If there can be Christmas in July, why not Thanksgiving in April? That’s how Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., outgoing president of Fordham University, described the Scholarship Donors and Recipients Reception held on April 25 at Manhattan’s University Club.

“There are generations of Rams here,” he said. “We seek one another out and when we come together, we share our stories because we know by sharing, we deepen our love for one another. We deepen our commitment to tomorrow. And for Fordham, tonight is a thanksgiving night.”

More than 200 students and 91 donors attended the celebration, which allows for scholarship recipients to meet and connect with the donors who have helped to fund their education. The venue was teeming with smiling faces. 

Jason Backa, a sophomore who commutes to Fordham College at Lincoln Center from Staten Island, almost didn’t make it. With a big presentation due for his Physics Lab II course the next day, a social outing in midtown Manhattan seemed almost impossible. But he made the trek so he could meet the person who helped make his education possible—Mary C. Guardiani, UGE ’62.

“It was great,” said Backa, the recipient of the Libby and Mary C. Guardiani, UGE ’62, Endowed Scholarship. “Not only because I got to meet her, but I got to know more about her, and she got to meet my dad.”

Backa, the son of Albanian immigrants and the second in his family to attend college (his brother John, who graduated from FCLC in 2021, was the first), said he had such an appreciation for the scholarship because the pandemic was tough on his dad’s electrician business, which made finances tricky.

Guardiani beamed when talking about Backa.

“He only stayed for maybe 10 minutes because he had to go home and study. He’s pre-med. He’s making his father so proud,” she said.

Roger Milici, vice president of development and university relations, shared a statistic that got a strong round of applause.

“At the beginning of the last campaign, we had just 200 endowed scholarships. And now I’m pleased to say that we’ve got more than 700,” Milici said.

Milici introduced student speaker Amanda Morrow, a Fordham College at Lincoln Center junior studying theater.

Morrow is the recipient of the Denzel Washington Endowed Scholarship, which she referred to as a “true blessing,” adding she never imagined being able to attend college more than 3,000 miles away from her home in the San Francisco Bay area. 

“Throughout my time here, I have worked in a costume shop, a church, as a nanny, as a restaurant hostess, as an audition reader, and as a roller rink host; all to support myself outside of school. I have balanced these jobs along with rehearsals, classwork, a social life, and the occasional mid-day nap,” she said “Receiving this scholarship this year alleviated a lot of that stress. I have had time to invest in my other skills, whether that is learning to stunt for films in Brooklyn, or roller skating through Central Park.”

Many of the recipients said their scholarships offered peace of mind. What’s more, they said, is the help they receive from the office of financial aid. 

“They’re looking out for you,” said Raekwon Fuller, a junior theater major at Fordham College at Lincoln Center and the recipient of the Burns Family Artistic Scholarship. “I had no idea I was gonna get it. I  got an email one day saying that I received a new award. I went into my package and it was just there. I was blown away. I was like, ‘Mom, did you, did you email somebody? Did you call somebody?’

“It just gave me so much relief because this is one less thing, one less loan I’m gonna have to take out. It’s nice to being able to be at a school where our financial aid package extends past that first package that you get and, how every year, they’re still trying to find ways to make your college experience be more comfortable.”

Anne Baskind and her son, Tom, attended the celebration to meet the recipient of the scholarship set up in honor of Thomas J. Baskind, the late family patriarch, a longtime journalist who was twice awarded the New York Daily News-Joseph Medill Patterson Scholarship in Journalism while he was at Fordham in the 1960s.

Tom was emotional when speaking about the event.

“I got here and I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting it, but just thinking about my father and if he was here. His time at Fordham was always near and dear to his heart.”

Its recipient, Sophia Forlenza, a Fordham College at Rose Hill sophomore from Connecticut, is majoring in Digital Technologies and Emerging Media, and said she was very inspired to meet the family of the esteemed journalist whose scholarship helped make her Fordham education possible. 

“I’m so honored and lucky to be here,” Forlenza said. “It’s almost overwhelming, really. To meet everyone here and for them to be so welcoming is just really wonderful.”

Tracy A. O’Neill, FCRH ’87, a Bronx native whose husband, Terence P. Begley, GABELLI ’86, also went to Fordham and received financial aid by way of scholarships, said the couple were lucky to experience firsthand the difference donors made in their lives.

“Fordham opened so many doors for me and my family, which all began with the generosity of donors like you, and that’s why we’re here today,” she said, addressing the crowd. “To give back to this community that offered so much for our family over the years, and to recognize students from our local community through our family’s Bronx scholarship.” 


Gina Vergel is Senior Director of Communications. She oversees the digital news coverage, public relations, and social media for the university. Before joining Fordham in 2007, Gina worked as a reporter for the Home News Tribune, and The Ridgewood News, where she won Society of Professional Journalist (New Jersey chapter) awards for breaking news and feature writing, respectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or (646) 579-9957.