Fordham Notes: May 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBC Nightly News to Air Footage from Fordham’s Commencement

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams will air a four-minute package at 6:30 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday, May 31, featuring footage of the evening news anchor's address to Fordham graduates.

The piece will also feature interviews with members of the Class of 2011 from Fordham and four other universities. This year, NBC worked with schools across the nation to create an unprecedented amount of footage on-air and online. While all interviews may not make it to the on-air broadcast, there will be more online.

A producer at NBC warned that breaking news could bump the segment, but for now, please make sure to turn on your local NBC station tonight when NBC Evening News airs, 6:30 p.m. ET.

For more information on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, visit their site, where the additional footage will be found after the story airs tonight.

And again, don’t forget to tune into your local NBC station tonight.

Generous Student Now on Teixeira’s Dream Team

Fordham student Catherine Menta has been named the first member of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira’s “All-Star Dream Team” in support of Harlem RBI, a nonprofit youth-development organization.

Menta, who will be a junior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center in the fall, was chosen from those who have already donated over $25 to Teixeira’s Dream Team 25 campaign, which challenges New Yorkers to match his $1 million donation to the East Harlem program.

As an “All-Star Dream Team” member—the first of 9 who will eventually be chosen—Menta will have lunch with Mark Teixeira and get a behind-the-scenes tour of Yankees Stadium. She and a guest will also watch a game from a luxury box, and Menta will be given on-the-field recognition before the game begins.

First started in 1991, Harlem RBI helps inner-city youths develop their potential and pursue their dreams by providing them with year-round sports, educational and enrichment activities.

The goal of Teixeira’s campaign is to help fund the development of a new mixed-use community facility in East Harlem, which will house Harlem RBI and its DREAM Charter School as well as provide affordable housing, a public park and more than 500 jobs for the community.

Menta, an avid Yankees fan, found out about the “Dream Team” contest by following Teixeira’s Twitter posts. To enter, Menta submitted a short written statement explaining why she should be considered for the team.

In her response, Menta, who is originally from Ridgefield Park, N.J., expressed her desire to give back to the New York community that is helping her further her education. She also drew upon her experiences in past community development work, teaching Sunday school, tutoring and baking for a local soup kitchen.

As a communications and media studies major, Menta was particularly pleased that she was recognized for her writing. Her statement is now featured on the Harlem RBI website, a fitting honor for Menta, who is also a writer for the Fordham Observer.

When Menta got the call on May 13 letting her know she had been chosen for the team, she had just finished her last final, a philosophy exam, and was waiting for her dad to pick her up to take her home for the summer.

Along with her excitement upon hearing the news, Menta felt pleased that she would have the opportunity to spread the word about Harlem RBI, particularly its DREAM Charter School.

“I’m a big believer in everybody having a chance to have a good education and recognize their talents and explore them,” she said.

“I have had really great teachers who encouraged me and I feel like charter schools help kids have opportunities they might not have otherwise. Every kid should have that opportunity.”

Menta now hopes to become a volunteer or tutor for Harlem RBI.

While she has not yet heard what game she will be attending, Menta knows for certain that she will be bringing her dad, another big Yankees fan, to her big day.

“I’m really happy and flattered that they chose me at all,” she said. “And the fact that they felt compelled to pick me as the first person—I just can’t believe it—it’s exciting.”

—Nina Romeo

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Peek at Calder Cabin-in-Progress

Last summer, ground was broken on Fordham’s Calder Center log cabin facility, a 3,800-square-foot facility that will house 12 graduate research students when completed later this year.

Here are some spring photos of the cabin well on its way to completion. It is constructed of solid Pennsylvania pine logs in a rustic Adirondack style, designed to blend with the surrounding wooded area and the historic turn-of-the-century cabin already on site (see architectural rendering by Kouzmanoff Bainton below).

The new cabin will occupy two of the 113 forested acres used for ecological research and environmental education. It will play a critical role in helping increase the quality and quantity of research that can be conducted at the Center, according to Calder Director John Wehr, Ph.D.

A thank you to Dr. Wehr for providing the photos.

Janet Sassi

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Alumni Chaplain’s Leap of Faith

On May 5, 2011, Alumni Chaplain Daniel J. Gatti, S.J., performed his first parachute jump—at age 69—with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team at the Joint Base in Lakehurst, N.J. (if the name sounds familiar, it’s because it is the crash site of the Hindenburg).

See the Video
(Added June 15, 2011)

Father Gatti was in Lakehurst as a friend of Xavier High School, whose X-Squad Drill Team was performing at the three-day Army-sponsored event. His thoughts on the jump are below.

From my perspective as a Jesuit, I somewhat jokingly call my tandem jump a “leap of faith.” And so it was. Not, however, in the theological sense of a movement to belief in God, but in the basic sense of trust; trust in the U.S. Army, its plane, its equipment and its personnel; trust that all elements would work together for a successful jump!

How did I feel about doing this? I felt euphoric, extremely happy to be able to do something exciting I had never done before. Once in the plane and ascending to 13,000 feet, I had the sense that “this is it; the time has arrived; no thought of changing my mind now.” I had willingly boarded this plane; I will willingly tandem jump from this plane and “return to earth.”

The initial free fall lasted about 60 seconds and the two of us were falling at 120 miles per hour. With our arms and legs now extended, my partially exposed face felt like it was about to freeze. My Army instructor and Golden Knight, Greg, then pulled the chute and we quickly came to a sudden but not jolting stop. In reality we were still descending, but for a moment the sensation was that of absolute stillness, with a blue sky all around us, and a familiar terra firma beneath us. To the northeast I could see the skyline of New York some 85 miles away, and to the east the New Jersey coast and the expansive Atlantic Ocean beyond. All was simply beautiful.

Our full descent took a few minutes more, with only sounds of wind gushing through and around our chute to accompany us. Then with land seemingly rising up to meet us, we made our approach to the target area and made our landing—not as soft as I would have liked, since I jammed my knees, but a welcomed landing none the less. Greg later described it as “a little bumpy.”

Certainly it was an experience making one feel fully alive! Yes, given the opportunity, I would be willing to jump again. Certainly it was the highlight of my two days at the event. But what impressed me most was the caliber of the Army personnel I met. Not for nothing is their current motto Army Strong! These are men and women battle tested and mission ready; confident, fit, crystal clear in eye and in speech, exuding an admirable strength of character for which all Americans can be extremely proud.

—Daniel J. Gatti, S.J., FCRH '65, GSE '66, '96
Alumni Chaplain

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fordham Celebrates Retirement of African American Studies Chair

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, recollected his steadfast persistence, when he was dean of FCRH, of thinking that the spelling of Claude Mangum, Ph.D., was really “Claude Magnum,” or Claude the Great.

Mark Naison, Ph.D., Mangum's colleague for 40 years and an integral force in founding an African and African American Studies Department at Fordham, recalled the early days when “our department’s theme song was Bill Withers’ ‘Just the Two of Us.’”

Father McShane and Naison, professor and current chair of the department, joined nearly 200 faculty, friends, administrators and former students on May 23 for a celebratory sendoff for Mangum, associate professor of African and African American Studies and former chair of the department, on his pending retirement. The evening was filled with etched memories and heartfelt tributes to Mangum, who was described as a passionate advocate for social justice and a voice of conscience at Fordham. He will now hold Emeritus status.

Mangum began at Fordham in 1969 with the university’s Upward Bound program. Eventually he, Naison and Quinton Wilkes (GSAS ’69, GSAS ’77), helped launch the African and African-American studies department, which began in 1969 as an Institute and became a full department in 1976.

Today, Fordham offers a major and a minor in African and African American studies. The department is home to eight faculty members and also hosts the Bronx African American History Project, dedicated to “uncovering the cultural, political, economic, and religious histories of the more than 500,000 people of African descent in the Bronx.”’ It serves between 200-300 students each semester.

Former students Nilda Soto (TMC ’74, GSE ’78), assistant dean at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Craig Steven Wilder, Ph.D., professor of American History at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, offered gratitude to Mangum for sharing his intellect and his wisdom in the classroom, as well as ushering them through some turbulent college years.

“We showed up under rather awful circumstances as first generation college students from failing Bronx schools,” recalled Wilder, a 1987 FCRH graduate, “And you made us feel like we belonged.”

Father McShane called Mangum an “extraordinary presence at the university, a saintly figure, principled.”

“And your name is misspelled; it truly is Magnum.”

—Janet Sassi

The Class of 2011 in Pictures

Fordham University's 166th Commencement
Saturday, May 21, 2011
Rose Hill

All images in this series by Jon Roemer.