September 23, 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 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 Ruben Rafaelov
“My responsibility is to help the needy
wherever they are:”
It is not often that a student’s career and personal goals so
perfectly match his university’s mission. But, in the case of Ruben
Rafaelov, the two are totally in synch.
“Even before I decided to become a pharmacist, I was interested in
coming here,” said Ruben. “I was drawn to St. John’s because of its
mission statement. It encompasses all that I value: care for the
community and the obligation to give back by sharing our talents to
make the world a better place.”
Clearly, Ruben made the right choice. The success he has achieved
here was officially recognized by the University when he was chosen
to be a member of the elite President’s Society this year. The
Society honors students who excel at academics, service and
leadership — reflecting St. John’s mission as a Catholic university
in the Vincentian tradition.
Becoming a Pharmacist for the 21st Century
The 21-year old pharmacy student was born in the former Soviet
Union and moved with his family to Jamaica, Queens, when he was
five. “My high school was right across the road from the
University,” he said. “I became used to seeing the campus almost
As a budding pharmacist, he has found fertile ground at St. John’s
in which to develop and refine his holistic concept of pharmacy.
Now in his fourth year of St. John’s six-year Doctor of Pharmacy
program, Ruben plans to practice integrative pharmacy. “I want to
be a bridge between cultural traditions, complementary and
alternative medicine and mainstream medicine,” he explained.
Drawing a comparison between St. John’s emphasis on developing not
only the mind, but also the heart, Ruben said his practice will
treat the patient holistically. For example, in addition to
educating patients about the proper use of medications, he will
also provide nutrition and exercise counseling.
Planting Seeds for Future
“St. John’s has given me many opportunities to combine my interest
in healthcare with serving those in need,” Ruben said. “The
community service I’ve done here has inspired me to dedicate myself
to helping the disadvantaged attain social justice in
In 2008, Ruben was one of 25 St. John’s student leaders who
participated in Campus Ministry’s “New Orleans Service Plunge.” He
traveled to the devastated, New Orleans, post-Katrina lower ninth
ward to take part in a five-day effort to improve community morale
and housing conditions.
“That plunge helped plant the seeds for my desire to use healthcare
to help educate and empower those in need,” he said. This
commitment mirrors Ruben’s devotion to tikkun olam — the
Judaic view that everyone has a responsibility to “heal the world”
by promoting social justice.
Extracurricular activities have strengthened Ruben’s appreciation
for the value communications skills play in serving culturally
diverse communities. For example, as President of the Jewish
Student Association, Ruben helped build a better understanding at
St. John’s of Jewish culture. He also participated in a Student
Leadership Network Retreat on Multiculturalism.
World Class Education in Humanity
To serve others through holistic medicine, Ruben noted, a
pharmacist needs a solid academic background. Ruben is confident he
has gained this through the quality academics and dedicated
professors in St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health
He sings the praises of professors like Kenneth Foldes, Ph.D.,
whose course in metaphysics helped Ruben articulate his
professional philosophy. In addition, he cites Rajes Nayak, Ph.D.’s
course on the economics of health care and Cesar Lau Cam, Ph.D.’s
research on herb-drug interactions.
“Thanks to St. John’s,” he added. “I am more in touch with who I
am. I have learned to be genuine, honest and have trust in others.”
This self-confidence was on display when Ruben applied for
admittance into the University’s coveted President’s Society last
”I felt that I could add a unique flavor to the Society while
representing the kind of leaders St. John’s produces,” he said. As
a member, one of his satisfactions is “being around other St.
John’s leaders who are extremely motivated and also possess strong
moral characters and values.”
Above all, Ruben is grateful to St. John’s “for giving me the
opportunity to receive a world class education in civility,
leadership, collaboration and humanity. The lessons I have learned
by being part of the St. John’s community will help me become a
better health professional,“ he said.