As wind and snow swirled outside, erasing Philadelphia’s skyscrapers from the horizon, the seventh floor of Alter Hall buzzed with the warmth and excitement of 50 men and women about to be recognized as U.S. citizens for the first time.
Surrounded by murals of global landmarks, such as the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House, candidates from 33 countries prepared to take the Oath of Allegiance.
The Jan. 26 naturalization ceremony was especially emotional for Joyce Shaeker, an accounting student from India, who would become an American and a Fox School graduate in the very same week.
Joyce grew up in the textile-producing city of Coimbatore in southeast India. In 1992, she moved to Saudi Arabia with her husband, Vijay, who met an American business partner and founded Ledgewood International, a company that deals in complex trade agreements, banking procedures and logistics of the global trade market.
Joyce and Vijay immigrated to the U.S. in 1997, a move that Joyce considers “destiny.”
After helping to establish Ledgewood International in the U.S., Joyce found her niche at the Fox School. While working full-time, earning her degree and caring for her family, she remained an active participant in the human resources and accounting student professional organizations at Fox, and she helped prepare tax returns for underserved communities through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
After reciting the Oath and Pledge of Allegiance, the candidates stood, one by one, to receive their certificates of citizenship from U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez. Joyce waited patiently in the fifth row, an American flag poking out from her purse, and walked proudly to the front as the 42nd name called.
As one of at least four Temple-affiliated candidates at the ceremony, Joyce received special recognition from Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat.
“Welcome home,” he said, congratulating the men and women, some of whom dressed in traditional cultural garb. Others sported patriotic colors and USA jackets.
Although she’s lived and worked in the country for 13 years, soft-spoken Joyce had always considered her identity as an American to be somewhat “make believe.”
“Today it came true,” she said.
With 10 years of accounting experience, fluency in three languages and now a degree from Fox, Joyce is ready to pursue her CPA, and hopefully, a place in Fox’s Part-time MBA program.
After the ceremony, the 50 men and women dispersed, chatting excitedly with friends and family in different languages, but all newly connected by the bond of American citizenship.
“I was technically an outsider,” she said. “Now I’m family.”
– Julie Achilles
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