The 34th annual Fairfield Awards Dinner raised $1.3 million towards student scholarships, diversity expansion and an extraordinary college experience for all—exceeding their ambitious $1 million goal.

This financial feat marks the 2023 Dinner, accompanied by over 600 alumni, as the most successful Fairfield Awards Dinner in the University’s history, as highlighted by a recent FairfieldNews article. The $1.3 million triumph was secured through generous sponsorship, journal advertisements, tickets and fundraising contributions.

“This dinner, and the scholarship it supports, has made a tremendous impact on the University’s ability to provide greater access to a Fairfield education,” reported Jennifer Kane, Director of the Fairfield Awards Dinner and Advancement Corporate Engagement.

The Fairfield Awards Dinner grants an opportunity to “celebrate inclusive excellence” as well as ignite the full potential of Fairfield students. The ceremony, which took place this year on April 12 at New York City’s renowned Cipriani 42nd Street, awards a wide array of scholarships to provide diverse and talented students possessing financial needs with an authentic Fairfield education.

The Alumni Multicultural Scholarship Fund may be the most powerful and transformative award of the event, gifting students with $559,000 in scholarships this past fall. If not great enough, 18 students received an average of nearly $31,000 from the endowment fund. 

Adding on to student success, the Awards Dinner recognizes six esteemed parents, alumni, staff, faculty and friends of the university for their devoted service, leadership and accomplishments. This year awarded Andrew J. McMahon ‘89, P ‘19, ‘13 with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award, Shannon Siwinski ‘92, P ‘16 with the Alumni Service Award, and Deacon Patrick Toole with the Honorary Alumnus Award. Philip J. Lane, Ph.D., P ‘10 was recognized with the Distinguished Faculty / Administrator Award, and John Thompson III and Monica Moore Thompson, P ‘23 with the Parent Leadership Award.

Vice President for University Advancement Wally Halas expressed in a FairfieldNews article great pride in and appreciation for this year’s honorees, declaring that they have made “tremendous contributions to the University” while demonstrating the Jesuit value of being men and women for others.

During this year’s event, the crowd absorbed compelling words from student speaker Kwahmyre Barbour, a senior finance and management major from Philadelphia. Barbour spoke on the importance of opportunity, taking advantage of it, and being okay with uncomfortability. 

“Throughout my time at Fairfield, I have been presented with [opportunity and obstacles]. I have used each experience to learn, grow, and make a lasting difference,” he began.

His final piece of advice urged his fellow Stags to do the same.  

“Now, before I leave here today, I ask the following question: Winston Churchill once said, ‘a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ Which person will you be?”

Barbour chose the word “honor” to describe this opportunity to “share [his] story with such a big room of influential people.” Coming from his personal experiences, one of which is a deferral from Fairfield University in 2019, speaking at this dinner meant everything to him.

As a part of Fairfield’s Jesuit values, a mission to create change through acting on the needs of others begs for fulfillment. This dinner achieves just that. 

“Adhering to our Jesuit ideals of being men and women for others, this scholarship helps make a Fairfield education accessible to students from all walks of life,” Kane disclosed.

Putting plans into action is something that the Jesuits, as well as the Fairfield community, wholly prioritize. In line with those goals, these scholarships actively open spaces for underprivileged students to gain a rightful education. 

Aside from profound scholarships, however, the Awards Dinner also emphasizes the power of building meaningful relationships through networking. 

According to Kane, the official dinner program began at 6 p.m., complete with remarks from the event co-chairs, President Mark Nemec, Ph.D., and acceptance speeches from honoree recipients. However, a pre-networking reception took place from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., in which university-scholarship students had the chance to connect with event honorees, trustees, the Awards Dinner Committee members and some corporate partners.

“Our long-term goal for this dinner is to continue engaging alumni and parents and to encourage their support; encouraging young alumni to attend,” she explained. “Additionally, we want to continue fostering relationships with existing and new corporate partners, who will not only support this scholarship and dinner but provide greater opportunities to our students for internships and full-time positions.”

The program concluded at 9 p.m., and the event ended at 10 p.m.

Alumna Adrienne Johnson ‘91 and Trish Comey Preston ‘80 co-chaired the dinner together for the second year in a row, demonstrating those long-lasting alumni contributions to the University.

Fairfield University’s commitment to providing universally-strong academic experiences additionally helps to enrich the general community, campus and learning environment. 

Junior student Donna Ismail, who attended the 2023 ceremony, conveyed feelings of utmost satisfaction regarding her experience, especially the many opportunities to speak with admirable guests.

“It was honestly amazing to see how the people who went to school before me are doing and all the opportunities they gained from Fairfield,” she said. “I think the pre-reception was the most impactful experience. I would describe it—the dinner—as the best thing I’ve ever done at Fairfield.”

Likewise, Barbour focused on the networking of multicultural students, linking how that networking has led to acceptances in professional fields.

Since 1995, this endowment fund has given over 998 scholarships to 264 individuals. Since 1998, over $20 million has been raised for the Alumni Multicultural Scholarship fund, along with additional scholarships.

Regardless of economic or social status, Fairfield University holds open arms for all students, and their work to encompass those students does not go unnoticed. 
Next year’s Awards Dinner will take place at the same venue on April 3, 2024. Donations towards the fund can be made to the Office of Annual Giving online or through email at

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