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SJU Spirit in Full Force during Florida Events

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sunshine State seemed even brighter this past March, as St. John’s University alumni and friends hosted a variety of events throughout Florida. From baseball games to dock parties to marching in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the get-togethers provided time for socializing and networking with fellow alumni. 

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“I have been visiting alumni in Florida for several years now, and this trip was clearly our most successful,” said Susan Damiani ’87CBA, Director of Gift Planning. “In total, St. John’s engaged over 200 alumni and friends throughout the state, including local alumni and various members of The McCallen Society. Simply put, it was a great time filled with lots of school spirit and wonderful people.” 

Some of the receptions included: dinner at the Cloisters in Winter Park, FL, hosted by John Sherry ’65C and his wife, Pamela Sherry ’67Ed; an Alumni Dock Party at the beautiful Palm Beach Yacht Club, hosted by The McCallen Society and Bob Silvani ’74CBA; and a St. John’s University Mixer at Grande Oaks Golf Club, made possible thanks to Ray Ferrero ’55CBA.

Many of these events allowed members of The McCallen Society to meet with some of the University’s top administrators, including President Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., Provost Robert A. Mangione ’77P, ’79GP, ’93PD, ’99Ed.D. and School of Law Dean Michael A. Simons, J.D.

“The venues were absolutely beautiful, and it was a pleasure to meet so many members of St. John’s leadership,” said Marilyn Verna ’66Ed, ’96Ed.D., a proud McCallen Society member. Verna and her sister, Elaine Verna ’54CBA, traveled from New York to Florida to attend nearly every SJU event, and they loved every minute of it. 

“We decided to make a real trip out of it, visiting family, friends and staying connected with St. John’s,” she explained. “I met such lovely people, individuals who exhibit the warmth and friendship I’ve come to expect from fellow St. John’s alumni, and I learned so much about the recent academic achievements on campus while speaking with Provost Mangione.”

For many, the highlight of the trip came at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration in Naples, FL. St. John’s was the largest university contingent at the parade – surpassing the alumni marchers from every other BIG EAST school.  

“It was just so much fun,” said Bob Kelly ’61CBA, an alumnus whose SJU spirit is still strong. A former mascot back when he was an undergraduate, Kelly helped to lead the cheers as he marched.

“The Naples parade has become a huge hot-spot for colleges, and we stole the show,” Kelly explained.

There must have been 45,000 spectators lining the streets, and when they saw our St. John’s banner coming around the corner, we had the crowd cheering.

"We started a few ‘We are…St. John’s!’ chants, and that really got the fans into it. It’s safe to say that, out of all of the colleges, we were a crowd favorite.” 

This year’s Florida events also placed a greater emphasis on Chapter engagement, thanks to the efforts of Elizabeth Austin ’08TCB, ’10MBA, Assistant Director in the Office of Alumni Relations. Austin has been working with alumni across the country to increase the University’s focus on regional Chapters. 

“We have over 7,000 alumni living all throughout the state,” Austin noted. “We have Chapters set up in East Coast, FL, West Coast, FL, Central Florida and Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL, and so many of our generous graduates have volunteered to lead the area in planning and organizing great events.”

Darren J. Kiley ’88SVC is one of those generous alumni, currently serving as Chapter Leader of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale, FL Alumni Chapter. He attended a handful of the events in March and is excited about engaging more alumni.

“What made this year’s Florida events so special was that I met so many new alumni whom I’d never seen before,” he explained. “Without a doubt, our reach is growing, and it’s largely because the people at St. John’s – Susan Damiani, Elizabeth Austin and others – are quality people.”

The Florida trip concluded with a New York Yankees spring training game at Steinbrenner Field. Kiley noted that more baseball game outings are in the works this summer. Most importantly, though, Kiley was encouraged to see so many different generations of St. John’s alumni getting involved.

“There’s a tremendous camaraderie between our alumni, and it extends from one age to another,” he said. “Whether you’re a young professional looking to network, or just looking to meet some new friends, these events are really fantastic. There’s no greater fraternity than St. John’s, whether you’re in New York or Florida, and that’s a wonderful thing.”