(Photos by Chris Taggart, Bruce Gilbert, and Taylor Ha)

For many parents and families, Fordham’s 2024 Commencement was a time to celebrate grads who didn’t have an in-person high school graduation ceremony. For others, it was a chance to recognize years of hard work and accomplishment. Fordham Magazine spoke with families at the Rose Hill campus on May 18 to get a sense of what the day meant to them.

A family poses after graduation
Donna, Patrick, and Rich Schneider (Courtesy of Donna Schneider)

Next Steps in NYC

Rich Schneider said he was grateful Fordham helped his son, Patrick, gain an “amazing” group of friends as well as the values, work ethic, and analytical skills needed to build a successful career.

“He came in as a shy, quiet boy, and he’s leaving as a smart, confident, outgoing man that’s just ready to take on his next steps in New York City,” he said, adding that Patrick, who graduated from the Gabelli School of Business, will be starting as a corporate banking analyst at Barclays in a few weeks. 

The day was “especially moving,” for Patrick’s mother, Donna, who is also a Fordham graduate.

“I graduated [from Fordham College at Rose Hill] 36 years ago, and my dad graduated in 1954,” she said. “So seeing my son graduate is especially wonderful.” 

Both parents said they appreciate how Fordham balances academic rigor with the support and resources students need to succeed. 

“It’s like a warm, comfy blanket,” Donna Schneider said with a laugh. “But what I like is they don’t hold your hand—they want you to go out and strike it on your own, but they’re for you if you fall.” 

A Heartfelt Goodbye

Commencement was bittersweet for Lisamarie and Maureen Gonzalez-Burris, parents of Jemma Burris, who graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill with a degree in communication and culture and a minor in music.

Two parents kiss their daughter after graduation
Maureen and Lisamarie Gonzalez-Burris with their daughter Jemma Burris (Courtesy of Maureen Gonzalez-Burris)

“Overall the experience has been absolutely incredible for our daughter—and for us,” Lisamarie said. “I’m sad for her, but I’m also sad for us because we’re saying goodbye to the campus.” 

Jemma was drawn to Jesuit schools when she was applying to college and really wanted to live and learn in a big city. That’s why she chose Fordham, Maureen said, even though they couldn’t set foot on campus until Jemma’s move-in day, in August 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From the get-go, from drop-off, just how much we were embraced—it just felt like parents were being taken care of too, and we just totally trusted the whole experience and have felt so connected to Fordham, even though we live in Los Angeles,” Maureen said. 

Proud Beyond Words

David Collins said he was the “proudest great-uncle” on campus, watching Kalind Gipson graduate from Fordham College at Rose Hill with a degree in political science and a minor in African and African American studies.

Two people smile for a photo
David Collins and Fashawn Cohen (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

“I’m so proud—I raised her mother mostly, and now to see my great-niece, you can’t even believe it,” Collins said. 

Gipson’s mother, Fashawn Cohen, said they “weren’t going to miss this for the world,” after her daughter’s high school graduation was held online.  

“It’s amazing, it’s been a lot of hard work—she’s been working hard since way back,” Cohen said, holding her hand just a few feet from the ground, remembering when her daughter was younger.  

For Kathleen Condon, seeing her daughter, Janice Puder, earn a Ph.D. in school psychology from the Graduate School of Education brought tears of joy to her eyes. 

“It’s an honor, and I’m so proud of her and her accomplishments and achievements,” Condon said. “Her hard work, dedication to everything that she’s going to do in life is just amazing.”

Two people pose for a picture with flowers
Kathleen Condon and Janice Puder (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

Shania Lauando, who graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center, said that she was so happy to have her parents and brothers there to celebrate her graduation, as she’s among the first in her family to earn a college degree.

“It’s a really big accomplishment for me being [a] first-generation [college graduate,] and so I’m really happy to be here and have the support of my family,” she said. 

Her older brother, Donnie, said his family was grateful to be a part of her big day.

“We’re very happy to see the youngest in the family finally graduate and accomplish this big chapter in her life—we’re just overjoyed and very proud,” he said.

A family smiles after graduation
The Lauando family (Photo by Kelly Prinz)