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Lewis Avenue Reunion Offers a Step Back in Time

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

For the past 56 years, the alumni of St. John’s Lewis Avenue campus have come together to share memories and reconnect with many of their former classmates who called the University’s original campus their home. Although they graduated many years ago, they still enjoy a strong attachment to St. John’s, and look forward to catching up with those who shared the Lewis Avenue experience with them.

“Lewis Avenue was a unique place,” remarked George Devine ’52C, ’55L, “and the memories and the friendships that we made there will last forever. There was a sense of closeness that kept everyone connected. That connection is obviously alive and well all these years later. Each of us here is an unmistakable reflection of how Lewis Avenue still holds a special place in our hearts.”

Over the years the Lewis Avenue alumni have generously supported The Father Cyril Meyer, C.M. Lewis Avenue Alumni Scholarship Fund. To date, they have contributed nearly $249,000 to provide annual grants of one or more partial scholarships to deserving students studying in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The more we raise, the more students we can help,” said Devine. “We’ve already established our place in the history of St. John’s, and supporting this scholarship is a great way to secure our place in its future.”

A highlight of the Reunion is the presentation of the St. John’s Lewis Avenue Alumni Legacy Award. This year’s recipients were William Ryan ’47C and Constance Stoll ’56Ed. Ryan enjoyed a successful career as a business executive in the merchandising field, and Stoll, who is also a two-time Olympian, mentored thousands of young people as a gifted and compassionate teacher, guidance counselor and principal.

Both were genuinely pleased to have been recognized by their peers and effusive in their praise for the University that still means so much to them.

“Needless to say, I’m very honored to have been selected to receive this award,” said Ryan. “There are so many alumni who went to school on Lewis Avenue who are probably more deserving of this recognition than I am, but I definitely appreciate the sentiment behind it. I graduated from Lewis Avenue in 1947, and when I look back it seems like only yesterday. I have wonderful memories of my time there.”

For Stoll, receiving the award was a reminder of how her years on Lewis Avenue had a lasting impact on her life. She noted that although she had to work to pay her tuition, she never lost sight of the importance of completing her St. John’s education.

“When I was going to school on Lewis Avenue I had a job from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, and went to class from 4 to 6 p.m. every afternoon and all day on Saturday,” she said. “Everything that I earned went to pay for my tuition, and to save money I even made my own clothes. But all of that hard work was worth it, because I got a great education and had a wonderful career in the teaching profession. Receiving this award is just one more reminder of how special St. John’s will always be to me.”

Working to pay tuition was a way of life for many Lewis Avenue alumni. Even though their families could not afford to pay for their education, these hard-working students knew the value of a St. John’s degree and were willing to do whatever was necessary to achieve their goal.

Catherine Malloy ’56Ed remembers what it was like to combine the responsibilities of a full-time job with the demands of a rigorous academic curriculum. She admits that it wasn’t easy, but acknowledges that knowing that so many of her fellow students were in the same situation brought everyone closer together.

“I had to work to help pay my tuition,” she said, “which at that time was $12 a credit. But that was a lot of money in those days. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to St. John’s, but I was determined that I was going to become a teacher. I didn’t see the fact that I had to work as any sort of imposition, because so many of us were in the same boat. It was just the reality of what we had to do back then. I came to St. John’s with a few friends from high school, and we all had great careers as teachers and administrators.”

For Martin Moran ’52C, growing up in an Irish-Catholic household in Brooklyn meant that, when it was time to choose a college, St. John’s was at the top of the list. He knew that St. John’s had a great reputation, and was determined to make the most of that special opportunity. Friendly and outgoing by nature, he began making lifelong friends as soon as he arrived at Lewis Avenue.

“My best memory of Lewis Avenue really happened on my very first day,” he recalled. “On my first day I went to the cafeteria to look for a job, and I actually got a job right there. I worked in the cafeteria for my entire four years, serving lunches and dinners, so I got to know everyone as they were going through the food line. I have great memories of everyone passing through the Lewis Avenue cafeteria. It was a wonderful experience, and I made friends for life. I really don’t think that I can ever repay St. John’s for all that the University did for me.”