It’s always hard for a student to say goodbye after those four special years spent in college—a season of developing lifelong friendships, adventures, memories, and self-discovery.

But Joe and Joni Taylor said moving on from their family’s Fordham days will be almost as hard for them as it is for their daughter Colleen.

“We became so close with some of the parents of Colleen’s friends that they feel like family, too,” Joe said.

“We all decided that when our children come back for their reunions, we’re going to come back with them,” he said.

Colleen, who was selected as the 2012 valedictorian of Fordham College at Rose Hill, will head to Trinity College Dublin to pursue her master’s degree this fall. She said the fact that commencement was a family affair made it all the more special to her.

While she enjoyed all of the Senior Week activities, she said the highlight of her graduation week was the Parent Appreciation Dinner and Dance.

“It was so much more fun than any other Fordham dance I’ve been to, because I’ve gotten to know all my friends’ families,” Colleen said.

For the Taylor family, and for many others, commencement weekend was an opportunity not only to celebrate their child’s accomplishments, but to connect with members of the Fordham family—students, parents, faculty, and staff.

Joe and Joni Taylor said they were able to meet many of Colleen’s professors and deans at the weekend’s events and recognized some of the administrators who had been supportive of her over the years.

For Colleen, spending time with her own and friends’ families was a perfect way to cap off a great four years. She said many of her favorite Fordham memories are centered around family.

“My roommate’s family was very involved, too,” Colleen said. “Our families would set up the tailgates for the football games. My roommate and I would go down, and there would be our dads cooking already at the grill.”

Colleen TaylorColleen’s strong commitment to academic success runs in the family. Joe and Joni are long-time teachers in the Danbury, Conn., public school system, Joe having recently retired after 37 years of service.

The Taylors are also no stranger to Jesuit education. Joe went to Holy Cross; his brother to Boston College. When Colleen began applying for school, she was accepted both to her father’s and her uncle’s alma maters.

But now, the Taylors say they are pleased she chose Fordham.

“She liked Fordham best, and after her four years, I think I do too,” Joe said.

Commencement was full of special memories for the Taylors. Colleen, who delivered her valedictory address on the Thursday night prior, said it was special to have her family present as she shared a story about how they had encountered Fordham alumni while traveling through Ireland together.

Joe said it was meaningful to have the whole family together, including younger son Daniel, and to celebrate with the people who had become important in Colleen’s life as well as his own.

“It seems that Fordham does so much for the graduates that whole week and shows so much appreciation for the kids,” he said.

“It makes us feel good as parents, especially after spending all that money,” Joe laughed. After a week full of special activities, Joe said commencement day ended with some good old-fashioned hard work.

“We had to move out of Campbell Hall by 10 p.m.,” Joe said. “We went back to pack everything up, and of course Colleen’s roommates were there doing the same. We just beat the clock.”

Colleen said the involvement of family was the factor that made her Fordham experience so wonderful.

“They supported me wholeheartedly, and I think that’s part of the reason I loved college so much,” she said.

The extent of her family’s support—and their love for Fordham University—are particularly evident as Joe considers the upcoming football season.

“It shows the love of a father for his daughter that at the Holy Cross-Fordham games, I will now cheer for Fordham,” he said.

by Jennifer Spencer