Honors Program Student Newsletter 2014-2015
By Dr. Robert Forman
The Honors Program proved on a warm and sunny afternoon this fall that Harry Potter is alive and well and that Quidditch is a real sport. We played our First (possibly annual) Quidditch Tournament on Saturday, September 20th under the capable refereeing of Tournament Master Richard Cantoral. With broomsticks between legs, and David Landrigan, Michael Lipari, and Sai Phyo heroically alternating in the ungrateful role of Snitch Runner, an impressive complement of twenty HP members played four games of a sport that one could have described as a hybrid of soccer, dodgeball, and Saturday clean-up.
The HP’s Harry Potter Film Festival, during which we saw the first five of the eight Harry Potter films, led up to the tournament. By the scheduled day, with the weather cooperating beautifully and Danielle Magana wearing her Slytherin academic gown, the players chose up sides in teams, each of three “Chasers,” who run with a semi-deflated volleyball called a “quaffle” toward a goal guarded by two “Keepers” while two “Beaters” aim dodgeballs called “bludgers” at the players of the opposing team to disrupt the game. Any player hit with a bludger is out of play until reaching his or her own goal. Each team also has a “seeker” who tries to catch the snitch runner. The snitch runner wears a yellow jersey and belongs to neither team. The snitch runner’s uniform includes a ball attached to the waistband. Capturing the snitch is worth thirty points and ends the game.
The players included Dean Burros, Ivy Chen, Jack Fogarty, Alec Hershberger, David Landrigan, Michael Lipari, Danielle Magana, Jackie Mancini, Grant Mayer, Mahina McGarry, James Neil, Hervy Ong, Larry Parveio, Mary Grace Petinos, Sai Phyo, Joseph Schneider, Frank Sciortino, Savanah Valenzuela, and Justin Perkins-Ollila with Wesley Martinez as official photographer and Richard Cantoral as Grand Pulbah Tournament Master. The Honors Program also thanks Lauren Harding-Charter, Assistant Director of Student Development, and Carl Carrie, Coordinator of Student Development, for the substantial support they gave this project.
By Kassidy Daly ’17 CPS
On Saturday, September 27th, members of the St. John’s University community gathered in the Taffner Field House for University Service Day, which marks the start of Founder’s Week. As a way of promoting St. John’s Vincentian tradition, groups of students, staff, and faculty came together to serve at various locations throughout the city.
Many Honors Program students were part of this school-wide event, and a team of fifteen of them volunteered at the Queens Botanical Gardens. Dr. Forman and Mr. Pennacchio accompanied the students to the site and also took part in the day’s activities.
The Queens Botanical Gardens rely heavily on volunteers to maintain its 35-acre site. The Honors Program students tended the flower beds, pulled weeds, and spread mulch in preparation for the upcoming colder weather. Many of them expressed interest in volunteering at the Gardens throughout the year. The volunteers truly learned what the Service Day motto proclaims, “What a Difference a Day Makes!”
By Rebecca Goldman ‘16 TCB
Knowing at a young age that he wanted to attend a Catholic university, study accounting, and work in New York City, James Finnegan decided on St. John’s because of its connection with the big four accounting firms and the generous scholarship he was awarded. James qualified for the Honors Program, and has a sister, Clare, who was also a member of the program when she attended St. John’s.
James grew up in rural New Jersey, one of ten children, all of whom were homeschooled until they attended a small public high school. He was pleasantly surprised how easy the transition was from that environment to St. John’s, and the sense of community he felt right away. Being a member of the Honors Program played a big part in this. Dr. Forman, director of the program, was very helpful in providing guidance throughout James’ time at St. John’s and introduced him to many of New York City’s greatest historical and cultural treasures through his walking tours. James acquired an interest in taxation policy in Dr. Igor Tomic’s economics course, which resulted in his writing a paper examining the role of language in the application of internal revenue code. The paper was published in the Tobin College of Business’ The Review of Business academic journal. James’ rigorous studies in the Honors Program helped him earn a Graduate Research Assistant position while completing his master’s degree in taxation.
In addition to his involvement with the Honors Program, James was a member of the President’s Society, campus ministry, and played trumpet in the pep band. He was also inducted into Beta Alpha Psi and Beta Gamma Sigma, which are business honors societies. James’ involvement with the honors societies and other organizations required him to attend many academic and social events such as the President’s Dinner, which he said provided a great opportunity to network. As involved as he was, James still managed to pass the CPA exam while in school and has recently completed the required experience for the CPA license.
During his final undergraduate semester at St. John’s, James met Joseph Macina, a partner at KPMG, one of the big four accounting firms. Mr. Macina encouraged him to apply for an internship position at the firm’s Long Island location. As a result of this internship, James was offered a full-time position in KPMG’s auditing department. This meant changing his career path from taxation to auditing, which involves a different lifestyle. James’ work in auditing has allowed him to realize that the client relationships required in that field better suit his outgoing personality, unlike the independent nature of tax preparation. James has since transferred to KPMG’s Manhattan location, where he serves as a financial services auditor.
James recognizes the benefits of being taught by the accounting professors at St. John’s who are accomplished in their field and feels it has given him an advantage. The best advice James could offer an accounting student at St. John’s is to maintain a high GPA. He stresses that achieving the CPA license while in school will help in transitioning to a full-time job. James also feels that mastering one’s communication and interpersonal skills is as important as having good technical skills. He was very proactive throughout his time at St. John’s and benefited from the school’s large business alumni network.
James enjoyed his years at St. John’s, particularly his involvement with the Honors Program, and has kept in touch with his fellow students since graduating.
By Radha Byagari ’15 TCB
Brimming with energy, an extensive knowledge popular culture, and a particular enthusiasm for teaching, it is easy to understand why Professor Pitilli is one of the more popular Honors Program professors. Professor Pitilli began teaching in the Honors Program in 2003, though he has been a member of St. John’s Faculty since 1986.
Many students may be surprised to learn that Professor Pitilli started out as a business student, receiving a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s in 1969. He subsequently received an M.S. in Communicative Disorders from Adelphi University in 1973.
While Professor Pitilli has called St. John’s home for nearly thirty years, he began his career in music, an admitted lifelong passion. He plays the piano, guitar, blues harmonica, and a “terrible” tin whistle. Professor Pitilli has extensive experience in musical theatre and an affinity for country music and doo-wop. While an undergraduate student at St. John’s, Professor Pitilli began playing bar band rock and roll, once opening for The 5th Dimension. In his younger days, he was second tenor in what he describes as the fifth iteration of a doo-wop group. Professor Pitilli was also a composer and the recipient of awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). He jokes one country music song he wrote didn’t go gold or platinum, but went linoleum. He later became involved in both off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway, as well as street theatre.
As his family grew, Professor Pitilli stepped away from music and into academia. As a professor of speech in the Division of English and Speech in the College of Professional Studies, Professor Pitilli teaches DNY and public speaking for the Honors Program. He repeatedly expressed his excitement for teaching in the Honors Program and feels it requires an obligation to be excellent. Describing the honors students as a cool, eclectic bunch, Professor Pitilli feels he is able to explore a wide variety of topics with his honors classes and stresses how honors students serve to inspire his intellectual curiosities.
Professor Pitilli found a way to pursue his two great passions, academia and music, by doing research in popular culture and music. He is currently coauthoring a number of books. The first is about the 1970’s rock group, Creedence Clearwater Revival, which he and a group of professors are writing. The second, tentatively titled Alpha Soloism, focuses on artists who compose, perform, and produce their own songs. His third book is a historical, sociological, and socio-economic overview of doo wop acappella, which is a genre that Professor Pitilli says has never been seriously explored.
A lifelong New Yorker, Professor Pitilli currently calls Bay Ridge, Brooklyn home. He has five children, some of whom graduated from St. John’s. Professor Pitilli enjoys dining out at a variety of restaurants in Brooklyn. He is a committed vegetarian and part time vegan. Reading and yoga are among his other pastimes. He also enjoys gardening and grows his own tomatoes and herbs. A true renaissance man, Professor Pitilli travels extensively. He has taken numerous trips to Europe and Central America and most recently visited Iceland.
During my freshman year, I was a student in Professor Pitilli’s Honors DNY class. He offered his unique insight about New York, which led to many lively and interesting discussions. He encouraged his students to explore different neighborhoods throughout the city and share their experiences with the class. Professor Pitilli set himself apart by fostering an environment in which students can explore and expand their minds.