While Hollywood came together on March 4 to celebrate the Academy Awards, Fordham rolled out the red carpet in honor of its own stars: longtime faculty, administrators, and staff.

The 2018 Convocation, held in the McGinley Center Ballroom on the Rose Hill campus, recognized more than 40 employees with the Bene Merenti medal or the Archbishop Hughes medal. The honorees have dedicated 20 years or 40 years of service to the University. 

Three staff members, Elaine P. Congress, D.S.W, associate dean of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS), Radek Kloucek, licensed electrician and foreman of the electrical shop, and Patricia Upton, deputy emergency manager of public safety, were honored with the Sursum Corda Award for their contributions to the life and mission of Fordham.

“Today we honor true stars who have been indications of grace and occasions of grace in our midst,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University. “[They are] men and women who have spent themselves in service of others and who have believed in, hoped for, and loved our students to a greatness they never knew they had.”

Father McShane took a moment to also reflect on the memories of four late faculty members: Ray Grontkowski, “a lion of the philosophy department” who was a staple at the University for 58 years; Kathy Schiaffino, associate professor of psychology; Edgar Tyson, assistant professor of social work; and Misha Zigelbaum, adjunct professor of mathematics.

“Together they devoted over 100 years of loving service to Fordham, and especially to their students and colleagues,” said Father McShane.

Among the recipients who were commended for being “visionary transformers” of the University was Spyros Efthimiades, Ph.D., associate professor of physics. As a physicist, the Bene Merenti medalist developed a theoretical model of weak interactions deprived of ultraviolet divergences. But his most extraordinary undertakings over the span of four decades happened inside the classroom, he said.

“I know that everything I share with my students doesn’t always appear in a visible way but it can transform their lives,” said Efthimiades. “[Mentoring] is a ritual that I will never get tired of doing.”

Congress, who was recently a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NYC), said she aims to incorporate social work values and ethics into her interactions with students, faculty, staff, and administrators.

“The social work profession, as well as my personal and professional orientation, supports the values of promoting social justice and respecting the inherent worth and dignity of each individual,” she said.

A co-founder of the Fordham Center for Nonprofit Leaders, the Certificate Program for Executive Leadership, and the Master of Science degree in Nonprofit Leadership, Congress has been one of Fordham’s greatest champions.

“I am happy to report that a number of our graduates [from our programs]have moved into top leadership positions while continually demonstrating ongoing attention to social justice both in their internal activities with staff, as well as in their external relationships with communities, other agencies, and legislative bodies,” she said.

When they weren’t inspiring students with their hard work and dedication, recipients like Mathilde Fava, Ph.D., adjunct professor of communication, were blazing a trail at home. Favas’ daughters, Doreena, GSE ’96, Palmina, LAW ‘97, and Joanna, GSAS ‘13, said Fava’s passion for education was a fundamental factor in their success.

“Her passion for education motivated us to further our education and pursue Fordham,” said Dorenna.

“Fordham was a part of the fabric of our family,” added Palmina. “It was never an option that we weren’t going to get the highest degrees that we needed in our fields.”

An immigrant of Benevento, Italy, Fava described teaching as a childhood dream that was fully realized in her 40-year role at Fordham. She remembers commuting from Mount Vernon to Fordham’s Manhattan location, where she graduated in 1969 with a degree in education.

“It was not an easy task,” she said. “I was doing my homework on the subway. But if you have a dream or a goal, you have to have the determination and will to achieve it.”

Bene Merenti Medal | 40 Years

Diana Bray | Professor Emerita of Chemistry

Brian J. Byrne | Vice President for Lincoln Center

Spyros Efthimiades | Associate Professor of Physics

Matilde Fava | Adjunct Professor of Communication

Hugh C. Hansen | Professor of Law

Lawrence Kramer | Distinguished Professor of English and Professor of Music

Maria L. Marcus | Joseph M. McLaughlin Professor of Law Emerita

Ronald S. Méndez-Clark | Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Literature and Associate Chair of Modern Languages and Literatures

Philip Sicker | Professor of English

Larry Stempel | Professor of Music and American Studies

Harold Takooshian | Professor of Psychology, Urban Studies, and Organizational Leadership

Bene Merenti Medal | 20 Years

Michael Baur | Associate Professor of Philosophy

Mary C. Burke | Senior Lecturer of Economics

John J. Davenport | Professor of Philosophy

George W. Drance Jr., S.J. | Artist-in-Residence

Moshe Gold | Associate Professor of English

Paul Levinson | Professor of Communication and Media Studies

J.D. Lewis | Professor of Biological Sciences and Chair of Biological Sciences

Chad McArver | Assistant Professor of Theatre and Chair of Theatre and Visual Arts

Bartholomew Moore | Associate Professor of Economics

Wullianallur Raghupathi | Professor of Information Systems

Martha Grace Rayner | Clinical Associate Professor of Law

Stuart Sherman | Professor of English

William B. Thornhill | Professor of Biological Sciences

Cynthia Vich | Associate Professor of Spanish

Sevin Yaraman | Senior Lecturer of Art History and Music

Sarah M. Zimmerman | Professor of English

Archbishop Hughes Medal | 40 Years

Ginger Calder | Assistant General Manager, WFUV

Gerard Cariffe | Associate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Fordham IT

Gregory J. Pappas | Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Student Services

Archbishop Hughes Medal | 20 Years

Betty Butler | Director of IT Operations Management, Fordham IT

Ann Delaney Chillemi | Assistant Vice President for Lincoln Center

Linda Duhaime-Candeias | Office Manager and Executive Assistant, WFUV

Richard Eberhardt | Director of Innovation and Change Management, Fordham IT

Yvanne Grandoit | Technology Support Engineer, Gabelli School of Business

Michael S. Hayes | Payroll Manager

Lisa Kelly | Senior Assistant Director and Academic Skills Coordinator, Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP)

Bernard Matthews | Director of Information Systems and Planning, School of Law

Michael Charles Mineo | Executive Director, Human Resource Management

Cesar Nau | Assistant Director of Network Operations, Fordham IT

Robert J. Parmach | Freshmen Dean, Fordham College at Rose Hill

Peter Patten | Reference and Instructional Services Librarian, University Libraries

Patricia Peek | Dean of Undergraduate Admission

Alissa Perrone | Assistant Director of the Louis Calder Center

Maritza Rivera-Garcia | Health Insurance Compliance Administrator

David Vassar | Reference Librarian, University Libraries

The Sursum Corda Award

Elaine P. Congress | Associate Dean, Graduate School of Social Service and Professor of Social Work

Radek Kloucek | Licensed Electrician and Foreman of the Electrical Shop

Patricia Upton | Deputy Emergency Manager, Public Safety