With all the pomp and circumstance expected of a 181-year-old college, Fordham College at Rose Hill’s award ceremony, Encaenia, remained one of the University’s premier commencement events.

Jay Izzo, Lord of the Manner
Jay Izzo, Lord of the Manor

This year’s Lord of the Manor, Jay Izzo, followed tradition by delivering a satiric sendup of all things Fordham, along with a few gentle jabs at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and a heartfelt goodbye to his fellow classmates.

“Fordham has always been a very welcoming place,” Izzo said, referencing a welcoming ceremony for first-year students that left him petrified.

“Let me paint the scene for you: We’re all standing there by Keating, this tall gothic building bathed in a deep red light,” he recalled. “What could be more welcoming to a group of freshmen who just left mommy and daddy for their first night away from home?”

Co-valedictorians Molly Henschke and Maja Soto with Rafael Zapata and Ellen Fahey-Smith

In her remarks to classmates, co-valedictorian Maja Soto recalled a similarly harrowing first night.

Sydni Britton, master of ceremonies
Sydni Britton, master of ceremonies

“I was curled up in bed in Martyrs crying on the phone to my mom and asking her if I could transfer. I just felt so far from home,” she said, adding that she’d probably be crying that evening, though for different reasons.

“Tonight is my very last night at Fordham and after tonight, you’ll probably find me exactly where I started, curled up in bed crying on the phone to my mom, but this time I’ll be telling her I never want to leave.”

Soto’s co-valedictorian, Molly Henschke, recalled that the initial stages of the pandemic, noting that they “felt as daunting and unknown as the virus itself.”

“I found myself missing the home I had built here at Fordham with all of you, the people who had made that home feel full,” she said.

Even when she returned, she said, the situation was far from normal.

Laughter for the Lord of the Manor

“We logged on to courses at Eddies and had freezing outdoor picnics in February,” said. “Needless to say, a very different New York than expected became our campus.”

She said that it wasn’t until this school year that the class returned to a full-fledged campus experience.

Dean Maura Mast
Dean Maura Mast

“We have had the unique opportunity to experience a premature homecoming,” she said, adding that the experiences have prepared her and her classmates. “The world we are entering into is very different than when we started. There will be countless challenges, tests, and tribulations waiting for us, but there will also be moments of joy, accomplishments, and pride.”

In her dean’s valedictory address, Maura Mast, Ph.D., gave students some final homework that directly addressed the challenge that lie ahead.=

“My assignment is simple. I ask that you do good and be well.”

She then clarified the distinctions between doing great, doing good, and being well.

“Doing great is all well and good, but doing good is what’s really great. And here’s why. When you focus on doing great things, you focus on yourself, not others. But when you focus on others that’s when you do good.”

She said that by caring for their community, students will find ways big and small to work with others to do good, such as being an anti-racist.

Zachary Abu-Orf - Recipient of The Rev. J. Franklin Ewing, S.J., Memorial Award
Zachary Abu-Orf, recipient of the Rev. J. Franklin Ewing, S.J., Memorial Award

“I challenge you to think of what you can do every day to disrupt racism in our society, in our country, in our world,” she said to great applause.

She then cited four apostolic preferences put forth by the Society of Jesus in 2019 as a roadmap for students to do good, saving the first preference for last in her presentation.

First, in her order, was to walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.

“Justice comes from love, not the other way around,” she said. “Walk with them learn their truth and walk with them to do good.”

The second preference she noted was “to accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future.” But as they themselves are still somewhat young, she charged the students to promote the dignity of young people, by lifting up their own voices, finding ways to build community, and expanding opportunities for those with less.

The third preference, she told them, was to “collaborate in the care of our Common Home.”

Renaldo Alba, Biswa Bhowmick, Patrick James, Maura Mast congratulate Emily Romero, recipient of The Anne E. Leicht Memorial Award and The Fordham College Alumni Association Chair.
Renaldo Alba, Biswa Bhowmick, Patrick James, and Maura Mast congratulate Emily Romero, recipient of the Anne E. Leicht Memorial Award and the Fordham College Alumni Association Chair.

“When we harm the Earth we jeopardize the future of young people,” she said. “Climate change is violence. It is destructive to the Earth and its people. Care for creation with little actions,” she said.

She closed with the first of the preferences: “To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment.” She said that by way of discernment students can make sure that they are well.

“Be well,” she said. “You need to be well if you want to do good,” she said.

Coralie Jean-Francois - Recipient of The French Achievement Award and The Anthony and Cecilia Guardiani Award
Coralie Jean-Francois, recipient of the French Achievement Award and the Anthony and Cecilia Guardiani Award



Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.