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Alumni Couples Celebrate the Love they Found at St. John's

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On a day when the winds were blowing and the snow was swirling outside, St. Thomas More Church was filled with the warmth of love as alumni couples gathered for the annual Blessing of the Couples.  The event celebrates the enduring love that exists between alumni who met at St. John’s, later married, and have maintained a connection to the University that has stood the test of time.

“This popular event really highlights the common bond that exists between the alumni couples who trace their relationship back to St. John’s,” noted Mark Andrews, Director of the University’s Office of Alumni Relations. “They’re devoted not only to each other but also to St. John’s, and we want to celebrate that devotion. It’s also great to hear their stories about what the University was like when they were students.”

Although their memories were both personal and unique, they all shared the common theme of the ongoing importance of St. John’s throughout their lives.

Judith (’75C, ’77G) and Rocco Gibaldi ‘74C were both Mathematics majors and initially met at a meeting of the Math Club. Although they were friendly during their student days, they didn’t begin dating until circumstances brought them together after Rocco’s graduation.

“Judith was a year behind me,” he recalled, “and she became ill while she was taking summer classes. I had just graduated and the Chairman of the Math Department suggested that she contact me for tutoring to help her catch up on the work she missed. So I guess you could say that he became our matchmaker.”

With Rocco’s help, Judith got through her coursework, and much to her delight, the couple began dating soon after.  They’ve been married for 37 years.

“I liked Rocco immediately,” she said, ”and had my eye on him right from the start. It just took him almost five years to ask me out.”

St. John’s was a transforming experience in both of our lives. We wouldn’t be who we are today if it weren’t for St. John’s.” Judith added.

The University brought out the best in us, and we’ll always be proud to be a part of it.”

Like many Freshmen, Marisa (‘80CBA) and John Princiotta ’80CBA, ’85MBA were a bit confused about where to go on their first day as St. John’s students. They were both looking for the same Speech class, and neither knew whether or not they were in the right place. It turned out that they were, and they became good friends from that point on.  They were married three months after graduation, and have been a loving couple for the past 33 years.

“St. John’s was a wonderful experience for both of us,” said John. “Even though so much time has passed, we’re still friendly with many of the people that we met during our student days. An event like this is really about love, and that’s what St. John’s has always been about, at least for us.”

For many alumni, participating in Blessing of the Couples is just one more opportunity for them to stay connected to the University that means so much to them. Their personal family is strongly entwined with their St. John’s family – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My husband Rachid (‘94SVC) and I were both very active on campus,” said Ianthe Dunn-Murad ’95C, ’97G. “We bring our children back to St. John’s events every year, particularly the Alumni Great Lawn Party and the Christmas events. This is the second time we’ve been to Blessing of the Couples, and it has become one of our favorite gatherings. St. John’s is just like home for us. We have such great memories from our days here, and some of our happiest times are still spent at St. John’s.”  

And whether they’re newlyweds or were married decades ago, for these special alumni couples the connection to each other and their University seems to grow stronger with every passing year. 

Raymond (’70GP, ’78PharmD.) and Donna Suckow ’70GP were among the first students to earn a graduate degree in Toxicology from St. John’s College of Pharmacy. They met in the laboratory while conducting research for their degrees. Enjoying their mutual academic and personal interests, their friendship deepened and they continued to see each other after graduation. 

They have been married for the past 42 years and have never lost their love for the University that brought them together more than four decades ago.

“St. John’s will always be a special place for us,” acknowledged Donna. “It allowed us to develop our professional abilities and brought us together as a couple for a lifetime of happiness. It’s special for us to come back to this Mass and remember our time here. We have a lot to celebrate in our lives, and St. John’s will always be a part of it.”