Cristina and Joseph Vignone
Cristina Vignone is a senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
Cristina Vignone, a senior at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, recently won Fordham’s first Beinecke Scholarship, a $34,000 award for graduate study. With her win, Vignone follows in the footsteps of her brother, Joseph, FCLC ’11, who won the University’s first Elie Wiesel Prize in 2010 and, a year later, Fordham’s first Zohrab Liebmann Fellowship. The fellowship pays for full tuition, room, board and income taxes for graduate work done in the United States, and includes a stipend of $18,000 annually. Their accomplishments have earned the Vignone siblings the well-deserved sobriquet “Fordham’s First Family in Fellowships.”
Joseph Vignone is a 2011 alumnus of Fordham College at Lincoln Center.
During his senior year at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Joseph Vignone won the 2010 Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics for his essay analyzing a depiction of Satan in Islamic mysticism.
He wrote “What Would Satan Do? Rethinking the Devil’s Place in Our Ethics,” based on the writings of Mansur al-Hallaj, a 10th-century teacher of Sufism.
Vignone focused on Iblis—an angelic figure in Islamic theology who is composed of smokeless fire. Iblis was banished for refusing God’s request to bow before Adam, a man brought forth from clay.
“Iblis, in bowing before Adam, would be worshipping Adam and committing idolatry,” he said. “But at the same time, he realized that if he didn’t bow before Adam, he’d be disobeying God's command. So he's caught in a bind.”
In the story, God is also caught in a bind, which makes for a serious theological quandary since God is supposed to be omniscient. Vignone said he found himself siding with Iblis.
“We’re not meant to identify with the devil, but the devil here is right, and he’s confronted by something that’s completely bewildering—a decision that apparently has no real solution.
“I feel that we face those same dilemmas in our modern society.”
To illustrate this, Vignone used the experiences of Sophie Scholl and Traudl Junge, two women who lived in Germany in the 1930s. Scholl defied the Nazis and was executed, while Junge worked as a secretary for Hitler until the fall of the Third Reich, oblivious to the carnage around her. Although Junge was pardoned because of her naïveté, she suffered immense remorse until her death at age 81.
“One woman gave her life, without bowing, like an angel, and the other just went along with it,” Vignone said. “The one who went along with it—Traudl Junge—didn't get killed, but for the rest of her life, that decision cast a shadow over her.”
Vignone credited Fordham’s core curriculum with exposing him to 20th-century history, ethics and Christian, Jewish and Islamic theology.
“Islam has a very strong ethical dimension that’s often forgotten,” he said. “There's a lot of potential for that faith to be a powerful voice in the world of ethics. It’s not all violence; it’s not all hatred.”