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Toward the Light

12/21/2020

This story originally appeared in the 2020 Annual Report

As we reflect on the events of these past few months and usher in the new year, we remain ever hopeful for the continued healing of our suffering world. This year has brought with it many unfortunate and unexpected hardships. The COVID-19 virus wreaked havoc upon our weary and vulnerable globe. At the College, the effects of the pandemic have been wide-ranging. Financial threats to our mission continue to bring forth consequential repercussions across campus as state and federal governments decrease funding, events are postponed, and new programs are canceled.

Recently, New York State announced that it is withholding funding for several higher education support programs by 20 percent—including the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). This critically impacts the College’s budget and puts strain on our students and our families, most of whom are already experiencing financial distress.

While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and other hardships experienced this year at Mount Saint Vincent will be long-lasting, the successful close of the Ad Lux capital campaign comes at an opportunistic time—providing the resources needed to create stability at the College amongst the uncertainty of our current world circumstance.

Student wearing a mask in the classroom.

The Ad Lux campaign, the most ambitious fundraising effort in the College’s history, was established to ensure Mount Saint Vincent continues to have the resources needed to offer an exceptional liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition to talented students of every background.

Announced during Reunion and Homecoming Weekend 2017, the campaign—with a goal of $42,000,000—set out to provide support for several of the College’s strategic priorities.

And not only was the $42 million goal achieved—it was shattered. The campaign closed at a record breaking $70,772,460—securing gifts, pledges, and grants in excess of $40 million for the College’s endowment and strengthening our founding mission.

“The Ad Lux campaign had an ambitious goal,” said Steven Hayes, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are all thrilled to have significantly surpassed it. The College’s alumnae/i and friends recognized the remarkable strength of the College’s academic programs and learning opportunities. Through their generosity, they selflessly committed themselves to ensuring the good work that takes place each day at Mount Saint Vincent continues for generations of students to come.”

President Emeritus Charles L. FLynn, Jr. at Reunion 2017

During Reunion and Homecoming Weekend 2017, Dr. Flynn announced the start of the public phase of the Ad Lux campaign—with a goal of raising $42 million to support the College’s programs and grow its endowment. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Mount’s alumnae/i and friends, the campaign closed at a record-breaking $70,772,460.

The name Ad Lux, Latin for “toward the light,” illuminates Mount Saint Vincent’s commitment to making the transformative benefits of a higher education available to students of diverse backgrounds and provide them with the essential foundation needed to lead lives of accomplishment, leadership, and service. In order to do this, the Ad Lux campaign focused on initiatives with an aim to build on the legacy of the Sisters of Charity, grow the College’s enrollment, and enhance programmatic depth.

Ad Lux sought to raise substantial funding to support two main areas of the College’s strategic plan: build a credible endowment and support essential campus enhancements.

Growing the endowment for scholarships ensures the College continues to create and expand access to educational opportunity, especially as families face financial hardship in the wake of COVID-19. Now, more than ever, the College is equipped with the resources needed to provide generous scholarships to 100 percent of its students. The campaign has resulted in the creation of 27 new endowed scholarship funds and the commitment of over $30 million in endowed scholarship funding, including the largest gift in the College’s history—a generous bequest of $7,500,000 from the late Martha E. Fedorko ’56, M.D.

Martha was a proud and accomplished alumna with an extensive career as a medical research scientist and community health practitioner. Throughout her career in health care, she treated each patient with compassion, empathy, and kindness. Martha’s love for medicine was her service. Working on the Lower  East Side of Manhattan, her patients came from minority and immigrant backgrounds. Many did not have insurance or access to medications. Many could not support their family’s needs. The spirit of service was instilled in Martha during her time at the Mount through the Sisters of Charity and she treated many of these immigrant families for free, which she did quietly and reverently.

The Ad Lux campaign also included endowment growth to further support both the Mott Street Scholarship Program and Seton Service and Leadership Program. These two programs, rooted in the ministries of the Sisters of Charity, provide financial aid to students who have overcome foster care or homelessness or show promise and leadership as servant leaders in a turbulent world.

Mount students doing service.

Over 80 students have been selected as Seton Service and Leadership scholars since the program’s inception. Collectively, they have led over 30,000 hours of service, engaging the Mount community with organizations that address the immediate needs of the disenfranchised and most vulnerable—the disabled, elderly, homeless, working poor, and youth—while pursuing advocacy and policy work to address the causes of inequities.

Funding secured through Ad Lux has allowed the College to establish its first endowed professorships—five in total, and a sixth partially funded—celebrating our most accomplished faculty members while providing the financial resources needed to enhance the College’s ability to recruit and retain dedicated teachers and scholars. The first was established by the late Jean Ames DeNunzio ’55, ’80, trustee emerita, and her family to not only celebrate her devotion to the College, but also the Mount’s standards of teaching excellence which Jean worked tirelessly to champion.

Mary Ellen Sullivan '85 with students

Mary Ellen Sullivan ’85, Ph.D., Jean Ames DeNunzio Associate Professor of Teacher Education, has a special connection with each student she teaches. A first-generation college student herself, she understands the challenges many Mount students face as they struggle to balance their academic careers with family and personal life.

Jean served the College with fervor and justice, emulating the charism of the Sisters of Charity. Throughout her years on the Board of Trustees, Jean consistently advocated for the students and their teachers. She understood that education is at the center of this institution—and not just academic knowledge. At the Mount, students receive a holistic education through the liberal arts in goodness, discipline, and knowledge. Giving back to the place she called home was not something Jean felt she was obligated to do, it was simply what was right.

The Mount was an enduring passion of my mother’s,” said Peter DeNunzio, trustee of the College, chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee, and son of Jean Ames DeNunzio. “During her tenure as a trustee of the College, she served the Mount’s mission and its students with diligence. She introduced our family to the dedicated and passionate educators at Mount Saint Vincent. We were proud to make this commitment to the Ad Lux campaign, as a tribute to her affection, in order to ensure outstanding faculty remain at the heart of this institution. The overwhelming success of the campaign proves her feelings are shared by a large number of her fellow graduates. As a trustee, I am inspired, humbled, and gratified by the Mount community and its rarified commitment to academic excellence and opportunity.”

Edward Zukowski

Now in his 34th year of teaching at the Mount, Edward Zukowski, Ph.D., Jean Ames DeNunzio Professor of Religious Studies, delights in the lively debates that happen regularly in his classroom. He often receives letters from former students who thank him for his approach and express relief that they were never pressured to adopt a particular belief.

The need for endowed professorship funding echoes the College’s commitment to making a higher education available to an underserved population, made possible by the work of the selfless women of the Sisters of Charity. At their core, the Sisters of Charity are educators. They are mentors. They are teachers. The Ad Lux campaign sought to advance the example of the tradition of the Sisters of Charity by supporting academic life at the College. These endowed professorships honor all of the Sisters of Charity who have served the College in their long history, applauding their faithfulness to exceptional teaching and learning.

In addition to the Jean Ames DeNunzio Chair for Faculty Excellence, other endowed professorships supported through the Ad Lux campaign include the Sisters of Charity 200th Anniversary Chair—endowed in part through the generosity of trustee and alumna Rosemary Berkery ’75 and her family.

Amir Niknejad

Amir Niknejad, Ph.D., the Sisters of Charity 200th Anniversary Associate Professor of Mathematics, is a consummate math teacher. While continuing his research in computational molecular design aimed at developing synthetic drugs that are kinder to the environment. Dr. Niknejad also teaches calculus, statistics, and algebra at the Mount.

Rosemary has long supported the liberal arts education at the heart of Mount Saint Vincent. She earned a B.A. in English from the College and went on to have a successful career in finance with Merrill Lynch & Co.—a true testament to the versatility of the liberal arts. Her gift, along with generous bequests from Catherine Martin ’46 and Cordelia Merolla ’38, will permanently endow this professorship honoring the Sisters of Charity’s service and leadership upon the 200th anniversary of their arrival in New York, upholding their tradition of delivering an exceptional liberal arts education to all students.

Funding was received from an anonymous friend of the College to support the third endowed professorship—the Ad Lux Chair—which extols Mount Saint Vincent’s dedication to exceptional scholarship and education grounded in the liberal arts.

Ioanna Visviki with students in the science laboratory

Ioanna Visviki, Ph.D., Ad Lux Professor of Biology, is known as a tough teacher who expects her students to work hard. She not only works with them in the laboratories of the recently-renovated Science Hall, but through the opportunities afforded by the endowed professorship, she offers them the chance to participate in conferences that enrich their academic experiences.

The fourth chair, the Virginia A. LiVolsi, M.D. Professorship in Biology, is to be awarded to a midlevel or senior faculty member who is a teacher of biological science and whose research focus is in an area of biology which promotes the understanding of human physiology or disease. The professorship is made possible as the result of a generous planned gift from class of 1965 alumna, Virginia LiVolvsi, M.D., a distinguished physician and biomedical scholar. Dr. LiVolvsi holds dual appointments as a Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Professor of Otorhinolaryngology, Head, and Neck Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

James Fabrizio with students

James Fabrizio, Ph.D., the Virginia A. LiVolsi, M.D. Professor in Biology, has mentored dozens of undergraduate students in his lab. Together, they study Drosophila, the fruit fly, whose genetic similarities to humans make it an exceptional organism for study.

With the generous support of alumnae/i and friends, funds raised through the Ad Lux campaign also turned a general-purpose classroom into a physics/tissue culture laboratory, created space for original student-faculty research, and funded an all-new student support and advising space.

President Charles L. Flynn with Sr. Mary Edward Zipf '62 and Sr. Kathleen Tracey '48

Professor Emerita of Biology Sr. Mary Edward Zipf ’62, President Emeritus Charles L. Flynn, Jr., and Professor Emerita of Biology Sr. Kathleen Tracey ’48, at the 2016 dedication of the Science Hall laboratories in honor of both Sr. Mary Edward and Sr. Kathleen.

A commitment for a fifth chair, to be established at a later date, has been received from an anonymous member of the Mount community. Additionally, partial funding was secured for a sixth faculty professorship, which will be for faculty achievement in literature.

The Ad Lux campaign also included endowments for the student-faculty research program and the Oxley Discovery Internships program—meriting awards for exceptional students to forgo paid summer employment and dedicate time to participate in research or internship programs.

Gifts from passionate alumnae/i and friends like Martha, Rosemary, Catherine, Cordelia, Virginia, and the DeNunzio family reflect the mission entrusted to the College by the Sisters of Charity, ingrained in the facets of service and humility. Sizeable endowment growth affords Mount Saint Vincent the opportunity to replace the financial value of the work performed by the Sisters of Charity in their service to the institution since 1847. For decades, through their selfless efforts, the Sisters of Charity subsidized every student’s tuition, ensuring a Mount Saint Vincent education was affordable for all students, regardless of their family means. The Mount continues to live that commitment and value today. A credible financial endowment will enable the College to maintain the quality of programs while controlling the growth of tuition and fees, effectively sustaining the Sisters’ work in making an exceptional education available for deserving students of all backgrounds.

“We are extremely proud of the tradition the Sisters of Charity created at Mount Saint Vincent. The Ad Lux campaign, in a way, is a celebration of their years of dedication and service. Their mission deserves to be sustained. With the successful close of Ad Lux, the College is better equipped to do so.”

— President Emeritus Charles L. Flynn, Jr.

Ad Lux also raised funds to support essential campus enhancements—including both the final phase of the renovation of the Science Hall and the construction of new state-of-the-art nursing laboratories in Aquino Hall.

Student in a science laboratory.

The renovation of the Science Hall was essential to sustain the quality of research and scholarship that takes place on campus. The new laboratories create an environment that integrates the latest simulation and web-based technologies with inquiry based-methods to keep students engaged and competitive. The Ad Lux campaign called for specialized funding to support the overhaul of the microbiology laboratory—the first since 1953—dedicated to Professor Emerita of Biology Sr. Mary Edward Zipf ’62, Ph.D.

“Mount Saint Vincent’s science programs spark both student curiosity and capability in the scientific method,” said Gail Vance Civille ’65, a trustee of the College and graduate of the chemistry program. “Refined curriculums, ample research opportunities for students, and most importantly, the talents of dedicated faculty members such as Sr. Mary Edward Zipf, distinguish our programs among the best in the region. I am proud to have supported the Ad Lux campaign and the renovation of the microbiology labs in honor of Sr. Mary Edward. The renovated labs and facilities will ensure Mount students have the opportunity to follow Sr. Mary Edward’s example—leading successful careers in the sciences while serving as faithful advocates of human dignity. I applaud all my fellow alumnae/i and friends who gave a gift in support of the College and its students.”

The nursing labs in Aquino Hall, which is nearing completion, will help keep the College’s nursing program competitive among the best in the nation and support advanced clinical training for students— especially as hospital placements become difficult to obtain as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Entrance to the Nursing Labs in Aquino Hall

The staggering generosity of the College’s alumnae/i and friends helped propel the Ad Lux campaign far past its initial goal, allowing the College to move beyond the two physical plant projects originally outlined at the start of the campaign.

The locker rooms in the Peter Jay Sharp Athletic and Recreation Center are currently receiving a much needed facelift—ensuring the College’s NCAA Division III athletic teams have the resources needed to remain competitive with other members of the Skyline Conference. The renovation of the locker rooms only further enhances the College’s efforts to develop outstanding athletic and recreation spaces on campus—which began with the opening of the Sharp Center in 2009— providing Mount students with the facilities needed to grow, learn, and compete.

Locker room rennovation.

Lastly, with a $500,000 New York State and Municipal Facilities Grant helped secured by New York State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, the College has plans to renovate the Elizabeth Seton Library by creating an integrated student support, tutoring, and study environment. The library will now be home to the Oxley Integrated Advising Program, including the three Mount Pathways programs: the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the Mount Access Program (MAP), and the TRiO Student Support Services.

Each of these three programs is designed for students who have the potential and drive to further their education, but due to limited academic and/or financial resources, would not otherwise have the opportunity to attend college. These programs echo the mission at the heart of the Sisters of Charity. Students in HEOP, MAP, and TRiO receive supplementary academic and personal counseling, career advisement, tutoring, mentoring, and a wide range of educational enhancement activities. With updated facilities and programming space in the library, these programs, and more importantly, the students who take part in them, can flourish.

Campus enhancements and facilities updates are all a substantial step forward in expanding the way Mount Saint Vincent plays a vital role in the lives of its students and their families. The Sisters of Charity set the groundwork for our beautiful 70-acre campus along the Hudson River—laying the cornerstones for historically preserved structures. The College is committed to both maintaining and expanding on the work of the Sisters of Charity and their vision for Mount Saint Vincent, ensuring our residence halls, classrooms, and programmatic spaces serve students for decades to come.

“The College has a long history of providing a transformative educational experience for students in the region and throughout the country. The College once again garnered national attention as one of the best in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report—ranking in the top 15 percent of Regional Universities North for social mobility, reflecting the achievements of our diverse student population. The Mount’s dual commitment to academic excellence and authentic opportunity is a rare combination, and the Ad Lux campaign only strengthens our remarkable dedication to the liberal arts.”

— Chair of the Board of Trustees, Steven Hayes

Mount Saint Vincent is an extraordinary place with an enduring mission. The Ad Lux campaign was not only a summons to strengthen the College’s financial resources—it was a call to preserve our legacy and proud heritage as an institution established by the Sisters of Charity.

Alumnae/i, friends, and trustees set the foundation for the success of the Ad Lux campaign. You have helped secure a strong and vibrant future for generations of students to come. And for that, we thank you.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.