The Fordham community showed up—and out—for Homecoming this year. Several thousand alumni, family, and friends flocked to Rose Hill on Saturday, September 17, for a sunny day of reunion and renewal. Some came for the food, drinks, and family-friendly fun. Some came to see old haunts and hear from Fordham’s new president, Tania Tetlow. And some came for the football.

In their first home game of the season, the undefeated Rams did not disappoint, rallying for 21 fourth-quarter points to secure a thrilling 48-45 victory before an enthusiastic crowd on Jack Coffey Field.

“Each and every visit is better than the one before,” said Julie (D’Attilio) Gautam, who has been coming back to campus since she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Fordham in 1989. “I think it looks beautiful, and I’m really excited for the next phase—the new president and bringing all of this incredible investment to building together without losing the spirit and history.”

Gautam’s son, Brij, is now a junior in the Gabelli School of Business, and on Saturday, she arrived early with her husband, Manish, and their daughter, Jaya, to take part in a campus tour led by Patricia Peek, Ph.D., FCRH ’90, GSAS ’92, ’07, dean of undergraduate admission.

Gautam Family (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

“I’m a senior in high school right now, but I’ve been coming to Homecoming my whole life, so I feel like I know the school, and I love the school, so I’m very excited to apply,” Jaya said after the tour, which was co-led by Ben Reilly, a Fordham College at Rose Hill senior.

Near the residence halls, Peek and Reilly joked that students might be sleeping in a bit after the semiformal President’s Ball, which kicked off at 9 p.m. on Friday and didn’t end until 1 in the morning. About 4,000 undergraduates from the Lincoln Center and Rose Hill campuses—the most to date—enjoyed dancing and refreshments under the tents on Edwards Parade, many getting their first chance to meet Fordham’s new president.

Meanwhile, recent graduates kicked off Homecoming weekend downtown with the Young Alumni Yacht Cruise on Friday night. The annual event, open this year to graduates from the classes of 2012 through 2022, drew about 800 alumni and friends. Together, they cruised around lower Manhattan while enjoying cocktails, dancing, and a buffet dinner.

And They’re Off

By 9 a.m. on Saturday, a few dozen members of the Fordham community had taken their marks near the McShane Campus Center for the 11th annual 5K Ram Run. Runners completed three loops around campus before finishing by the Victory Bell in front of the historic Rose Hill Gymnasium.

Michael Parrinello, a junior studying finance, ran with his sister, Lauren, for the second year in a row, as their parents, Michael and Theresa, cheered them on from sidelines. “It’s a fun time,” Michael Sr. said. “They look forward to the race, and we’re looking forward to the football game.”

Shannon Baurkot, FCRH ’23 (Photo by Chris Taggart)

Shannon Baurkot, a senior studying applied mathematics, was fired up to join alumni in the race. After her first lap, she leaped into the air to high-five Ramses, the Fordham mascot, before continuing down Constitution Row toward the University Church.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “Honestly, it’s just such a great way to start Homecoming; I couldn’t have asked for a better way.”

Welcoming a New President

After the Ram Run and campus tour, alumni and guests gathered in the Great Hall of the McShane Campus Center, where President Tania Tetlow shared some words of welcome in a fireside-style chat with Sally Benner, FCRH ’84, chair of the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA) Advisory Board.

The discussion came a few days after Tetlow’s first State of the University address, where she emphasized the power of the University as a “force multiplier” and an “agent of change.”

“When you look at the trajectory of schools, the ones where alumni really invest—and by that I mean in all of the ways that you do—those are the ones that lean forward,” Tetlow told the Homecoming audience. “So, the fact that Fordham alumni are so engaged, that they want to pay forward the opportunity they received here, that they care so much about this place, that’s a big part of why we are where we are today.”

Field Full of Memories

After the session, Tetlow headed to Edwards Parade to greet alumni, students, families, and friends as they entered the Homecoming tents. More than 2,000 people enjoyed boxed lunches, drinks, games, music, and even some shopping for Fordham-themed jewelry and swag while catching up with each other and learning about upcoming alumni events and one of the University’s newest alumni affinity groups.

As he hung out in the loyal donor tent, Richard Calabrese, FCRH ’72, recalled his days playing quarterback on an intramural football team. “On this very field,” he said, “there are good memories. It was fun. Our fall afternoons were great.”

Homecoming fell on roughly the same date that Calabrese and his wife, Angela, a 1972 College of New Rochelle graduate, met at an on-campus party more than five decades ago. They come to Homecoming every few years from their Florida home. “Today is probably going to be the best experience we’ve ever had here—based on the people we’re with, and the weather,” he said.

He and Angela were visiting with their friends Jacqueline and Fred Schwanwede, both members of the Class of 1972 who were on the sailing team as students.

Asked about his best Fordham memory, Fred pointed to Jacqueline and said just two words: “meeting her.”

Acosta Family (Photo by Patrick Verel)

Across the grass, in the family tent, Michelle Acosta, FCRH ’98, and her husband, Mark, sat with their 6-year-old daughter, Valentina, who’d availed herself of the face painting station. The couple got married at the University Church in 2010, and Michelle, a philosophy major who has since gone on to practice law on Long Island, had made it a point to come to just about every Homecoming. After a three-year hiatus, she said it was great to be back.

“It truly feels like coming home. There’s the familiar sights, the familiar energy, and there are also new things I haven’t had a chance to check out since the last timeI was here,” she said.

“Valentina has seen all the pictures of our wedding and we like to take her back there, too, to see the church where we got married. I think she definitely can participate more and she’ll have more of a memory. The last time we went to the football game, she was so little, and she was afraid of the Ram. I don’t think that’ll happen this year,” she said laughing.

Harnessing the Spirit of Homecoming to Spread Awareness

J. Iris Kim, GABELLI ’07, and Mark Son, LAW ’10 (Photo by Kelly Prinz)

Elsewhere, in the main tent, J. Iris Kim, GABELLI ’07, and Mark Son, LAW ’10, helmed a table where they spoke with alumni and students about the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) alumni chapter, established in 2020 by Christopher P. Lee, FCRH ’71, LAW ’79, amid rising incidents of anti-Asian aggression across New York City and the country.

It’s been a little challenging for them to connect with alumni in person during the pandemic, which is why Kim and Son, two of the group’s co-leaders, decided to set up a table at this year’s Homecoming.

“We want to promote AAPI issues and just awareness of our presence on campus,” Kim said. “We’re relatively new, so we’re just really trying to get our name out there. We’re also hoping to connect with some of the student groups on campus, so we can have that connection with the students who will become alums.”

Son said that they’ve been advocating and supporting work taking place at the University toward creating an Asian American studies program. With support from two University grants—an Arts & Sciences Deans’ Challenge Grant and a Teaching Race Across the Curriculum Grant from the chief diversity officer—a group of Fordham professors is currently developing a curriculum for a minor in the subject.

“May is AAPI Heritage Month, so we’ve been celebrating every year,” said Son, who noted that the group is also working to add programming and partnerships, including with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Fordham Law School’s Center on Asian Americans and the Law. The goal of all this work, he said, is to build Fordham pride and “get more people to come out and support these issues.”

Alumni Bookworms Are Back for Round Two

Stacey D’Erasmo chats with Sean McCooe, FCRH ’84, who said he’s excited to join the book club with his wife and mother—all of them are avid readers. (Photo by Sierra McCleary-Harris)

Other attendees stopped by a table piled high with copies of The Complicities, the new novel from Stacey D’Erasmo, associate professor of English at Fordham University. Chosen for the latest Forever Fordham Alumni Book Club, The Complicities tells the story of Suzanne Flaherty, a woman attempting to rebuild her life after her now ex-husband is found guilty of financial crimes and sentenced to prison.

Maureen Corrigan-Connell, GRE ’94, ’95, a Yonkers-based Montessori teacher, said she’s looking forward to reading D’Erasmo’s other books after she finishes The Complicities. She decided to read the novel, and join the alumni book club, in memory of her husband, John, a 1974 graduate of Fordham College at Rose Hill who was an avid reader.

She’s also enjoying the break from education books.

“When the school year is in, it’s education books and all things Montessori, so I must say that when I do pick up a book I like a certain amount of romance, fiction, and history that dates to a place that I haven’t been.”

Tales from the Tailgate

In the parking lot, Blaine and Missy Lavergne were enjoying their first time tailgating on the Rose Hill campus. The couple, natives of Lafayette, Louisiana, were there to support their daughter Maggie, a first-year Fordham College at Lincoln Center student and a member of the cheerleading squad.

The Lavergnes are big Louisiana State University fans, but for the occasion, they were dressed to the hilt in maroon. Both sported custom-made sneakers with the Fordham logo that one of their other daughters had made for the occasion, and Blaine had fashioned a Fordham flag into a cape. Their spread was merely a test run for Family Weekend on October 1, when they plan to return with the whole family to cheer on Fordham football against Georgetown.

Blaine and Missy Lavergne (Photo by Patrick Verel)

“Maggie interviewed at all of these out-of-state schools, and she just fell in love with Fordham,” Blaine said. “As a Catholic dad, it just fired me up that she would choose a Catholic university. She’s in the best of both worlds: She’s here at a traditional campus, and she gets the beauty of New York and Broadway in Manhattan. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

A few spots away, Lea O’Rourke, a senior at the Gabelli School of Business, was playing cornhole and enjoying coffee and bagels with friends and her parents, Barbara and Kevin. Barbara’s father, Marc Angelillo Jr., FCLC ‘50, played football when he was an undergraduate, and she has fond memories of visiting Rose Hill as a child.

“We grew up coming to the alumni weekends, where he would reconnect with all of his friends,” she said. “My father would drag all six children here and we would enjoy the day.”

For Leah, this year’s Homecoming felt like a long time coming. She attended her first in 2019, but she didn’t know many people at the time, and for the past two years, the pandemic made it challenging to really enjoy the day.

“I am ready for the first of the last tailgates. They are so well put together by my mom, and I’m just so excited. It’s crazy that that was my freshman year,” she said remembering 2019, “and now we’re here.”

Rams Remain Undefeated

At 1 p.m., fans made their way to Jack Coffey Field to watch the then 2-0 Rams take on the University at Albany Great Danes. The Rams jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but they soon fell behind in what became a back-and-forth contest.

Staring at an 11-point deficit with 15 minutes to go, senior quarterback Tim DeMorat was unfazed. He led his team to a 21-point fourth quarter and a thrilling 48-45 victory. The win brought the Rams to 3-0 on the season—the team’s best start since 2013, when Fordham advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs and finished the year ranked No. 10 in the country.

John J. Pettenati, FCRH ’81, took in the action on the field from the roof of one of the trailers reserved for members of the Maroon Club. A history major who would go on to work in the banking industry, he’s been a season ticket holder since his days as an undergraduate.

“We are a football school,” he said. “And it’s great, bringing alumni and students together in the fall. To me, this is the easiest thing to do. I mean, it’s not terribly expensive, it’s entertaining, I’m supporting my college, and I’m outside. Those are all wonderful things.”

—Kelly Prinz, Ryan Stellabotte, Chris Gosier, and Patrick Verel contributed to this story. Video by Tom Stoelker and Taylor Ha.