by Virginia Weir
“We are working with focus and intention to transform Fairfield University into a diverse community that is more reflective of the larger world in which our students will live and work,” said University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., addressing the largest crowd ever to attend the annual Fairfield Awards Dinner. “Tonight is a celebration of these efforts.”
A feeling of pride and excitement permeated the ballroom at the Grand Hyatt in New York on April 6, when more than 600 alumni, parents, donors, and special guests gathered to recognize three members of the University community for their service and achievements.
“In some ways I feel silly receiving an honor for doing what I love to do, but what I do not feel silly about is raising scholarship money for students in need,” said William Egan ’67, P’99, who was honored with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award. “We have to do more to educate our most vulnerable – not only is it the right thing to do as a society, but it will make the world a safer, more economically secure place.”
A pioneer in the field of venture capital, Egan has identified and backed several of America’s leading growth companies in the information technology, life sciences, and communications industries. He is currently founder and general partner of Alta Communications and Marion Equity Partners LLC. He and his wife Jackie have endowed three named scholarships, and contributed to the building of the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola on campus. Egan also served as a University trustee for 18 years.
Jeanne Novotny, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, was honored with the Distinguished Faculty/Administrator Award. Under her leadership as dean the past 10 years, the School of Nursing has quadrupled in size to nearly 700 students and has received national recognition. She has facilitated numerous partnerships, and initiated new academic programs such as the Clinical Nurse Leader, Nurse Anesthesia, and Doctor of Nursing Practice.
In her remarks, Dr. Novotny credited the School’s advisory board, chaired by Nancy Lynch, P’95, for their tireless efforts in advancing the School. “The marriage between academics and advancement is one of the cornerstones of our achievement,” she said.
The Alumni Service Award was given to John Meditz ’70, co-founder and vice chairman of Horizon Asset Management, Inc., for his longstanding commitment to Fairfield as a member of the Fairfield Awards Dinner Committee and a 15-year member of the University’s Board of Trustees, as well as his many years of service to his New York City high school, Xavier, and his local community of Weehawken, N.J. His recent leadership gift to the University helped establish the new Bellarmine Museum of Art.
“We may tend to think of service in macro terms but service is really best performed in the micro-world,” Meditz said. “Being a caring and inspiring parent; teaching sportsmanship; being honest, diligent, and mentoring at work; being a participating citizen – these are the services for which all should be rewarded. And,” he added, “providing financial assistance in support of multicultural scholarships is an expression of service, too!”
This year’s event raised a record-breaking $1.75 million for the University’s Multicultural Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount raised for the Fund since 1988 to over $13 million. Event co-chairs Robert Ollwerther ’78, P’10, chief operating officer at Avenue Capital Group, and Gavin O’Connor ’88, managing director of the CAO Investment Management Division at Goldman Sachs, announced the amount to a standing ovation.
O’Connor told the crowd, “We know that ‘diversity’ is not just a buzzword. In this global economy to embrace diversity is truly a business imperative. To succeed in any endeavor, we need to work side-by-side with the very best people for the job, and they come from every race and every background.”
“With your support, deserving young men and women from many different backgrounds will have access to a Fairfield education – an opportunity that, without that support, may not have happened,” Ollwerther added.
Scholarship recipient, Soobin Lim ’11, who came to the U.S. when she was 10 years old, spoke eloquently to the guests about the huge impact the Multicultural Scholarship Fund has had on her life. “I have felt accepted at Fairfield as one of a kind – both Korean and American … Fairfield has opened my heart to ask questions and search for multiple perspectives.”
Ed Cooley, the University’s former men’s basketball coach who led the Stags to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Championships this year, was the evening’s keynote speaker. He told the story of his own hardscrabble childhood. The crowd broke into applause when Cooley announced a $50,000 scholarship to the University in his mother’s name.
Cooley also recognized Fairfield’s new men’s basketball head coach, Sydney Johnson, who was in attendance, and thanked Fairfield for being such an embracing community, where he felt welcome right from the beginning.
It was a memorable night for Fairfield. “A great deal has changed in the past 48 years,” Egan said. “What hasn’t changed, and may in fact be even greater today is the Jesuit ideal of learning and service. What I did learn from Fairfield was the fun in giving. The joy of seeing how it affects people and institutions is there forever.”