met its new occupants at Move In this fall.

Move In 2014

“The commute could not be beat!  I just had to run down the stairs right outside my room and could be in my office in about five minutes,” Father McShane said. “One oddity of the room: I was awakened every morning at around 5 when the steam heat started up and the pipes banged to beat the band.”

“When I first saw how gorgeous Loyola is and the spacious room I would be living in, I was so grateful,” Leyla Maloney said. “I realized how lucky I was just to be in a newly renovated building, living with a close knit community, with Father Phil and the other RA’s and RD Alex, and most of all being a Manresa Scholar.”

Maloney is a cello player from Westchester, N.Y., and attended Somers High School in Lincolndale. She said Fordham exceeded her expectations. “My roommates are my two closest friends, my entire residence hall is a close-knit community, and my Professors are really devoted to their profession and their students.”

Sarah Kimball is from Simsbury, Conn., and attended Simsbury High School. She said she has already seen I’ve already seen eight plays and musicals since coming to New York, and has been to many different parts of the city so far.

“I am so thankful to everyone who has helped me get here,” Kimball said. “Being in room 415 is particularly special to us because it was Father McShane’s room... Living in Loyola Hall is absolutely wonderful and I will be so sad when I have to move out at the end of the year!”



Jesuits called Loyola Hall home from 1928 to 2012, when the University purchased the building from the Society of Jesus, as it was making a transition to smaller Jesuit communities. In addition to students, the refurbished Loyola houses the residential life office, social and study lounges, a chapel, two Integrated Learning Community classrooms, and a community laundry facility.


“Father McShane said that Fordham is doing its job wrong if we are the same people at graduation day that we were on the first day of school,” Kimball said. “Thanks to Fordham, I have already noticed myself changing into the person I want to become.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fordham Sailing Breaks Top 10 in Rankings


Just as the football team was taking the Patriot League Title and the women’s basketball is gearing up for what is sure to be yet another winning season, the Fordham Rams Sailing Team was ranked among the top 10 in a coaches' poll taken by Sailing World Magazine.

With little of the fanfare rightfully accorded to the University’s varsity teams, Fordham Sailing is a club team that has quietly been improving since it was reintroduced to the University after a 27-year hiatus.

Breaking the Top 10 ranking of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association of North America (ICSA) is a first for the team. It's No. 7 position of the ICSA's 230 varsity and club coed teams is made all the sweeter in that it also makes Fordham the No. 1 ranking among the 194 club teams. In addition, the team bested several nautical colleges, including U.S. Naval Academy, SUNY Maritime, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Club director Joe Sullivan, FCRH ‘58, said that he and several other alumni had been scouring the country to recruit students with a sailing background. The results are a diverse group of men and women from around the country.

Sullivan said the team was founded in 1950, became varsity in 1955, and continued through 1971 before being dropped. In 1999 Sullivan and his fellow alumni went to then athletic director Frank McLaughlin with a proposal to start up the team again. With McLaughlin's blessing the team signed 102 players, 29 of whom had sailing experience, and seven of whom would go on to build the beginnings of today’s winning team.

Today the club is a member of the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (MAISA), one of seven regional conferences of ICSA. The team operates out of the Morris Yacht Club on City Island.

For several years Sullivan pitched in with coaching, together with former Head Coach Reed Johnson, but happily ceded his position this past June to current Head Coach Johnnny Norfleet after a three-person search committee helped snag Norfleet from the University of Pennsylvania. Johnson recruited most of the current roster that Norfleet took to the top ten.

"Johnny was the unanimous choice," said Sullivan.

Sullivan said that from the standpoint of “men and women for others” the team has raised funds for the Children's Tumor Foundation and pitched in with clean-up on City Island after Hurricane Sandy.

“The admissions office is happy because our kids come from all over the country, their geographical diversity is superb,” he said. “And they’re great students, I'll bet we've got the highest GPA of any team on campus."

Here’s how the rankings played out:

1. Yale
2. Georgetown
3. Boston College
4. Charleston
5. Tufts
6. Dartmouth
7. FORDHAM
8. Roger Williams
9. Harvard
10. Stanford

Here's the article:


-Tom Stoelker