Hundreds of Alumni Celebrate New Brand at St. John's First Oktoberfest
Dancing, eating, and raising their glasses to toast a rousing Saturday night at the Queens campus, 548 alumni transformed the Great Lawn into a banquet hall on October 26, celebrating the new University brand and their pride in alma mater at St. John’s first Oktoberfest.
Two-hundred alumni began the evening at a special Mass at 6:30 p.m. in St. Thomas More Church. “First we pray, and then . . . we party,” declared Rev. John Kettleberger, C.M., University chaplain, who presided. Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., President of St. John’s, served as concelebrant along with Rev. Henry Bradbury, C.M.; Rev. Joseph Daly, C.M.; and Rev. James Dorr, C.M. ’79GEd.
After Mass, alumni headed for the Great Lawn, which glowed with the hundreds of lights strung throughout the 65-foot by 98-foot tent erected for the occasion. Guests enjoyed German cuisine at family-style tables featuring the new brand. Sampling a variety of beers, they watched traditional dancers clad in lederhosen, and then worked off dinner on a dance floor in the center of the enclosure.
“It’s wonderful to see so many of my fellow alums gathered here on the Great Lawn—sharing good food, drink, and, above all, the company of our extended St. John’s family,” said Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., R.Ph., provost of the University. Greeting alumni, Dr. Mangione noted that “this is a time of renewed strength for alma mater.” He also introduced a special screening of a new video on St. John’s.
A Thrilling Testament to Alumni Loyalty
“Now this was a celebration,” said Scott Williams, associate vice president of alumni relations. “It was remarkable to see the diversity of the alumni returning to campus for this event, from recent graduates to those from the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties.” The high spirits were equally impressive, Williams added. “Clearly, people were delighted by the opportunity to meet Fr. Levesque and to spend time with each other in such a festive atmosphere.”
“You could see the proof on the faces of our alumni—the first St. John’s Oktoberfest was an extraordinary celebration,” said Hallie Sammartino, Ph.D., vice president for marketing and communications. “The food was great, the entertainment was fantastic and all of our guests were thrilled by the University’s new brand and the pride it conveys in St. John’s continuing tradition of academic excellence, student success, and dedication to making our world a better place.”
According to Ed Kull ’05MBA, acting vice president of institutional advancement, the event demonstrated the intense loyalty St. John’s alumni have for alma mater. “The Oktoberfest event is a testament to the prevailing excitement among the St. John’s University community,” he said. “The Office of Alumni Relations worked with the Office of University Events and the Office of Marketing and Communications to channel that excitement into a truly incredible event. Alumni and friends gathered to reminisce and to help kick off the new University brand. Moving forward, we hope to deliver more of these engaging opportunities.”
Coming Home Again
For alumni, Oktoberfest offered a delightful way to strengthen their ties to the University. “What a fantastic evening,” said Carole Byrd ’87SVC. When the retired New York City police detective received the invitation in the mail, “I knew I had to come. I absolutely love St. John’s, and I love being here with other alums.”
“Everything is superb—the food, the entertainment, everything,” said Lou Spinelli ’81P. Spinelli earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy at St. John’s after completing undergraduate studies in biology at Niagara University, another Vincentian institution. While there, he served as a resident assistant for Fr. Levesque. “When I heard that Fr. Levesque is President of St. John’s, that was it: I had to come.”
Spinelli had an additional reason for celebrating St. John’s continuing success. This is where he met his wife, Leah Michalowski-Spinelli ’81P, ’89GP, who accompanied him to Oktoberfest. “I love St. John’s,” she said. “And when I was a student, Dr. Mangione was one of my professors!”
Oktoberfest also attracted more recent St. John’s graduates. “When I found out about this, there was no question I would be here,” said John Kenny ’13TCB. “But it’s really surpassed my expectations. Everyone’s up dancing, having a good time. It’s like coming home again.”
“Tonight, it’s all good,” concluded Kevin Leslie ’13CPS. “I had a great education at St. John’s, and being here with so many other alums is a chance to relive it all.”