Shortly after the Fordham Rams women’s basketball team won the Atlantic 10 Conference championship in Pittsburgh, fellow members of the Fordham community gathered back in New York City on March 10 to celebrate the enduring contributions of long-serving University faculty, administrators, and staff.

The 2019 Convocation, held in the School of Law’s Costantino Room at the Lincoln Center Campus, paid tribute to the recipients of the Bene Merenti medal and the Archbishop Hughes medal, awarded to faculty and staff, respectively, to mark 20 and 40 years of service at Fordham.

The event also honored three recipients of the Sursum Corda award, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the life and mission of the University: James Higgins, foreperson of facilities operations at Lincoln Center; Gregory Pappas, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of student services; and Nancy Perri, senior executive secretary in the controller’s office.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, prefaced his Convocation remarks by acknowledging the accomplishment the women’s basketball team—“among the most wonderful and interesting students we have”—before turning to the achievements of the day’s honorees.

“You are our treasure,” Father McShane said to the recipients. “The treasure that makes it possible for us to form young women and men to be women and men for others.”

“You make the routine miraculous, and you make everything at the University an occasion of grace because of the way in which you go about your work and the generous hearts you have,” he continued.

Nicholas J. Lombardi, S.J., adjunct instructor of computer and information science, drew a rousing cheer from his fellow Jesuit scholastics as he accepted his Bene Merenti Medal for 40 years of service. Father Lombardi first came to Fordham in 1958 as a freshman at Fordham Prep, where he later returned to teach classics before joining the University faculty in 1996.

“It’s great to see that so many of my friends are still here, alive and thriving,” Father Lombardi said.

Father McShane lauded the awardees for not only touching every aspect of life at Fordham, but for also extending their good works to the world at large.

Byron E. Shafer, Ph.D., associate professor emeritus of theology, has exemplified this commitment over his long and varied career. Shafer joined Fordham in 1968 as one of the first Protestants in his department, and later became well known to New York City radio listeners as a co-host of Religion on the Line, a program on religious and social issues featuring a priest, a rabbi, and a minister.

In addition to directing the University’s Middle East Studies program and focusing his scholarly energies on Ancient Egypt, Shafer also found time over the years to serve as pastor at Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side and as a visiting scholar at United Theological College in Bangalore, India.  But he always returned to Fordham, where he continues to teach senior citizens in the College at 60 program.

“Although I’ve been around more or less for 51 years, I finally made it to 40,” he said with a laugh upon receiving the Bene Merenti Medal.

Reflecting on her four decades at Fordham, Mary Chilton Callaway, associate professor of theology, observed a special quality present in both the theology department and the University as a whole. “It’s the willingness to learn and grow and change,” she said.

One change, she said, are the ever-growing challenges her students face—and not just from her lessons on the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Jeremiah. Callaway, a Bene Merenti Medalist, has cherished the opportunity “to help students with things beyond just the Old Testament—navigating their lives. For me, that’s a wonderful part about being at Fordham: when they come to my office and can open up about things,” she said.

“That’s what has kept me here for 40 years. I feel like I’m doing something helpful and worthwhile.”

Bene Merenti Medal | 40 Years
Mary Chilton Callaway
William Conlon
Celia B. Fisher
Richard Fleisher
Anne Golomb Hoffman
D. Frank Hsu
Nicholas Lombardi, S.J.
Julia H. Mueller
Byron E. Shafer
Elizabeth Stone

Bene Merenti Medal | 20 Years
Maureen P. Benej
Mary Bly
Richard S. Carnell
Martin Chase, S.J.
Christopher M. Cullen, S.J.
John Drummond
Margo A. Jackson
Duncan R. James
Gyula Klima
Ji Seon Lee
Michael W. Martin
James McCann
Marjorie R. Saltzberg
Mark S. Silver
Lyn K. Slater
Gemma Solimene

Archbishop Hughes Medal | 40 Years 
Serafina De Gregorio

Archbishop Hughes Medal | 20 Years
Maria Aponte
Jedd S. Applebaum
Marianna Balquiedra
William J. Campbell
Damarie Cardona
Jim Castillo
Vincenza Corcoran
Lois D’Amore
Fleurin Eshghi
Monica Esser
Leslie I. Gillette
Helene Jacoby Madigan
Francis C. Katai
Ruben Mendez
Stephanie Milizia
James O’Hara
Ramón Pérez
Lewis Price
Lucille I. Santos
William R. Schneider
Matthew Schottenfeld
Joanne Schwind
Michael Tavas
Timothy W. Zay

Sursum Corda Award
James Higgins
Gregory Pappas
Nancy Perri

–Michael Garofalo