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Awards Dinners Raise Money to Support Student Success

Anthony F. Markel and Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., (seated center) join guests at Dinner.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The generosity of alumni and friends who share St. John’s commitment to ensuring student success was evident this spring at three celebratory dinners that recognized academic, athletic, and professional excellence while providing financial support for the University’s students.

The events—the Insurance Leader of the Year Dinner, the 11th Annual Bullpen Winter Banquet, and the Second Annual Pharmacy Gala—drew a mix of alumni, faculty, administrators, students, and friends. Honoring award recipients who exemplify the University’s Catholic and Vincentian Mission, they also raised funds for scholarships, academic programs, and other resources vital to a St. John’s education.

“The support for these events—and others—reflects the generosity of St. John’s alumni, friends, and benefactors,” said Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President. “Their commitment to current and future students is a defining characteristic of those who share the University’s Catholic and Vincentian mission.”

Celebrating a People Business
2016 Insurance Leader of the Year Anthony F. Markel (center)

The industry believes in supporting young people—and it needs young people to continue to thrive,” said Brandon W. Sweitzer, Dean of the School of Risk Management, Insurance, and Actuarial Science (SRM), to nearly 1,500 faculty, alumni, friends, and industry professionals who attended the 2016 Insurance Leader of the Year Dinner in Manhattan on January 18. Anthony F. Markel, Vice Chairman of the Board, Markel Corporation, was the honoree.

“The great outpouring of support for this event,” Mr. Sweitzer added, “is a sign of the upward trajectory of St. John’s.” Hosted by SRM, part of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, the dinner took place in the ballroom at the New York Marriott Marquis. It raised nearly $2.4 million to strengthen scholarships and SRM’s internationally recognized academic programs.

“The Tobin College of Business is known for providing a high-quality, experiential education for students who want to launch a career in the insurance industry,” said Norean R. Sharpe, Ph.D., Dean. “The devotion of executives such as Tony Markel to higher education sets an example for all business leaders.”

Supporting Student-Athletes   

Frederick Alfred “Rick” Porcello III, the 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner and Boston Red Sox starting pitcher, had a message for the Red Storm baseball team on January 19: “Enjoy what you’re going through—this only happens once, so make the most of it.”

Mr. Porcello addressed more than 200 guests—including students, coaches, alumni, and former Yankees and Mets players—at the University’s 11th Annual Bullpen Winter Banquet. The event, which was held at The Edison Ballroom in Manhattan, marked the beginning of the college baseball season. In addition to raising funds for student-athletes, the University announced that Jack Kaiser Stadium, located on the Queens campus, will be fitted with a new synthetic playing surface this summer.

Rick Porcello and C.J. Nitkowski

A highlight of the evening was a Q&A session with Mr. Porcello and former St. John’s pitcher Christopher John “C.J.” Nitkowski, a 1994 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year who enjoyed a 10-year career in Major League Baseball. Mr. Nitkowski now serves as an analyst for Fox/Texas Rangers.

At the affair, Anthony Varvaro ’08CPS received the Red Storm’s Alumni Achievement Award.  Following a 10-year professional baseball career, Mr. Varvaro, who pitched for St. John’s, graduated from the New York City Police Academy in December and is now a Port Authority police officer on Staten Island.

“The Bullpen Banquet is one of our marquee events of the year,” said Anton Goff, St. John’s Director of Athletics. “The banquet always attracts distinguished guests from the baseball world and receives tremendous support from the St. John’s community for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

Investing in the Next Generation of Pharmacy Students
Pharmacy Gala Honorees (left to right) Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., Rocco Stella, R.Ph., and Louis D. Trombetta, Ph.D.

“Not only are our alumni successful,” declared Louis D. Trombetta, Ph.D., Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at St. John’s, “but they also truly care about our students.” Dr. Trombetta delivered his remarks as he accepted one of three awards presented at the Second Annual College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Gala.

The dinner, held on April 1 at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck, NY, raised more than $15,000 in student support. In addition to Dr. Trombetta’s award, the event honored Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs and former Dean of the College, as well as Rocco Stella, R.Ph. ’57P, who founded a family-owned chain of pharmacies in the New York metropolitan area.

Russell J. DiGate, Ph.D., Dean of the College, praised the honorees for exemplifying the program’s tradition of excellence and service. “This celebration was created to acknowledge the wonderful work of our alumni, faculty, and friends,” he declared, “as well as to raise scholarship monies.”   

“Being acknowledged by one’s colleagues—especially when we have worked beside them for many, many years—is a singular honor,” Dr. Mangione observed as he accepted his award. “I am grateful for the confidence they have shown in me—and I am delighted that so many outstanding alumni have contributed to this evening.”