Despite having attended Fordham more than 50 years apart, Dennis Kenny and Morgan Vazquez have a lot in common. They both volunteer for their alma mater, feel strongly about the value of mentorship, and were surprised to discover that they will be honored at the Fordham University Alumni Association’s (FUAA) Alumni Recognition Reception at New York City’s famous Tavern on the Green on January 30.

When Vazquez found out she’d be receiving the inaugural Trailblazer Award, presented to a graduate from the past 10 years who has demonstrated outstanding dedication to Fordham and whose leadership has inspired fellow alumni, she said she was “totally shocked.” In fact, she’s involved in so many Fordham activities that she initially thought she was getting a phone call about her work on the commencement committee.

“Fordham is a huge part of my life, as anyone who talks to me knows,” she said, “so I’m excited, humbled, and honored.”

Kenny, a 1957 Fordham College at Rose Hill grad and 1961 Fordham Law alumnus who has been named Ram of the Year, joked that he was originally worried he’d have to dress as Ramses the Ram at the reception. When he was told that the award honors a graduate who has enhanced the reputation of the University through their professional achievements, personal accomplishments, and loyal service to Fordham, he simply said: “I feel truly unworthy.”

A Pipeline to Success

Both grads have a long history of supporting Fordham.

Vazquez, a vice president of campus strategy and pipeline development at BNY Mellon, has been an active member of the Staten Island Alumni Chapter and the Young Alumni Committee since graduation. She’s also a member of the Fordham Mentoring Program, which she says dovetails with her work in recruitment and retention for BNY Mellon.

“It’s a question of how you can help people keep developing in the right way,” she said. “It sounds cliché, but Fordham helped shape the person that I am today. So it’s exciting to see how I can support current students both in and beyond the program.”

Vazquez, who received a full scholarship to Fordham from JPMorgan Chase and interned at the company throughout her college career as part of their Smart Start program, says she wants to help others have the same great experience she did in college and beyond.

“One of my main goals is to be a leader and show people what’s possible,” she said. “I have been lucky enough to have some fantastic people and opportunities in my life that have helped me figure things out, pushed me, and challenged me. I want to be that for other people and help them find success. So it’s amazing to be recognized for that and be able to continue spreading the message of Fordham.”  

An Alumni Advocate

Kenny, a dayhop from White Plains who had to pay his own way, said he feels similarly.

“I’m so glad I did what I did, and I owe so much to Fordham because it was through them that I got to where I am,” he said. “So I always felt I had to pay it back.”

And he certainly has. He’s been a member of the Law School Alumni Association for 40 years, he helped plan his 50th Jubilee in 2007, and he currently supports Fordham’s Fashion Law Institute and mentors students at the Law School—particularly international and L.M. students, helping place them in jobs and on the alumni association board. He’s received several honors from the Law School for his professional and volunteer work, including the Richard J. Bennett Memorial Award in 1999, The Fordham International Law Journal’s Amicus Fidelis Award in 2006, and the Fordham Law Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

He’s also been actively involved with the Feerick Center for Social Justice since its founding in 2006 by his friend John Feerick, FCRH ’58, LAW ’61, longtime Fordham Law professor and former dean of the school.

“When I was at the Fordham Law Review, in my final year of law school, John was the editor in chief. I tell everybody that John was the editor and I was his gopher,” he laughed. “We’ve been friends ever since.”

Motivated by the Mission

Kenny, who retired after more than 30 years at Transamerica Leasing, said his Jesuit education played a big part in his professional success. “They really train you how to think,” he said. “And if you can do that, you can succeed in just about anything.”

He feels the Feerick Center is a particularly good example of the Jesuit mission that motivates him.

“The most important thing the Catholic Church can do in this day and age is support social justice,” Kenny said. “That’s why I do so much of what I do in my life.”

Fordham’s Jesuit values made a huge impact on Vazquez too, particularly the tenet of cura personalis, or care for the whole person.

“Fordham encourages you to grow your own faith, your own individuality, regardless of what that is. Fordham embraces differences and diversity, and that helped shape me as an individual,” she said.

This year marks the first time the FUAA is hosting the Alumni Recognition Reception, which will be held biennially from now on. The reception celebrates all alumni volunteers. This year’s two honorees were nominated by their alumni peers and selected by the FUAA Advisory Board members. Vazquez will be the first to receive the Trailblazer Award. Kenny will be the latest to receive the Ram of the Year Award. Past recipients include Bob Campbell, Bill Burke, Vin Scully, and Mary Higgins Clark.


Alexandra Loizzo-Desai can be reached at [email protected] or 212-636-6536.