Graduates, their families, and members of the faculty and administration gathered in the Rose Hill Gymnasium on May 17 for Fordham College at Rose Hill’s (FCRH) celebration of the class of 2012’s highest-achieving students, and to reflect on the importance of service.

Encaenia recognizes FCRH seniors who have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and other academic honor societies, received awards in their disciplines, won prestigious scholarships and fellowships, or are graduating from the honors program.

In his address, Michael Latham, Ph.D., dean of the college, shared his reflections on Fordham students’ dedication to service in such places as El Salvador. The small Central American country is nothing short of a tropical paradise, Latham said—but one scarred by the effects of poverty and a decade of brutal civil war.

“How is it that in so many cases, whether in El Salvador, post-apartheid South Africa, or right here in the Bronx, that young women and men from Fordham learn to transcend differences of culture, race, class, gender, and religion to find a deeper, more meaningful level of engagement? What allows that profound level of human solidarity to take hold, emerge, and grow?”

In response, Latham cited the late Dean Brackley, S.J., a former Fordham theology professor who spent two decades serving the Salvadoran people.

According to Brackley, encounters such as the ones between Fordham students and citizens of developing countries raise profound questions: “If this is how the world is—if this is an average country—then how do I want to live my life?”

“I believe that these are the questions that you all, as graduates of Fordham, are especially well-qualified to answer,” Latham said. “No matter which profession you ultimately pursue, and where you ultimately do it, I hope you will continue to move beyond the boundaries of the familiar and the comfortable, and allow yourself to be transformed through service to a larger, human cause.”

Colleen Taylor, valedictorian of the class of 2012, related an experience she had while studying abroad in Ireland. One weekend, she and her family traveled to a small coastal town to visit a castle—where, to her surprise, she discovered a Fordham banner hanging. The owner of the castle, she found out, was a Fordham alumnus.

But the discovery was twofold: After finding out the Taylor was a Fordham student, someone else in the group revealed that she, too, was an alumna.

“The fact that a small maroon banner on the wall of a castle basement could make strangers into acquaintances, and local townspeople and American tourists into friends, proved to me the immeasurable value of a Fordham connection,” she said.

“Fordham is a place that makes fierce friendship. Fordham is more than a university—it is an identity and it is a home.”

“Lord of the Manor” Peter Sanneman gave the salutatory address. Alluding to the Lord of the Manor tradition’s English roots, Sanneman swapped his graduation cap for a jester hat, since, in the Shakespearean tradition, “it is the court’s fool who uses wit to speak truth to power.”
Photo by Michael Dames

“I propose that instead of making ourselves upset over the end of our undergraduate careers, that we remember to celebrate this end,” she said. “. . .that we commemorate the school that gave us an identity, a home, and invaluable friendships.”

In addition to the various academic awards, two special awards were given: Matthew Cuff received the Claver Award, which recognizes a senior who “exemplifies in an outstanding manner Fordham’s dedication to community service;” Caitlin Meyer received the Fordham College Alumni Association Award for her exemplification of the Fordham spirit.

To read more about this year’s prestigious award winners, read the article in Inside Fordham.