Record fundraiser boosts Fairfield University's drive to increase diversity

Record fundraiser boosts Fairfield University's drive to increase diversity

Fairfield University's initiative to increase diversity on campus received a major boost with the funds raised at its annual Fairfield Awards Dinner reaching a record $862,000. The dinner funds the Alumni Multicultural Scholarship which has received strong support over the years from graduates of Fairfield who are interested in their alma mater becoming a more diverse community, as well as from the corporate community and friends of the university. Chairing the dinner committee this year was Brian Hull, a 1980 alumnus, trustee of Fairfield, and senior vice president at Merrill Lynch.

Image: Fairfield Awards Dinner
The Fairfield University Awards Dinner, which benefits the Alumni Multicultural Scholarship fund, raised a record $860,000 this year at the Grand Hyatt New York on April 12. Key figures at this year's dinner were (L-R) Dr. George F. Lacovara, president of the Alumni Association; Rev. Charles Allen, S.J., executive assistant to the president; alumna Michele Macauda, senior VP enterprise systems and software engineering, AT&T; senior Chrystie Cruz; Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., president; alumna Paula Donovan, AIDS activist and executive director of the new AIDS-Free World organization; and alumni and trustees Brian Hull, senior vice president at Merrill Lynch and chair of the dinner, and Larry Rafferty, CEO of Rafferty Capital Markets, LLC.

"The success of this dinner is directly related to the passion and commitment of an outstanding dinner chairman and committee. These dedicated alumni truly embraced Fairfield's commitment to diversity", commented Rob Cottle, Director of Corporate Relations. "By engaging the support of individuals and the corporate community, Fairfield will be able to achieve a major priority within its strategic plan, that is, a more diverse community."

The dinner, which is sponsored by the Fairfield University Alumni Association, took place at the Grand Hyatt New York on April 12. Photographer and author Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe gave the keynote address, in which she challenged Fairfield University's multicultural students, many of whom were in attendance, to overcome adversity and achieve their full potential.

Image: Jeanne Ashe at the Fairfield Awards Dinner
Photographer, author and AIDS activist Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, left, met with students from Fairfield University, prior to her keynote address at the Fairfield Awards Dinner at the Grand Hyatt New York. The event benefits the Alumni Multicultural Scholarship and this year raised a record $860,000.

Mrs. Ashe, who has continued her husband Arthur Ashe's commitment to social justice causes and charitable efforts, follows in a long line of high profile professionals who have supported the dinner, including Bill Cosby, Al Roker, Avon CEO Andrea Jung, Danny Glover and Ann Curry. ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings kicked off the first fundraiser in 1988.

At the time of the first dinner, the AHANA (African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American Indian) student population at Fairfield stood at three percent. Today, that number is 12 percent overall, and 18.2 percent for the current first-year class

Since 1988, the dinner has raised nearly $8 million for the endowed scholarship. This year, more than 82 percent of the $7.8 million awarded to AHANA students is being provided directly by the University, coming from 17 restricted and endowed scholarships, including the Alumni Multicultural Scholarship Fund, and the University's operating budget.

Father Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., university president, has made institutional diversity a key component of his strategic plan for Fairfield. "The AHANA students who have begun to enroll in greater numbers," he said, "bring a breadth of experience, a wealth of perspective, and a depth of insight that is refreshing and energizing to the University community."

Honored at the dinner were the Rev. Charles H. Allen, S.J., executive assistant to the president of Fairfield University, with the Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award; AIDS activist Paula Donovan, '77, M.A. '88, with the Alumni Humanitarian Award; Michele Macauda, '78, P'09, a senior vice president at AT&T, with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award; and Larry C. Rafferty, '64, P'03, chief executive officer of Rafferty Capital Markets, with the Alumni Service Award.

The stories of three AHANA students were featured in the dinner booklet and senior Chystie Cruz from Brooklyn, who is student-teaching at Central High School in Bridgeport, spoke at the dinner about the difference the scholarship has made in her life. The president for three years of the Spanish American Latino Student Association, Chrystie said, "I've seen a great increase in diversity over the years and I think the focus should now be on keeping diverse students here and promoting their culture and who they are."

Also featured was sophomore Alexander Lee from Natick, Mass., a student in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business. He is president of the Asian Student Association and said he was attracted to Fairfield by professors who "seemed like they all wanted the students to succeed in school - and in life in general."

The third student is freshman Emmanuel Ephie, a freshman who was born in Nigeria and moved to Bridgeport, Conn., in 1996. He is a dean's list double major in finance and accounting, with a minor in math. As captain of the volleyball team at Bridgeport's Bassick High School during his junior and senior years, he led the team to the state competition in 2006.

Posted On: 05-09-2007 10:05 AM

Volume: 39 Number: 215