Paul and Laura Ekholm traveled to many a university to watch their son and daughter compete with Fordham’s sailing program—and saw, in the process, how other schools had built dedicated waterfront facilities for their teams.

Today, they’re helping Fordham build its own.

When they learned about the waterfront center that Fordham is planning, “it was something that we felt really strongly that we’d like to be able to help create,” Laura Ekholm said.

They’re doing just that with a major gift toward the project, for reasons that have a lot to do with their children’s experience at Fordham.

Support for Sailing and Other Aquatic Sports

The waterfront center will be built on Eastchester Bay in the Bronx, four miles east of the Rose Hill campus, to serve the varsity women’s rowing team as well as men’s crew, co-ed sailing, and women’s sailing. The first phase, construction of docks, is expected to be completed in time for the fall 2024 season.

Fordham donors and supporters have been moving the project along for years, led by Fordham Trustee Fellow Dennis Ruppel, FCRH ’68, and his wife, Patricia Ann Ruppel, who are making another major gift to the project this year. In October, Fordham Trustee Kim Bepler hosted and underwrote a fundraising dinner for the project at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.

The event raised $1.3 million for the project—with $1 million of that coming from the Ekholms.

‘Something of Great Value’

The Ekholms raised their family on Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka, and their children grew up sailing on it, so when two of them—Anders, FCRH ’17, and Annika, FCRH ’20—went to Fordham, it was no surprise that they signed up for sailing.

Paul and Laura Ekholm
Paul and Laura Ekholm, photographed at a fundraiser for the waterfront center in October. Photo by Chris Taggart

They were impressed at the strength of the classroom education their children received, as well as the tight-knit sense of community in the sailing program and its rigors that hone time management and other life skills.

Today, Anders Ekholm is a team lead with TransPerfect, a translation and language services company in New York, and Annika Ekholm is involved with the sailing program full time. In addition to volunteering as a coach, she works for the Fordham Sailing Association, helping to set up a community sailing program in conjunction with the Villa Maria Academy, a Catholic elementary school next door to the waterfront center’s site.

She’s excited to see how the center could support other programs for area youth as well. “Sailing has given me and so many other people in the Fordham sailing sphere so much,” she said, “and anything that we can do to spread that, to give that to the community, will be a great, great thing for all involved.”

Being involved with the sailing program has been “a ton of fun,” Laura Ekholm said. “It’s just a fabulous community.”

She and Paul are investing in the waterfront center not only because of its immediate benefits but also to advance the University generally. “Giving money away is something to do when you find something of great value,” Paul Ekholm said. “For me and Laura, the great value of Fordham was the education they got, and we feel like we should support Fordham beyond sending our kids there.”

Gifts in support of the Fordham waterfront center advance the University’s $350 million fundraising campaign, Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student. Learn more about the campaign and make a gift.


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].