Sometimes, even the most magical and luminous season of the year is not without its thorns.

That was the message delivered by Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, as he kicked off the holiday season with the President’s Club Christmas Reception on Nov. 27.

The annual reception drew some 700 members of the Fordham community to the promenade of the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center, where Father McShane called upon them to soothe the sharper moments of this past year with a celebration of gratitude for God’s love.

“Auntie Mame would say ‘haul out the holly, we need a little Christmas’—but what about that holly? Why do we deck the halls with holly?”

Rich in Christian symbolism, holly is not so innocent, he said. While the green in that little sprig marks the eternal youth of Christ, the rest evokes Christ’s sacrifice.

“Early Christians also saw spikey leaves—the crown of thorns—and the red berries as the blood [Christ] shed for us,” he said. “In this difficult moment in our history, when the world is tense and the nation is polarized, I look at holly and it reminds us of the first Christmas gift—that of God’s inexplicable generosity, absolutely astounding love for us all. And on the basis of that, we hope. Because we know that God, who loves us so much, will continue to watch over us.”

Gifts to Be Thankful For

As the evening progressed, guests shared the holiday spirit by recalling some of the more meaningful gifts they’d received in their lives and were grateful for. Christopher Knight, FCRH ’16, said he was thankful for “a Fordham education.”

For Andrew Ketchum, FCRH ’09, it was a Batman Bruce Wayne Mansion he got when he was 8 years old—but not really. “It was a really cool gift for sure …  but I’d actually have to say my wife,” he said.

The couple met at the Rose Hill campus’s Queens Court during their freshman year when, says Karen Hogan Ketchum, FCRH ’09, Andrew approached her asking if she knew how to make “easy mac”—macaroni and cheese.

“I thought, oh, here’s this poor guy who has no idea how to cook, let me take pity on him,” said Hogan Ketchum.

“And the line worked,” Andrew chimed in. The two were married last year in the University Church.

Board of Trustees member and 1969 alumnus James P. Flaherty, the founder and chairman of International Healthcare Investor, echoed Ketchum’s sentiment: “Definitely my wife,” said Flaherty, who has known his wife, Jane, since they were teens.

For architect Edward Stand, whose firm designed the Gabelli School of Business, the most meaningful thing he said he’d given was the gift of travel to his sons: “I love giving them the opportunity to go traveling internationally—Istanbul, Italy, Turkey, the Yucatan—that’s the best gift I can give to them.”

Soccer, Service, and Funding Student Dreams

Father McShane shared his own gratitude list, starting with Fordham’s historic NCAA championship win last weekend against Duke by the men’s soccer team. The Rams were the only unseeded team to reach the Elite Eight, and only the second team in University history to reach the final eight in a national championship tournament. They play No. 3 seeded North Carolina this weekend.

“We, who had gone into the tournament unseeded, unheralded, unrecognized, are now ranked No. 7 in the country,” he said to a burst of cheers.

He then thanked the University’s devoted faculty, staff, students who “spend themselves in the service of others,” and the University’s donors. “You are the angels on whose shoulders I stand,” he said. “Your leadership has made it possible for Fordham to raise $115 million as we roar toward our $175 million goal in the campaign Faith & Hope, which supports financial aid.”

“Even in this difficult year, I have much to celebrate and be hopeful about as we go forward.”

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Janet Sassi is editor/associate director of internal communications. She can be reached at (212) 636-7577 or [email protected]