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LEAD by Example: STJ Honors Alumni Educators

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why are educators so important? Take one look at the honorees of the Eighth Annual Leaders in Education Awards Dinner (L.E.A.D.) on the Queens campus, and the answer becomes abundantly clear.

“These individuals train young men and women not just for the professional world, but for life,” said Jerrold Ross, Ph.D., Dean of St. John’s The School of Education. “And I don’t think we’ve ever had a better list of honorees. These are all extraordinary people who have truly touched lives. They’re remarkable for the impact they’ve had on others.”

This year’s honorees included:

Philip A. Composto ’02Ed.D.
Community Superintendent, District 30

Patrick J. Dunphy, Jr. ’06Ed, ’08GEd
Social Studies Coordinator, Francis Lewis High School

Anna R. Lukachik ’80Ed
Director, Citigroup, Citi Learning: North America Consumer

Patrick J. McLaughlin ’95PD
Principal, St. Francis Preparatory School

Mary H. Pelkowski ’89C, ’93GEd, ’98PD, ’07G
Associate Dean for Student Engagement, St. John’s University  

From classroom teaching to administrative roles, the honorees encompassed a variety of different positions within the field of Education, and they each discussed how St. John’s helped them on their path.

“As I walked across campus on my way to this dinner, I stood in awe of how far St. John’s has come,” Lukachik noted. “There are so many new buildings and new improvements here, but, through it all, we’ve still got that strong sense of community, which was always so important. To be honored in this way, along with other tremendous educators, is a truly humbling experience.”

Meanwhile, Dunphy, Jr. became one of the youngest L.E.A.D. honorees, recognized by the University for the outstanding accomplishments he’s achieved during his short professional career. A Social Studies Coordinator at Francis Lewis High School, Dunphy, Jr. poked fun at his youth while simultaneously reflecting on why he finds his profession so rewarding.

“My wife asked me the other night, totally innocently, ‘How are you going to rationalize being up there with all those big shots?’” he joked. “But, in all seriousness, what makes the field of Education so remarkable is that we get the opportunity to listen to students, to mentor them. And watching students grow as individuals during the time you teach them is one of the most gratifying feelings I’ve ever experienced.”

Other honorees, like Pelkowski, spoke about their longstanding relationship with St. John’s. A quadruple alumna with a passion for Higher Education, Pelkowski has been an instrumental part of the University community since joining the Office of Student Affairs in 1993. As she received her L.E.A.D. award, she recalled the first day she came to visit the Queens campus.

“My mother and I pulled up to campus for a tour and I saw our beautiful Great Lawn,” Pelkowski said. “My mother told me, ‘Mary, this is the perfect place for you.’ Meanwhile, I was thinking, ‘Relax, we’re not even out of the car yet.’ I had no idea what my mom meant that day, but I certainly do now.”

Two decades later, Pelkowski continues to leave an indelible mark on the University she loves, now as an administrator.

“I’ve spent my St. John’s journey in service and the education of others,” she added, “and, to me, there is simply no greater reward or profession than what we do here.”

As the program concluded, Ross noted the vast differences in the honorees – an intergenerational group of Educators with different specialties and concentrations. But, he noted, they shared one important characteristic: they all graduated from St. John’s.

“Honoring these individuals is a wonderful reflection on our own University,” Ross explained. “The spirit of our School of Education dates back to over 100 years ago. We have moved into the new century and, along with it, are doing our best to produce students who can soon measure up to all of the honorees here tonight – a collection of truly wonderful individuals.”