Fordham Alumni Get the Whole Family in the Act
by Jennifer Spencer
It's not uncommon for Fordham to run in the family. Children of alumni often choose Fordham for themselves, and for many families, Homecoming resembles a family reunion.
For some Fordham families, however, it's the students who have led the way in their love for Fordham, with their parents following close behind.
Neither John nor Patti Heller attended Fordham, but when their oldest daughter Amy decided to leave her native Chicago to enroll at the university, they quickly noticed what a positive impact attending Fordham had on her life.
"She was really stepping outside of her comfort zone, and had just a really great group of friends who were motivated, smart, interesting, and diverse," John Heller said.
Her parents weren't the only ones who took note of Amy's, FCRH '03, Fordham experience. Her siblings Michaela, FCRH '07, and Tim, FCRH '11, followed in her footsteps.
Morgan and Lisa McGinley, of New London, Conn., had a similar experience. Eldest son John attended Fordham first; siblings Carolyn and Brendan followed soon after.
John McGinley, FCRH '94, said that his Brooklyn-born grandmother first turned his attention to Fordham. When his family first visited campus, he said he knew he was home.
"It was nothing you would have expected from a campus environment in the Bronx, and I decided at that moment that I had to get to Fordham," John said.
John, now executive director and global head of portfolio management at JPMorgan Chase and a member of the Fordham President's Council, continues to volunteer at the university. He said giving back to Fordham was a natural response for him.
"I am still involved, because if I only pay forward 10 percent of what Fordham has done for me, it will be a lot," he said.
Though neither the McGinleys nor the Hellers attended Fordham themselves, both sets of parents have given back to Fordham. Morgan McGinley said he is grateful for everything Fordham has done for his family.
"I don't have a lot of money to give away, and I give to a lot of different places," he said. "But I just feel indebted to Fordham because of the way in which they treated our kids."
Lisa McGinley was educated in the Catholic tradition, at a Dominican high school and Manhattanville College. While she held back from suggesting where her children attend college, she said she was pleased they chose Fordham.
"We won all the way around with Fordham," she said. "It's really always struck me, when I tell people that all three of my kids went to one university, that it sounds like we're in lockstep somehow, but they each went there for such wildly different reasons."
John said that the role Fordham's played in his family goes beyond providing a good education for him and his siblings—both John and his sister Carolyn met their spouses at Fordham.
"Our parents obviously had parental expectations for all of us, but I'm not sure if they ever expected two sons to be working for Fortune 50 companies in Manhattan," John said.
"And obviously, their extended family and grandchildren are a direct result of the university, and that makes them a little more attached," he said.
For John and Patti Heller, involvement in Fordham grew over the years as their children continued to attend Fordham. The Hellers began hosting recruitment and alumni events in Chicago and became ambassadors for Fordham in their hometown.
The Hellers started the Fordham Parents Leadership Council to encourage other families to take an active role in helping the university continue to expand and grow.
"In one sense we would like other people to have the great experience that we've had with Fordham," John Heller said. "And we think Fordham is poised on the edge of becoming an even greater institution, and this was an opportunity to be part of that."
Patti said she enjoyed being involved in an organization that has played such a transformative role in the lives of her children.
"I do think they had a sense of pride that we were involved. They just enjoyed knowing that we were loving something that they had loved, and that meant so much to them," she said.
Michaela (Heller) Giovengo, FCRH '07, said that her family's involvement in Fordham both helped her make her decision to attend and affirmed that she had made the right choice.
When elder sister Amy was at Fordham, Michaela, who is now an account executive at Hulu, had a chance to visit a couple times each year.
"The first couple years, I got to know the campus. Later on, I really got to know the city and everything it had to offer. That's when I really fell in love with New York City," she said.
The Hellers are being honored for their contributions to the University at the upcoming Fordham Founder's Award Dinner. For more information or if your company would like to purchase a table, visit the Founder's Award site or contact Liz Manigan at email@example.com or 212-636-7442.