Record-breaking $1.1 million raised by Fairfield University for drive to increase diversity

Fairfield University's initiative to increase diversity among the student body has been greatly helped by the record-breaking $1.1 million raised at its 2008 Fairfield Awards Dinner. Pictured L-R are Alumni Association president George F. Lacovara '56, Stephen M. Lessing '76, Carolyn Vermont '82, M.A.'84, Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., Philip Eliasoph, Ph.D., Nancy A. Altobello '80 and Douglas W. Hammond '86.

Fairfield University's initiative to increase diversity among the student body has been greatly helped by the record-breaking $1.1 million raised at its 2008 Fairfield Awards Dinner. The funds raised will benefit The Alumni Multicultural Scholarship Fund, which fuels Fairfield University's drive to becoming a more diverse community - a major goal of its strategic plan. The corporate community and friends of the University have been great supporters of the Fund, which also has been strongly supported by dedicated Fairfield alumni who have embraced the University's commitment to diversity. The co-chairs of the dinner were Fairfield alumni, Nancy A. Altobello, of Greenwich, Conn., the Northeast Area Managing Partner, Assurance and Advisory Business Services of Ernst & Young, LLP; and Doug Hammond, of Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Executive Vice President and General Counsel, National Financial Partners.

"We are thrilled at the success of the event this year," said Rob Cottle, Director of Corporate Relations. "Diversity has become an increasingly important topic among our alumni and corporate communities, andthe support received is proof of just that."

More than 500 alumni and guests attended the annual event, which took place on April 8 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Since the first fundraising dinner in 1988, more than $9 million has been raised for the endowed scholarship.

Graduating senior Peter Otoki '08, an international business major from Englewood, N.J., described how a Fairfield education has impacted his life. He has shared his passion for global citizenship by promoting diversity and has been an active liaison between the Multicultural Center and the Ignatian Residential College. Studying abroad in China, he said, proved to be eye-opening. He praises his family for their support and gives credit to the late Ben Halm, a professor of English at Fairfield, and Fairfield alumnus, Kevin Shea '87 for mentoring him.

After Otoki spoke, University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., emphasized the importance of increasing diversity on campus. "There is no common good without a bigger picture that includes all of us," he said. "Tomorrow's teachers and doctors and parents and citizens will come from this increasingly diverse world."

Geoffrey Canada, the acclaimed president and chief executive officer of Harlem Children's Zone, Inc., was the keynote speaker. He spoke to the gathering about the importance of access to education for all students, and praised Fairfield's efforts to increase diversity. "Can we leave hundreds of thousands of children unprepared? If we don't save this nation's children, I don't know who will... We've got to level the playing field and prepare to compete in a global economy."

Canada joined an illustrious group of individuals who have supported the dinner over the years, including President Gerald R. Ford, Bill Cosby, AIDS activist Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Today Show contributors Ann Curry and Al Roker, and the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings.

The dinner honored three distinctive members of the University community: Stephen M. Lessing '76, managing director, member of the firm's Executive Committee and head of Client Relationship Management of Lehman Brothers, with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award; Carolyn Vermont '82, M.A. '84, president of Urban Family Development in Bridgeport, with the Alumni Service Award; and Philip Eliasoph, Ph.D., professor of Visual and Performing Arts and director and moderator of the Open VISIONS Forum, the lecture series of Fairfield University's University College, with the Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award.

The University community seeks to create an environment that fosters a deep understanding of cultural and human diversity. This diversity enriches its members, both as individuals and as a community, and witnesses to the truth of human solidarity. The University's commitment to increase diversity underscores its value of promoting dialogue among differing points of view in order to realize an integral understanding of what it is to be human.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726,

Posted on April 17, 2008

Vol. 40, No. 250

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