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Heartfelt Thanks for Members of The Loughlin Society

Thursday, April 30, 2015

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Nearly 250 of St. John’s University’s most loyal alumni and friends gathered at the Manhattan campus on Friday, April 24, 2015, for the annual Loughlin Society Reception. It was a time for joyful celebration and thoughtful reflection as the University acknowledged the generosity of its leadership donors and thanked them for their exceptional support during the current fiscal year.

The Loughlin Society is named in honor of John Loughlin, the first Bishop of Brooklyn, who called upon the Vincentians to establish a Catholic college to serve the needs of New York City children who did not have access to higher education. It is comprised of donors who make annual gifts to the University of $1,000 or more.

Since June 1, 2014, membership in this prestigious giving society has increased to nearly 2,100 donors, 500 of whom have joined The Loughlin Society for the first time. These generous supporters have provided St. John’s with gifts totaling over $7.8 million, an unmistakable reflection of the importance of the University and its mission for these exceptional men and women.

Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., thanked those in attendance for their outstanding loyalty and support, which continues to impact St. John’s in so many ways.

“At St. John’s, we have the responsibility to transform our students one person at a time,” noted Dr. Gempesaw. “Helping our students succeed is our goal. Many of you here tonight faced financial and other challenges when you attended St. John’s. Many of you have told me that without St. John’s, you would not be where you are today. As members of The Loughlin Society, you have shown your Vincentian spirit through your ongoing generosity. It is indeed my privilege to serve as president of our great institution.”

Today’s students are the direct beneficiaries of the resources provided by the members of The Loughlin Society. Donors responded enthusiastically as Natalie Hallek ’15C, a senior in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and editor of Sequoya, the University’s prestigious student-run literary magazine, expressed her appreciation for the support of these exceptionally generous men and women.

“I can honestly say that I am what I am today because of St. John’s,” she said. “It’s obvious that St. John’s would not be what it is today without special people like you. There are thousands of other students just like me who, without your support, would not enjoy the opportunities that make our experience here so incredibly unique. You are truly our guardian angels, and—trust me—we will never forget you.”

Many alumni were quick to express their appreciation to the University that has been a part of their lives for so many years. Their generosity is a reflection of gratitude for what St. John’s did for them during the time that they were students and, later, alumni.

“I’m a part of The Loughlin Society because, even after all these years, I think it’s very important to support the University, particularly its unique goals and Vincentian mission,” remarked Hon. James Starkey ’57L, retired justice of the New York State Supreme Court. “I feel a special sense of gratitude and debt because they gave me a St. Thomas More Scholarship to the Law School. St. John’s definitely helped me to get my career started. I remember when the University was on Lewis Avenue, and the Law School that I graduated from was on Schermerhorn Street.  But the mission, and the University’s sense of caring for others, has remained the same. And I’m definitely grateful for that.”

For Bernardette Vaskas ’57UC, membership in The Loughlin Society is all about acknowledging the education that she received from the moment she began as a St. John’s student more than six decades ago. She recalled that she attended the University College on the Schermerhorn Street campus because it was the only school or college within the University that offered a liberal arts education to women at that time.

“Being a member of The Loughlin Society is appropriate because of the education that I got at St. John’s,” she said. “I am really grateful to the University for all that it gave me when I was a student and afterwards. There have been a lot of changes at St. John’s over the years, but I really think that the young people who go there now are the same as we were those many years ago. The campus is beautiful, and it makes me happy that maybe some of my donations have helped to make that happen. Where it really matters, St. John’s is still the same, and I hope that it always will be.  That’s why I’m loyal to the University, and why I contribute.”

For double alumnus Anton Boravina ’72C, ’75L, joining the ranks of St. John’s most generous donors is his way of helping to ensure that today’s students have access to the same opportunities and experiences that he enjoyed during his student days. Boravina was a member of his nationally ranked high school debate team and received a scholarship to further refine his skills as an undergraduate. The ability to express himself succinctly and cogently were valuable assets when he attended St. John’s School of Law and later during his successful legal career.

“I support St. John’s because it’s my alma mater,” he said. “Those two words have a lot of meaning for me, which means that St. John’s has a lot of meaning for me.  St. John’s reflects the community in which it resides, so it’s become a little more urban than it was when I was there. But I’m sure that if I was in my late teens and early twenties today I’d be having the same amount of good times now as I did back then. By supporting the University, I’m really paying back to the students of today in gratitude for what I received from St. John’s those many years ago.”

The ongoing strength of the University’s Vincentian mission is the defining factor that has influenced Robert Robertazzi ’56CBA to continue his long-standing membership in The Loughlin Society. The idea that St. John’s remains steadfast in its commitment to making a difference for others continues to appeal to this loyal and generous donor, and he is happy to show his appreciation for the uniqueness of the University.

“I’ve been supporting St. John’s almost forever,” he said. “I received a scholarship to the School of Commerce (now The Peter J. Tobin College of Business) for being a member of the rifle team. There have been many changes at St. John’s over the years, but I like that the Vincentian attitude is still strong. It’s not every man for himself; it’s more like every man for everybody. And I think that’s very important. My wife and I come to this event every chance we get. It’s always wonderful to come back to St. John’s and find out what’s happening at the University.”

For information about The Loughlin Society, please call Stacey Philips Varghese ’99C, associate director, at 718-990-2982 or e-mail varghess@stjohns.edu.