When a newly engaged woman approached Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, at the 21 Club earlier this month and asked her to take a picture, she didn’t think much of it.

She congratulated the happy couple, snapped a few quick photos, and turned back to the table where she had been chatting with a colleague before heading upstairs to the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA) Reception.

Concetta Sapienza, FCLC ’85, GSS ’87, said she knew the proposal was coming—after all, she had helped her partner, Richard Van Allen, pick out the ring. But she “didn’t realize he was going to do it that night,” she said, as they had a drink before attending an event hosted by her alma mater.

Fordham College Rose Hill Dean Maura Mast Ph.D. congratulates newly engaged couple Concetta Sapienta, FCLC ’85, GSS ’87, and Richard Van Allen on their engagement.

Soon after the surprise, the couple made their way upstairs to the third annual event sponsored by Fordham’s University-wide alumni association.

Later that evening, when Mast was introduced to the reception attendees, she and Sapienza locked eyes and immediately recognized each other. Mast then sprang into action. After learning that Sapienza is a graduate of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, she pulled aside Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., that college’s dean.

“She said, ‘Can you roll with me for a minute?’” Auricchio recalled. “I had no idea what I was getting into, but I said OK.”

The two deans then approached the couple and asked permission to put Mast’s plan into action.

‘“I didn’t know you were connected to Fordham,”’ Mast said she told the couple. “‘I’m going to ask Father McShane to give you a blessing. Are you OK with that?’ And they practically fell over.”

“We gave him no warning,” Auricchio said with a laugh. “I was so certain that Father McShane would absolutely want to be a part of it that I just knew immediately that we had to do it.”

Joseph M. McShane, president of Fordham, reacts to newly engaged couple Concetta Sapienta, FCLC ’85, GSS ’87, and Richard Van Allen.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, was delighted to hear their news.

“They’re family,” he told the crowd after he took the microphone.

He called on those in attendance to extend their right hands over the couple to give them a group blessing.

“We call upon God to bless them, to make all the days of their lives days of blessing and grace—days that are marked by love, days on which stories are made, told, and shared forever,” he said. “I ask you to join with me in praying that their marriage might be a marriage that was made in heaven, recognized at the 21 Club, and celebrated with great heart and great, great joy by the members of their extended Fordham family.”

Father McShane congratulates newly engaged couple Concetta Sapienta, FCLC ’85, GSS ’87, and Richard Van Allen on their engagement.

For Sapienza, the blessing was a gift she was not expecting. “It’s really incredibly special,” she said. As a social worker at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, she said she still uses the values she learned at Fordham in her career to this day.

Auricchio, who began her tenure at Fordham this past fall, said the event was just another example of the true meaning of “Fordham family.”

“At first I thought it was just a figure of speech, but they really do mean it,” she said.

Alexandra Loizzo-Desai contributed to this story.