August 10, 2009
Meet Thomas J. Heaney, 2009-10
President’s Society Member
This 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.
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 friends.
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 Thomas J. Heaney, 2009-10 President’s Society
Living St. John’s Mission is a
victory over early challenges: Thomas J. Heaney
As an athlete and a student, Thomas J. Heaney has found that hard
work and discipline usually win big rewards.
But when the 21-year-old St. John’s University senior applied to
the University’s elite President’s Society, he originally warned
himself not to set his hopes too high.
“I knew I had a shot,” said Thomas, whose friends call him T.J.
“I’d had a strong record in academics, service, getting involved.
But I’d heard so many stories about truly exceptional students who
didn’t make it.”
So T.J. “was in disbelief” this past March when he received the
letter saying he had been accepted. “At first, I wondered if it was
a bad April Fool’s joke. But my parents called to tell me they also
received a letter. We were absolutely thrilled.”
A Deeply Personal
T.J. is one of 29 students inducted into this year’s President’s
Society, the top honor society for St. John’s undergraduates. The
society recognizes students who excel at academics, service and
leadership — pillars of St. John’s mission as a Catholic university
in the Vincentian tradition.
“From my first semester, I’ve known President’s Society members as
classmates and friends,” T.J. said. “They’re the essence of what it
means to be a St. John’s student, and I’ve always aspired to do the
For T.J., admission to the President’s Society is an achievement in
another, deeply personal sense. As a small child, the
scholar-athlete who achieved so much in high school and college
originally was diagnosed as having difficulties with processing
“Until the third grade, I was actually in special needs classes,”
he said. “But my parents believed in me, and they fought really
hard to get me all the services available.” As a result, T.J. was
“fully mainstreamed” in the fourth grade.
His parents’ faith gave T.J. confidence to excel. Born and raised
in Sayreville, N.J., he attended St. Joseph’s, an academically
demanding Catholic high school. An outstanding student with a love
of English and history, he also shone on the school’s track
Majoring in Sport Management at St. John’s wooded Staten Island
campus, T.J. has found the quality of his professors equal to that
of his courses. “Professors here are really passionate about what
they teach,” he said. “Their passion is contagious.”
This passion brings even the most demanding material to life. “I
was taking sports law,” said T.J., “a night class about
trade-marking, leases, facility management. I really enjoyed
The reason, he said, was the enthusiasm of his professor, Joseph
Kenny: “It’s easier to learn when professors make the subject so
Internships complement course work. In the spring of his sophomore
year, for example, T.J. interned with the New Jersey Nets. “St.
John’s has connections all over the New York area,” he said, “so
the internships are fantastic.”
A Great Place to Get
Beyond academics, St. John’s offers opportunities to grow
through a dazzling range of student life and service activities.
“It seemed like a great place to get involved,” said T.J. “So I
went at it full steam.”
In the summer before his first semester, T.J. got an early start
with one of St. John’s popular “plunges” — service activities
throughout the U.S. and around the world. The summer plunge took
him to Germantown, PA., where he helped prepare local schools for
He went on to write columns for Stormfront, the student newspaper,
and serves on the campus’s Multicultural Advisory Committee. T.J.
also “gravitated” toward Campus Ministry, assisting at Mass and
helping to build a temporary “cardboard city” to spark awareness
“We set up cardboard boxes on campus and slept in them overnight,”
T.J. explained. “It was November, so it got pretty cold.”
T.J. also has taken advantage of the many service activities
available through Campus Ministry. He has distributed food to
homeless people through “midnight runs” and helped to clean a local
cemetery as part of University Service Day.
His most memorable service experience was a spring plunge in New
Orleans. T.J. and other St. John’s students helped to restore homes
ravaged by Hurricane Katrina — painting, spackling and removing
water-logged furniture. “We were tired, but it felt good to help
people in need.”
This semester, T.J. serves as a student assistant in Campus
Ministry and is an Orientation Coordinator for new freshmen
arriving at St. John’s this summer.
Building Blocks for
From childhood through college, T.J. has grown by demanding much of
himself. St. John’s has allowed him to expand his knowledge while
contributing to the lives of others.
Acceptance into the President’s Society, he said, is a rewarding
sign that he has followed this tradition. “It’s definitely made an
impact on me, like all my experiences at St. John’s. They’re like
building blocks for life.”
We invite you to visit our Undergraduate
Admission pages to learn more about the St. John’s