Pioneering Athletic Alumnae Take Center Stage

Monday, October 7, 2013

Women’s athletics have come a long way since Title IX, and St. John’s University has certainly established its own rich tradition. In recognition of this history, St. John’s honored a handful of its most accomplished and influential athletic alumnae at the Golf Classic: Honoring Women’s Athletics, held at the beautiful North Hempstead Country Club.

Alumni and friends enjoyed a friendly round of 18, with all proceeds supporting St. John’s Women’s Athletic programs. Honorees included:

Women of Distinction:

Kristine Fitzpatrick ’90SVC
Paula Migliore ’98C, ’01GEd
Liz Mullin ’86SVC
Virginia “Ginny” Peiser ’83SVC
Victoria “Tori” Santangelo ’98C, ’01G

Young Alumnae Award:

Kia Wright ’08CPS

Humanitarian Award:

Rosie Viscovich ’86SVC

A number of special guests came out to lend their support, including the legendary former Head Coach Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON, Athletic Director Emeritus John W. “Jack” Kaiser ’49C and former Men’s Basketball standout Chris Mullin ’98CBA.

As they received their awards, each honoree spoke about their unique and inspiring stories. Virginia “Ginny” Peiser, for example, was a charter member of the St. John’s Softball team, transforming it from a club sport to a Division I contender.

“We used to play in Cunningham Park,” she explained. “Today, I look back with such pride and amazement to see how far the team has come – 30 years later, I can watch our team play on TV against schools like UCLA. Back when we began the club, I never would have expected that it would blossom so much.”

Today, Peiser has kept her commitment to softball front and center and runs her own nonprofit – the Girls Organization of Athletic Leaders in Sports (GOALS) – a one-of-its-kind girls softball league based in Queens. Ultimately, she hopes that her passion for softball can come full circle.

“Give me another 10 years,” she said, “and I guarantee that our organization will produce a girl from Queens who will play on the St. John’s Softball team.”

Similarly, honoree Kristine Fitzpatrick ’90SVC never lost her passion for St. John’s or for athletics. This former Track and Field standout has enjoyed a wonderful career, currently serving as Executive Director of the Miracle League of Long Island, a baseball league she founded that allows children with disabilities to experience the game of baseball. 

“St. John’s changed my life,” she noted. “I still remember my last track meet – I went into the stands, put my head between my legs and cried, because competing as an athlete was my life. But, since then, I’ve found that St. John’s prepared me for more than I ever could have expected, and it’s never left me. It means a lot to be recognized tonight.”

But perhaps no one exemplifies the Women’s sports tradition at St. John’s more than Humanitarian Award recipient Rosie Viscovich ’86SVC. She began working at St. John’s in 1977 and served as a staff member in the Department of Athletics for over 30 years. In that time, she watched firsthand as the University’s female sports clubs were formed, and she discussed the evolution of women’s athletics.  

“In our country, and in our world, women’s sports were always treated as second-class,” she explained. “That began to change a few decades ago, and I’m proud to say St. John’s embraced it. We’ve got Volleyball, Softball, Golf – you name it. And events like tonight show that the University still cares, that they want to make this tradition an even more visible one to the community at large. It’s truly a wonderful night.”