When Fordham’s annual Giving Day raised a record amount of funds in early March, bringing in more than $1.3 million from the University’s supporters, one group of supporters was having a banner year of its own, contributing $30,000 thanks to a holiday fundraiser that exceeded all expectations.

The fundraiser? An online auction, the third such event hosted by the Fordham College Alumni Association (FCAA), with a novel twist this year: celebrity alumni. Several offered virtual face time to the highest bidder, helping to propel the event far beyond its usual total.

The auction “gets bigger and better every year,” with all proceeds going toward scholarships and grants for students, said Debra Caruso Marrone, FCRH ’81, the association’s president.

It’s one of several events sponsored by the FCAA each year, complementing the broader efforts of the Fordham University Alumni Association, the Office of Alumni Relations, and other groups that serve students and the alumni community.

Founded in 1905, the FCAA is the University’s oldest alumni organization, and primarily serves Fordham College at Rose Hill students and alumni.

Contacting Celebrity Alumni

Streeter Seidell
Streeter Seidell (Photo by B.A. Van Sise)

The idea of featuring celebrity alumni in December’s auction was driven in part by the pandemic, which put the kibosh on, say, auctioning off event tickets. “We really had to pivot,” said Christa Treitmeier-Meditz, FCRH ’85, who spearheaded the effort to reach out to various prominent alumni.

In the end, they were able to auction off a virtual comedy writing lesson with Saturday Night Live writer Streeter Seidell, FCRH ’05 (someone bought that for his wife, an aspiring comedy writer, Treitmeier-Meditz said). They also got help from some prominent alumni thespians: Golden Globe winner Dylan McDermott, FCLC ’83, contributed a virtual meet, and Golden Globe winner and former Oscar nominee Patricia Clarkson, FCLC ’82, contributed a virtual master class and a post-pandemic in-person engagement—dinner out and tickets to the next Broadway show she appears in.

Dylan McDermott
Dylan McDermott (Shutterstock)

People also contributed various items, memorabilia, or experiences, such as a master cooking class or a trip around Manhattan by yacht. “It’s everything and anything,” Treitmeier-Meditz said. “The Fordham alumni community is very generous.”

Other planned events were canceled due to the pandemic lockdown last year: a sit-down for a dozen alumni with John Brennan, FCRH ’77, former CIA director and counterterrorism adviser to President Barack Obama, and an event with sportscasters Michael Kay, FCRH ’82, and Mike Breen, FCRH ’83.

Through such events, the association has raised money for various funds, including a summer internship fund for journalism majors, recently renamed for Jim Dwyer, FCRH ’79, the New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner who died in 2020. A new scholarship fund named for Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, is for students who reach new heights of academic achievement after arriving at the University.

The association provides other important support such as funding for undergraduate research and for student travel, noted Maura Mast, Ph.D., dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill. “I’m so pleased to see how that support has grown over the past several years,” she said. “I am grateful for their commitment to the college, to our alumni, and to the larger Fordham family.”

Patricia Clarkson
Patricia Clarkson (photo: NBC)

The association’s Giving Day gift—a matching gift—was split between two scholarship funds: the FCAA Endowed Legacy Scholarship, a need-based scholarship for legacy students, and the Rev. George J. McMahon, S.J., Endowed Scholarship, awarded to students at Fordham College at Rose Hill and the Gabelli School of Business.

Serving on the board is a labor of love, Caruso Marrone said. “We’re doing something good: we’re raising funds, we’re helping students go through school,” in addition to bringing alumni together at events, she said. “The members of our board [are] of various age groups, various backgrounds, various careers, [and] we all come together and do this work and enjoy it immensely. We have just a great group of people who are dedicated to Fordham.”