July 24, 2009
spring, 29 new members were inducted into St. John’s University’s
President’s Society. This most prestigious organization is made up
of students whose scholarship, integrity and maturity are
accompanied by leadership skills demonstrated by their significant
contribution to the extracurricular life at St. John’s.
Founded in 1968 to showcase the “best and brightest” among the
student body during a tumultuous time when the national perception
of college students was vastly negative, the President’s Society
still represents all that is best in St. John’s students.
The new Society members—19 female and 10 male—are now considered
staff in the office of University President
Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M. During the upcoming year, they
will typically attend 15-20 presidential functions, acting as hosts
for honored guests who might include world or national leaders,
Board members, industry titans, and St. John’s alumni and
Interested students apply for membership in the Society in their
third year and serve during their fourth year. Three equally
important criteria are considered: academic achievement (generally
a 3.5 grade average); a comprehensive knowledge of the University
and an ability to articulate it fluently; and sustained leadership
within the University that includes service both on and off St.
John’s campuses. Members are selected by a committee of University
administrators after an intensive application and interview
We invite you to meet Robert Cote, 2009-10 President’s Society
Sharing a Life-Changing Experience: Robert
When something special happens, it’s natural to want to tell
others. Sharing the value of his St. John’s experience is a big
reason why Robert Cote applied to the President’s Society.
“St. John’s has given me so many opportunities,” said Rob, a
psychology major. “I liked the idea of representing the
University, to tell people how much I’ve grown as a student.”
The President’s Society is St. John’s top honor society for
undergraduates, celebrating the University’s values of academic
excellence, service and leadership. Members serve as University
“ambassadors,” assisting at major events and sharing their
experiences with honored guests.
“It seemed like a natural extension of everything I’ve done at St.
John’s,” Rob reflected. “I knew it was competitive, but I decided I
had to try — otherwise, I’d always be wondering, ‘what if?’ “
Lessons in Leadership
Born and raised in the small town of Saugerties, NY, Rob showed an
early flair for community life. He joined his parish youth group
and soon helped organize activities. He began attending youth
council meetings in his archdiocese and won election as
archdiocesan vice president for the Catholic Youth Organization’s
At St. John’s, Rob built upon those experiences. As a freshman, he
joined the Vincentian Initiative to Advance Leadership (VITAL), a
unique program combining academics, service and reflection to
prepare strong Catholic leaders for today’s global society. The
program inspired Rob to revive a residence hall organization
dedicated to service.
Boosting his leadership skills as a Resident Assistant, Rob
witnessed the way St. John’s blends academics with campus life. He
organized activities for Learning Communities — clusters of
freshmen sharing residence suites, classes and interests.
Professors readily participate, forming ties with students beyond
In class, Rob noted, professors add to the excitement as leading
experts in their fields. Rob started out as a business major but
switched to psychology. In both areas, he said, the high quality of
his professors has been a constant.
“The big thing about St. John’s,” he explained, “is that your
professors love what they do, and they really know what they teach.
Maybe it’s being in New York City. When I was a business major, my
accounting professors were working accountants. Now my psychology
professors are well-known researchers and counselors. It’s very
Today, Rob is a student assistant in Campus Ministry, which has
become his “second home” at St. John’s. He helps set up for Mass,
serves as a lector and assists in scheduling events at St. Thomas
More Church. This summer, he also helps out Freshman
Helping Others, On Campus and Across the
Contributing to campus life made a profound impact on Rob’s course
work. His experiences are part of the reason he switched from
business to psychology. “I discovered I prefer working with people
over working with numbers,” he said.
Opportunities to assist others reach far beyond the Queens campus.
For Rob, this has meant traveling to two different continents
through the University’s unique “service plunges.”
The first plunge, in the summer after his sophomore year, brought
Rob to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, France. For 10 days, he
and other St. John’s students assisted pilgrims. This past summer,
Rob served in Panama. Spending a week in a small farming village
without electricity or running water, he helped construct a
communal facility and paint a local church.
A Unique Way to Learn
Experiences like these have shaped more than Rob’s college
education — they have changed his life. “You come in contact with
many ways to learn,” said Rob. “St. John’s introduces you to more
than most students ever expect.”
This is the message Rob plans to share through the President’s
Society. “St. John’s offers a unique educational experience,” he
said. “I’m glad I can give something back by telling people about
the qualities that set St. John’s apart from the rest.”
We invite you to visit our admission pages, so you
can learn more about the St. John’s experience.