Who She Is: Secretary of the University
Margaret “Margie” Ball oversees commencement preparation at Fordham.
Photo by Photo by Tom Stoelker
VIDEO: Creating Commencement
To see a video about commencement
preparation, click here: www.fordham.edu/createcommence
Background: Raised in suburban Chicago, Ball holds a bachelor’s degree in French and psychology and a master’s degree in counseling from Duke University, and a law degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “I’ve spent my entire career in higher ed, working at several universities in a variety of jobs, including assistant dean, state relations director, and vice president and general counsel.”
How Long at Fordham: Almost 18 years.
How Many Fordham Commencements: This is No. 18.
What She Does: Ball’s chief role is as the administrative liaison between Fordham’s Board of Trustees and the University. In addition, she manages a number of special events, including the comprehensive planning of Fordham’s University Commencement ceremony. She coordinates across University departments to ensure that all 15,000 people who converge on the Rose Hill campus for a memorable graduation ceremony are accommodated safely and comfortably, be they graduating students, family, or friends.
How it’s Done: “Commencement is really a University-wide event in the truest sense. Deans, faculty, administrators, facilities workers—in fact nearly everybody on campus has a part in the planning and execution of the day. There are assistant deans who run the individual diplomas ceremonies. There is our carpenter crew, which does everything from putting up stages to hanging banners to creating campus signage. Our marketing department works on programs and certificates. Our grounds crew and custodial crew work around the clock, especially the night before Commencement, when they help transform a dinner-dance setup into a diploma ceremony setup in just a few hours. It’s amazing.”
How Commencement Has Changed: “It used to be that you’d start the planning in March and finish in May, and that would be it. But now it just kind of goes all year round. It has gotten so much bigger and complex, but also more memorable.”
Really? 25,000 Chairs? “One of the things that fascinates people about commencement is the sheer number of chairs that are put out across the campus for various ceremonies, all perfectly lined up. We start the Monday before commencement, setting up some 12,500 on Edwards Parade, 3,500 in front of the Walsh Library, and another 3,500 in Martyrs’ Lawn Tent for the Gabelli School of Business. It’s one reason why we always hope (and pray, with a little help) for wonderful weather. But . . . we set another 6,000 chairs up at inside locations with bleachers and additional fixed seating.”
No, It Doesn’t Always Go Smoothly: “We have had our share of tense moments. A couple of years ago Brian Williams, our commencement speaker that year, gave me a call about five minutes before he was supposed to be here to tell us that he had had a flat tire and was somewhere in the Bronx . . . but not sure where. We sent out our head of security to find him, and he raced him back to campus. That year we started a bit late because . . . we like to see the speaker before we start the procession.
“And then there was one year where we had an abundance of skunks on campus . . . that was a pretty interesting year as well.”
Rewards:“The day of the ceremony is a particularly great part of my job. It’s gratifying to see those students get their diplomas, and we also look forward to serving a new group next year.”
Ultimate Goal of the Day: “The ultimate goal of the day is to get everybody graduated and create a memory for all those involved. It can be a very stressful day for families and for students, who might feel apprehensive, as they get ready to leave. There’s a lot of emotions. We like it to be a celebratory day, one that sends them off on a good note and one that will bring them, as alumni, back to Fordham many times again.”