The Gans Family Estate
The site of the Staten Island campus was originally purchased in the early 20th Century by immigrant John Gans. He chose the Grymes Hill location for his family estate because it overlooked New York Harbor where he operated a steamship company. The main house of the estate, a 30 room Georgian mansion, was completed in 1915 and became home to son Herbert Gans and his family.
Notre Dame College
In the early 1930’s, Herbert Gans and his wife befriended Mother Saint Egbert, later known as Sister Helen Flynn, a Sister of the Congregation of Notre Dame. She had just been named the director of the newly established Staten Island extension of Fordham University which was housed at Notre Dame Academy, a private school down the road from the Gans estate. When the small college of 13 students received its own charter in 1933, the Gans family sold the family mansion to the new Notre Dame College, a Catholic undergraduate college for women. The home, re-named Flynn Hall after the college foundress, opened in 1934 and graduated its first class in 1935.
In 1937, Lavelle Hall, an academic building, was added and named in honor of Monsignor Lavelle, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York. A science building followed in 1945 named Mahoney Hall, after its principal benefactor.
In 1955, the college doubled its property with the purchase of the Herbert Gans estate, which included several properties, the largest of which served as the college library. It was named Spellman Hall after Francis Cardinal Spellman, then archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, who contributed toward its reconstruction. The final purchase, an English Tudor home at the far end of the campus, was made in 1965. The Drury family, who had purchased the house from Hans Gans in 1945, sold the house and surrounding property to Notre Dame College. It was re-named Rosati Hall in honor of Bishop Joseph Rosati, C.M. 1789-1843.
St. John’s University
Notre Dame College served the community as a premier women’s college for over 30 years. During the late 1960’s, when it became difficult for small colleges to survive, Terence Cardinal Cooke, then Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, asked the Vincentian Fathers of St. John’s University, to integrate Notre Dame College, in order that Catholic higher education remain a vibrant presence in the Staten Island community and its environs.
On January 27, 1971, the New York State Board of Regents approved the consolidation and the Staten Island Campus of St. John’s University became a reality. Classes began in the fall of 1971, combining the original Notre Dame College with the Brooklyn campus of St. John’s, offering undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, business and education.
After becoming the Staten Island campus of St. John’s University, the growth of the campus continued. A new building housing the Loretto Memorial Library opened in 1973. It was named in honor of Mrs. Loretto McCarthy, the late wife of Charles E. McCarthy, D.C.S., Vice President for Business Affairs and Treasurer of the University. In the 1980s, the Campus Center was added. It houses dining facilities, student support services and a gymnasium.
The Kelleher Center was dedicated in 1999. A student-centered building donated by University Trustee and alumnus Denis Kelleher and his wife Carol, the Kelleher Center provides the campus with enrollment services, premier meeting space and a state-of-the-art Fitness Center.
In Fall, 2004, the campus welcomed the John J. DaSilva Academic Center, which features computer labs for student and community use, a media lab, computer assisted classroom space, faculty office space and student/faculty meeting spaces.
In Fall, 2005, a newly refurbished Rosati Hall welcomed the College of Professional Studies administrative offices, faculty spaces, student commons and conference space.
The Campus Today
Today the Staten Island Campus has expanded to include 16.5 acres serving over 2,000 students who are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs. St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Peter J. Tobin College of Business, the College of Professional Studies and the School of Education offer degree programs on the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels with an opportunity for a commuter or residential experience. Over 10,000 degrees have been awarded on the campus to date.
This unique campus, where turn of the century buildings stand along side contemporary edifices, has a magical history of design and purpose. It fulfills the promise to bring together the academic rigor of a national Catholic University with the Vincentian mission. The Staten Island Campus serves individuals beyond its shores including those as close as New Jersey as well as students across the globe.