September 11, 2012
John’s celebrates the life and mourns the passing of Leon DaSilva,
‘99HON, a longtime friend and generous benefactor of our
University, who passed away on September 9 at the age of 90.
DaSilva Academic Center on the Staten Island campus and both
DaSilva Field and DaSilva Residence Hall on the Queens campus
inextricably link the DaSilva name to St. John’s. In addition, he
is the only person whose name is memorialized on more than one
campus of the University, making him a unique as well as
extraordinarily generous benefactor. Information on his
wake and funeral may be accessed here.
A native of British Guyana and a decorated World War II veteran,
Leon came to the United States after the war and began his quest
for the American dream. Starting out as a building superintendent,
he used his astute financial judgment to make wise investments and
eventually became owner of the buildings. Thus began what has been
a remarkable career in real estate and business centered in the
borough of Staten Island.
His relationship with the University began through his son, John, a
St. John’s student athlete, who was a member of the University’s
hockey team. When John was tragically killed in an automobile
accident the year after he graduated from St. John’s in 1980, his
father set out to assure that the son’s name was forever linked to
the University he had loved. He began by endowing a scholarship so
that young men and women who might otherwise have been unable to
afford a St. John’s education could attend the University. He then
supported restoration of the Stadium on the Queens campus which had
originally been erected in 1978 but was in need of refurbishment.
DaSilva Memorial Field, today located adjacent to the D’Angelo
Center, was dedicated in 1998. Shortly after St. John’s made its
decision to become a residential campus, Mr. DaSilva provided
support for DaSilva Hall, which was opened in August 2000. His own
longtime relationship with Staten Island made that campus a logical
choice for his next gift. The DaSilva Academic Center, a 37,000
square foot , three-story, state-of-the-art building housing
computer classrooms, a technology center, faculty and
administrative offices, student lounges, and a communication arts
suite was completed in 2004. Also housed within the building
are state of the art education laboratories that facilitate
professional development programs for elementary and secondary
school teachers from throughout the metropolitan region.
St. John’s expressed its gratitude to Leon on numerous occasions.
An honorary doctorate in Commercial Science was conferred upon him
in 1999. The Terence Cardinal Cooke Medal, given to individuals who
have made significant contributions to the life of the Staten
Island campus, was presented to him in 2002, And in 2006, he
received the Gold Medal, the highest award that St. John’s can
I know that the St. John’s community joins me in extending its
prayers and deepest sympathy to the DaSilva family in this time of