The top students of the Gabelli School of Business’s Class of 2016 were honored on May 19 at the school’s annual undergraduate awards night.

About 150 members of the senior class took home awards in recognition for excellence in areas ranging from academics to service to personal growth.

“Truly, this class understands that a humble and strong spirit produces amazing results,” said Donna Rapaccioli, PhD, dean of the Gabelli School.

“The ceremony signals the end of our time together here at Fordham. But more important, as the name ‘commencement’ suggests, it’s also the beginning… A beginning that you have proven to us and to yourselves in so many ways that you are prepared for.”

In her final piece of advice before Saturday’s University-wide commencement ceremony, Rapaccioli reminded the students that they possess many important qualities to succeed—intelligence, grit, a reflective nature, and even a “New York attitude.”

She also urged them to embrace another critical yet undervalued trait: humility.

Gabelli School of Business Award Night
Graziella Coppola, valedictorian of the Gabelli School of Business Class of 2016.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Often, humility gets lost among old stereotypes that cast business as a field concerned with prosperity and pompousness, Rapaccioli said. However, that’s not the kind of business education Fordham offers.

“Humility is not about hiding your accomplishments or being a doormat. It is about being open to others’ opinions, seeking feedback, reflecting on your experiences, and admitting mistakes,” she said. “It is a reflection of the confidence you have in what you know and what you believe, so that you don’t need to be showy about it.”

Taking home the top academic awards were valedictorian Graziella Coppola, who graduates with a 3.996 GPA, and salutatorian Bradley Florio, who earned a 3.97.

Coppola, a first-generation college student who is receiving a bachelor’s in public accounting, spoke to her classmates of the uncertainty many of them are feeling as this chapter in their lives closes.

“If you’re anything like me, you fear the unknown and want everything to go the right way,” Coppola said. “But life doesn’t work that way, and we can’t let fear hold us back.”

Their Fordham education has prepared them well not only for business, but for the world at large, said Coppola.

“We’re not just business students—we’re men and women for others. So let’s inspire and bring out the best in others around us. That’s the Jesuit way. That’s the Fordham way,” she said. “Let’s be proud of what we’ve accomplished here tonight, but acknowledge that it’s just the beginning.”

Gabelli School of Business Award Night
Dean Donna Rapaccioli with Emily Raleigh, winner of the Gabelli School of Business Dean’s Award.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Highlights from the ceremony include:

  • The Dean’s Award for commitment to the Fordham community to Emily Raleigh, founder and CEO of Spire & Co., and co-president of Fordham’s Entrepreneurship Society;
  • The 2016 Gabelli School of Business Alumnus of the Year award to Brent Martini, MBA ’86;
  • The E. Gerald Corrigan Thesis Award for the best original research in the global business honors program to Leona Lam (“The Impact of Female Risk Aversion of Environmental, Social, and Governance Disclosure”) and Alisha Mehndiratta (“Addressing Peru’s Child Labor Problem”);
  • A tie for the Patricia Ramsey Honors Thesis award to Federico Giustini and Tahseen Hasan, for their honors thesis “Privatization of Eminent Domain: The Misconstruing of Eminent Domain’s Ethical Underpinnings” (Giustini) and “CEO Risk-Taking: Does Generation Matter?” (Hasan);
  • CSTEP Scholar Awards to Dorina Cipollone and Marisa Diaz; and
  • Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence to Ben Cole, PhD, associate professor of management systems, and Paul Lynch, PhD, clinical assistant professor of accounting and taxation.
Gabelli School of Business Award Night
Michael Gatto, adjunct instructor, who won the Faculty Magis Award.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert

Joanna Klimaski Mercuri is a staff writer in the News & Media Relations Bureau. She can be reached at (212) 636-7175 or [email protected]