Lewis Avenue Alumni Turn Back the Clock at 59th Annual Reunion

October 19, 2016

For the distinguished men and women who joined the St. John’s University family as students on Lewis Avenue, the passage of 60 or more years has done nothing to diminish their connection to each other or to the campus that still means so much to them. If anything, those connections are stronger and more vibrant today than ever.

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The road that led from Lewis Avenue into the world at large traveled in many directions, and yet for many alumni of that historic Brooklyn campus, it was never a one-way street. Even after all these years, no matter where their life has taken them, they still find their way back to St. John’s.

“The Lewis Avenue alumni embody the mission of St. John’s like no others,” remarked Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., M.Div. ’70C, Executive Vice President for Mission. “They are a wonderful group of people who have taken the values of the University and their faith in God and have served the world in many exceptional ways. We are deeply indebted to them for all that they have done, and continue to do, for St. John’s.”

On Sunday, October 2, 2016, these loyal alumni gathered on the Queens campus for the 59th Annual Lewis Avenue Reunion. The event began with Mass in St. Thomas More Church, followed by brunch in the D’Angelo Center.

The highlight of this popular annual event was the presentation of the Lewis Avenue Alumni Legacy Award to Nicholas D’Arienzo, M.D. ’53C, Rev. Dominick Cutrone ’51C, and James Ducey ’50C, ’72MBA (posthumously). The award is presented to Lewis Avenue alumni who have gone forth to distinguish themselves by making a lasting difference in their personal and professional communities while maintaining a commitment to the Vincentian values that lie at the heart of the St. John’s mission.

“St. John’s is a wonderful place, and not only of learning,” noted Dr. D’Arienzo. “It’s a place where we first started our friendships with fellow students that have lasted our entire lives.

St. John’s is all about friendship, love, and knowledge. To this day, the Vincentian mission of making a difference is absolutely important to me. Even though I’m retired and don’t have an active practice, I’m still involved with people. St. John’s has been a very important part of my life, and it always will be.”

Fr. Cutrone agreed, noting that “today brings back many memories of the past, and really makes me feel young at heart. I have wonderful recollections of my days on Lewis Avenue. It was right after World War II, and the students were a mixture of 17- and 18-year-olds, like me, and returning veterans in their 20s and 30s. Regardless of our backgrounds, we all got along great! I remember having to write an essay for one of my English classes, imagining what the Hillcrest campus of St. John’s would be like when they finally broke ground years later. I did a fantastic job!”

For the Lewis Avenue alumni, the strong sense of family is what keeps them connected year after year. They first met as fellow students, and as time passed their lives became more and more entwined, forming relationships that continue to survive the passage of time.

The former First Lady of New York State, wife of the late Governor Mario M. Cuomo ’53C, ’56L, ’75HON and mother of current New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Matilda Raffa Cuomo ’54Ed has remained one of the University’s most loyal and dedicated alumnae. Herself a recipient of the Lewis Avenue Alumni Legacy Award in 2010, she was pleased to honor longtime family friend D’Arienzo as he was acknowledged by St. John’s.

“I’m back at St. John’s today for a very special reason,” she said, “and that’s to honor my dear friend Nick D’Arienzo. ‘Dr. Nick’ is the godfather of my son Christopher, so our families have a lot in common.”

“I have so many good memories of Lewis Avenue,” she continued. “After graduation, I became a teacher, as did many of my women friends, some of whom are here today. Many of us met our husbands at St. John’s. Being a St. John’s student at Lewis Avenue was the most wonderful four years that I could ever imagine. And the mission of service that St. John’s instilled in me is still an important part of my life.”

Joseph Bova ’51C was pleased to share his well wishes and reconnect with Fr. Cutrone, the other Legacy Award honoree present at the event. Even though they were fellow students on Lewis Avenue more than six decades ago, their pride in the University is as strong today as ever.

“I’m here today because I wanted to see the guys with whom I went to school,” said Bova. “Father Cutrone is a classmate of mine, someone whom I’ve known for so many years, and I was happy to see that he was being honored today. I’ve been a part of the St. John’s family for 65 years, and I still wear my St. John’s ring. As you can tell, I’m proud to be a St. John’s alumnus.”

Throughout the event, the sense of gratitude to the University and its Vincentian community was heard repeatedly in conversations among the alumni. They acknowledged how the priests who taught them in the classroom and mentored them in their lives made a significant and lasting impact on who they became after their student days were over.

Martin Moran ’52C recalled that his mother wanted him to attend a Catholic college, and when the religious brothers who taught at his high school recommended him to St. John’s, the choice was made. From his very first day on campus, Mr. Moran began working in the cafeteria, a position he held for his entire four years and which allowed him to become friends with nearly everyone at the University.

“It’s where I made friends that have stayed with me for a lifetime,” he said. “We knew everyone, whether they were three years ahead of us or three years behind us. The student body wasn’t that large, and it was nice to know almost everyone.”             

Mr. Moran gratefully acknowledged the role that the Vincentians played in his life.

“St. John’s is where I grew up,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done without  St. John’s and the Vincentians. They changed my life. They made me a man. They made me think of things I never thought of before. The Vincentians on Lewis Avenue had a great influence on all of us.”