The Gabelli School of Business (GSB) honored its most distinguished seniors in a May 17 ceremony at the McGinley Center that celebrated their past accomplishments, and challenged them to do even more in the future.

Nearly 100 business undergraduates received medals for achievements in accounting, finance, management, entrepreneurship and marketing. Students also were recognized for excellence in academic, community and humanitarian endeavors, and for their leadership skills.

Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D., dean of GSB and of the Fordham business faculty, said students should take pride in the fact that they had accomplished much in their four years, and now had both the academic and life skills to succeed.

“You prepared tax returns in the local community and managed $1 million of the University’s portfolio, quite well I might add. You developed new service projects like the Edge College Prep program, you’ve launched businesses, and you’ve participated in the Dorothy Day Center and launched the Fair Trade Program,” she said.

She suggested students ruminate on Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “I don’t like that man. I am going to have to get to know him better.”

“Of course, Lincoln was talking about people, and his compassion was implied. But what I find really important about his words is that he’s telling us to keep an open mind, to investigate further,” she said.

“Tonight I encourage you to take Lincoln’s advice in a broad context. Anytime you think to yourself, ‘I don’t like that,’ whatever that may be—whether it’s new assignment at work, public speaking, or data analytics—remember the second part of Lincoln’s quote and rephrase it: ‘I am going to have to get to know it better.”

Craig Staub and Celeste Sipherd shared the stage as co-valedictorians.

Sipherd reflected on three aspects of her time at Fordham that were memorable: Her taking to heart the idea that the entire city was her campus; an internship she landed at Goldman Sachs; and the love she felt from the Fordham community when she learned of the death of her brother.

She urged her classmates to latch onto motivators instead of incentives.

“Service is love made visible, and what we love is what we will serve,” she said. “I hope we begin our careers with the right priorities, or the right decision-making criteria.”

Celeste Sipherd
Contributed Photo

She harkened back to four years ago, when she and her classmates wrote college essays detailing grand plans for the future.

“Now many of us say that those dreams are unrealistic, that the 18 year-old selves were overly ambitious or optimistic. I would like to say to our 22 year-old realistic selves that we are wrong,” she said. “We can and will make a difference, but only if we are willing to continue to learn to progress, to remain humbler and to define success appropriately.”
Staub, a defensive back on the Fordham football team, highlighted the foundation he built at Fordham, via a Jesuit tradition rooted in philosophy, theology and the liberal arts

“As business students, it’s sometimes easy to downplay the importance of the liberal arts portion of the curriculum, yet it is the philosophy and theology teachings that have taught us to think outside the box and become well rounded people,” he said.

Joseph Mazzella, GSB ’82, was honored as 2012 GSB Alumnus of the Year Award. Mazzella, former managing director at Goldman Sachs, told attendees that there are unique opportunities on Wall Street for Fordham graduates. He was joined on stage by his wife Margaret, with whom he is celebrating his 25th anniversary.

“Everyone in this room should be proud of themselves. There’s a change going on, and it’s all because of you guys. So keep pushing,” he said.

Joseph Mazzella, GSB ’82,Margaret Mazzella, and Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D.
Photo By Michael Dames

Senior Bryan Matis, who was the Master of Ceremonies for the night, received the Patricia Ramsey Outstanding Thesis Award for his work “Do Shareholders Penalize Bank Boards and Management for the Financial Crisis?”

Gabelli faculty were also honored with the Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, which is given to two faculty members.

The winners, who were selected based on nominations from graduating seniors and full-time and adjunct faculty, were Christine Janssen-Selvadurai, Ph.D., lecturer in management studies, for full time faculty, and Mario J. DiFiore, Assistant Dean and Senior Advisor, for adjunct faculty.

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to approximately 14,700 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in Westchester, the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.