Is the Crowd Going Wild for Tino Martinez at Fordham University?

Choosing a university commencement speaker is like getting a new haircut, throwing a party, or being a politician – you can’t please everyone. Fordham University is no exception.

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This year Fordham has announced that the keynote speaker for Fordham University’s 169th Commencement is Constantino “Tino” Martinez, former New York Yankees first baseman. Martinez’s ties to Fordham extend not only to his experience in the Bronx as a Bronx Bomber, but also as a Fordham parent to daughter Olivia, FCRH ‘14. Although no petition has come out yet against Martinez nor any plan for protest at commencement as has happened in the past, that does not mean that people have not formed an opinion on his presence. Fordham students have reacted differently, some more positively than others.

“Although I do not think Tino Martinez is the best choice, I believe he will be an excellent speaker nonetheless,” said Thomas DeGrace, FCRH ‘14 via email. “I am not quite sure what he will speak about, other than his journey to becoming a professional baseball player, but his greatest asset for his speech is that he is a Fordham parent. Since his daughter will be graduating this year, Tino will be able to speak to all of the students and families in a way that we can all relate.”

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Other students have not been as positive about Martinez’s presence however. Martinez resigned from his position as Miami Marlins hitting coach in July of 2013 after allegations that he verbally and physically abused players.

“I am personally disappointed,” said Anthony Gatti, FCRH ‘14, via email. “I am sure that Tino Martinez will have a great speech prepared for us. My disappointment doesn’t lie in him speaking at commencement. I am sure he will conduct himself wonderfully and convey an intelligent and important message to those of us listening in the audience. My disappointment lies in his actions off of and prior to his time on our commencement podium. His apparent lack of character in regards to the allegations of his treatment of his colleagues and co-workers is what disappoints me.”

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Questions have been raised in light of the keynote speaker announcement as to why U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who will be present at commencement to receive an honorary doctorate of law, is not giving the commencement address. Bob Howe, Senior Director of Communications at Fordham, told Fordham Daily, “The Justice had to decline this year, unfortunately, because of conflicting demands of the speaking tour for her book, My Beloved World.”

Regardless of Sotomayor declining to speak, students have expressed their preference of having her speak instead of Martinez.

“I am overall indifferent about Tino Martinez being our commencement speaker, however I think that with the distinguished list of honorary degree recipients this year, I would have preferred any of them to speak rather than Mr. Martinez…particularly someone like Sonia Sotomayor who has strong roots in the Bronx, “ said Aileen Reynolds, FCRH ‘14 via email.

Many students say that hearing the keynote speaker is not the part of graduation day that they are most excited about. When asked what part of commencement they were looking forward to the most, not one student mentioned hearing Martinez’s address. Students cited other highlights of the exercises instead, such as hearing the band and orchestra, receiving a diploma and being together one last time with friends and classmates.

“I am most looking forward to being with my fellow seniors on Eddies,” said Muhammad Hassan Sarwar, GSB ‘14 via email. “Though commencement is a formal event, I feel like the most memorable moments would be the private ones with friends and loved ones, and those moments are what I am most looking forward to.”

Fordham University’s 169th Commencement will take place on Edward’s Parade on  May 17, 2014 at 10am.