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Professor David L. Gregory Receives St. John’s Prestigious Vincentian Mission Award

Celebrating a True Servant
Friday, September 23, 2016

A few years ago, alumni, faculty, students, and friends came together to celebrate Dorothy Day Professor of Law David L. Gregory and his many accomplishments as executive director of the Law School’s Center for Labor and Employment Law. In his remarks at the event, Dean Michael A. Simons captured the sentiment in the room—and outside of it—with these words:

"For the past 30 years, David Gregory has exemplified what it means to be a law professor. He is a dedicated teacher, a caring mentor, a prolific scholar, and an indefatigable institution builder. He has single-handedly created one of the finest labor and employment law programs in the country. He has worked tirelessly to promote his students and to launch their careers. His legal expertise is in labor and employment law, but he has lived his professional life by the Biblical command to 'serve one another through love.' Tonight, we celebrate a true servant."

Yesterday, the community gathered once again to honor Professor Gregory’s life and career of service, as he became the first-ever Law School faculty member to receive St. John’s prestigious Vincentian Mission Award.

Established in 1993, the award recognizes St. John's administrators, faculty, and staff who have embraced the Vincentian spirit in their personal and professional lives. Members of the St. John's family nominate candidates for the award, which is presented at the annual Vincentian Convocation. A committee comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators selects the award recipient from the pool of nominees.

The submissions in support of Professor Gregory’s candidacy were filled with tributes to a humble man of deep faith who infuses his work in and beyond the classroom with the Vincentian philosophy of individual dignity, social justice, and upliftment of others. For over three decades, he has inspired hundreds of his students to `do well by doing good’ as lawyers.

“Consistent with the University’s Vincentian mission, Professor Gregory is a true advocate for his students,” says Ana C. Shields ’03, a principal at Jackson Lewis P.C. “He presents them, especially those lacking economic or social advantages, with critical opportunities to meet and to interact with an incredible network of alumni that he has helped to build. He is a wonderful mentor.”

Ralph Carter ’14, an associate at Duane Morris LLP who received multiple scholarships for excellence in labor and employment law while at St. John’s, agrees. “Professor Gregory is unrelenting in his support of his students, and his door is always open to those seeking the benefit of his considerable experience,” he says. “There are so many of us who owe him so much. He has an uncanny ability to see in his students their potential and to show them what they can attain and how to get there, even when the student believes that the goal is something beyond reach.” 

A highly regarded scholar, Professor Gregory has pioneered the field of Catholic social thought and the law. He has also delivered the annual St. Vincent de Paul lecture at DePaul University. His many publications in leading scholarly journals include the only law review article about Antoine-Frédéric Ozanam, the Vincentian layman who founded the Society of Saint Vincent DePaul.

“As the organizer of conferences like ‘The Theology of Work and the Dignity of Workers,’ Professor Gregory has helped the broader community develop a social consciousness—one that emphasizes the dignity and worth of all individuals and that promotes social justice, especially in the critical area of work and the workplace,” notes Michael Van Aken ’99, vice president of human resources at The Coca-Cola Company.

Professor Gregory’s mission-driven work takes him outside the academy as well. He’s extremely active in the Catholic Worker community, which is committed to living a simple lifestyle in community, to serving the poor, and to resisting war and social injustice. He also supports the local Catholic Lawyers Guilds, and the efforts of the Catholic organization Opus Dei to educate impoverished children in the South Bronx.

“I’ve known Professor Gregory for over 34 years, and I had the distinct honor being one of his first students,” says Robert J. Nobile ’84, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP. “He’s been a coach, guide, mentor, and friend to me and to countless other St. John’s students. He’s a person who always goes out of his way to help and guide others in every way possible, and is literally available 24/7/365. I can think of no other individual who is so giving of himself to others in all that he does. And I can think of no one more well-deserving of the Vincentian Mission Award for all of his marked contributions.”

Receiving the award at the Vincentian Convocation ceremony, Professor Gregory shared this heartfelt message: “The Servant of God Dorothy Day is my special heroine. [She teaches us] that we can become better than we are, and that the best way is to practice good habits day by day.”