George Dawson Jr., FCRH ’17, has a penchant for giving back to institutions that have been important to him. He’s a football coach and the director of alumni engagement at his high school alma mater, Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx. And in January, he became one of the newest and youngest members of the Fordham University Alumni Association (FUAA) Advisory Board, where he’s focused on helping the board connect with young alumni.
“I want to give back to places that helped shape who I am,” says Dawson, who majored in economics at Fordham, was an All-Patriot League linebacker for the Rams, and earned a spot on the league’s academic honor roll. “I’ve been giving my time and input to drive things toward what’ll be beneficial for more people. I think that’s something that’s really valuable.”
Returning to His High School, in Several Roles
After graduating from Fordham College at Rose Hill, Dawson returned to Hayes (as the school is known) to serve as the football team’s linebackers coach. He later took on an expanded role as defensive coordinator.
In January 2020, he joined the school’s administrative team as assistant director of alumni engagement, and by November he was promoted to director. In this role, Dawson organizes events for alumni, solicits donations for student scholarships and financial aid, and communicates with young alumni to keep them engaged and up to date on what’s happening at the school.
Dawson’s days are long, he says, but he relishes the opportunity to help students get in the door and thrive at Hayes, noting that his recruitment work for the football program provides a clear example of the benefits derived from alumni donations.
“We have to find a way to fund people and come up with financial assistance for kids who can’t afford to pay full tuition,” Dawson says. “So that ties right back into my job in the alumni office of soliciting donations to go toward tuition assistance.”
Showing Up and Being a Presence
Dawson’s affinity for both Fordham and Hayes is made even stronger by the links between the two Bronx schools.
In 2015, Fordham developed a partnership with Hayes
—home to many African American and Hispanic students who would potentially be the first in their families to attend college. That partnership began with a mentoring program that pairs Fordham undergraduates with Hayes students, and it has grown to include ongoing collaborations with WFUV, Fordham’s public media station; the Gabelli School of Business; and the Graduate School of Education, among other areas of the University.
At Fordham, Dawson and several other former Fordham football players have started what he calls “a mentorship group for Black and brown student-athletes.” While they have only worked with football players so far, they hope to expand their mentorship roles across other sports, as well.
One of the things that drew Dawson to join the FUAA Advisory Board, he says, was the opportunity to let fellow graduates know that, while alumni giving can make a big difference in students’ lives, there are other ways to give back to Fordham.
“I know a lot of times, alumni feel like being part of the school is only an option if you can donate,” Dawson says. “And I’m trying to tell them, ‘Listen, you can show up to events and be a presence. And that’s giving back to the school in a big way.’”
What are you most passionate about?
I think I’m most passionate about helping people. Being able to give back, whether it’s advice or shared experiences, I think that’s what I’m most passionate about.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
I got a quote from one of my teachers in high school. They said, “You’ve got to do what you have to do, so that you can do what you want to do.” And that kind of sat with me. It resonated with me, just because that’s how life is. You’ve got to put in the work in order to have fun. And if you try to have fun before you put the work in, that’s when things don’t usually work out for you.
What’s your favorite place in New York City? What’s your favorite place in the world?
Favorite place in New York City has to be my hometown, Soundview, in the Bronx. I love that place more than anything. And then in the world? I haven’t really traveled much. But I took a trip to Toronto two years ago and that was amazing. I loved it. It was awesome. We went in the winter, so it was pretty cold out there. But if I could do it again, I’d definitely go back to Toronto at least three or four more times.
Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America by John Lewis. I read it the year right after I graduated. It was very powerful. It’s pretty much an autobiography, with him just talking about his experiences and the civil rights movement through his eyes. [There are] a lot of gems that last with you for a while, in terms of inspirational stuff and motivational stuff, and stuff to make you want to effect change. It was really powerful.
Who’s the Fordham grad or professor that you admire the most?
I would say Judge Robert Holdman [FCRH ’86, LAW ’91]
. He’s part of the Gridiron Club [support group for Fordham football], and he’s always been there for me. He’s been a mentor and a resource for me since I started at Fordham. And then I’ll throw in a bonus one: my boy, my [former Fordham]teammate Chase Edmonds
. I was with him the day of the [2018 NFL] draft, and we’ve been really close since he got to Fordham. I’m a year older than he is. So seeing him get to the NFL and then continue to do the things that he did in college is pretty cool.