April 27, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010 alumnae and friends gathered on the Queens
campus to acknowledge the achievements of the women who have
graduated from St. John's University while discussing how the role
of women has changed during the past 50 years. Hosted by the
St. John's University Alumnae Association, "Celebrating the Women
of St. John's" was made possible through the generosity of the Dr.
E. Lawrence Deckinger Family Foundation. The Foundation is
named in memory of E. Lawrence Deckinger, Ph.D. a beloved former
faculty member and long-term supporter of St. John's.
The program began as Thea Graves Pellman '57CBA provided guests
with an informative history of the Alumnae Association. A moving
force behind the Association for many years, Pellman described the
important role that women graduates have played in every aspect of
the University family, including their establishment of the
Veronica M. Smith Alumnae Association Scholarship Fund. The Fund
provides scholarship assistance to relatives of Alumnae Association
members entering St. John's as full-time undergraduates.
recipient Keri Zachmann '12P expressed her appreciation to the
alumnae for providing much needed financial assistance that has
allowed her to achieve academic success. "Thank you for my
scholarship," she said. "I'm grateful because the grant lets me
concentrate on my studies, which are very important to me."
Representing the Dr. E. Lawrence Deckinger Family Foundation, Nancy
Deckinger welcomed and introduced Keynote Speaker Gail Collins, the
first woman editor of the New York Times editorial page and author
of When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American
Women from 1960 to the Present.
Collins discussed how the research she conducted for her book
uncovered the many ways that the role of women in our society has
evolved during the past half-century. She described how, in
1960, the most coveted job for a woman was that of an airline
stewardess, even though the position was fraught with numerous
limits and restraints. "Back then, stewardesses had to have a
certain appearance," she said. "They had to look a certain way,
walk a certain way, have physical measurements within well-defined
ranges and couldn't be married. A former stewardess told me
that one of her colleagues was secretly married, and when the
company found out about it a representative came onto the plane and
took her away. She was fired and never heard from again.
That's the way it was back then."
that in 1960 women couldn't serve on juries, couldn't get credit in
their own name and didn't bother applying for jobs that were simply
unavailable to them. That reality changed in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, when the former restrictions against women became
illegal. "People's relationships changed," she recalled. "It was
absolutely astounding. Almost overnight our expectations about what
a little girl could do when she grew up became very different. It
was the civil rights movement that made the country very touchy
about fairness, and that was a great thing."
Collins noted that even today, the "…career vs. children dilemma is
still a challenge for women. It's something that we need to address
and deal with as a society."
In addition to hearing from an accomplished woman who has been at
the forefront of her profession for many years, alumnae enjoyed the
opportunity to come back to alma mater to interact with
other female graduates of the University. "I love St. John's," said
Mary Tomes '81C, '07MLS. "It's been great to me. My husband also
teaches here now in the [St. John's] College of Professional
Studies, and it's just a wonderful place. I thought it would be
great to come today. I'm also very interested in hearing Gail
Collins speak because I've read her books as well."
this event because I knew I would meet a different mix of
individuals," agreed Susan Strong '99MBA. "I've met people from
health care, art and education so far. People here are friendly and
sharing and I think you just learn so many things. As always, St
John's is a great school and I love it!"
For additional information about the Alumnae Association or to
participate in upcoming Alumnae Association activities, please
contact Kristy Horning '06CPS at (718) 990-6835 or e-mail