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Message from the President: St. John's University Mourns the Passing of Leon DaSilva '99HON

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

St. 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 bestow.

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 sorrow.