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Law School Honors Hon. Joseph W. Bellacosa '61, '87HON and EJ Thorsen '08 at Annual Luncheon

L-R: Law School Alumni Association President Richard F. Hans '93, Hon. Joseph W. Bellacosa, Dean Michael A. Simons Photo by: Rick Kopstein
Wednesday, February 1, 2017

“There is very little that individuals can accomplish on their own. But when individuals come together in an institution, united in a common purpose, they can accomplish great things.” Dean Michael A. Simons shared these inspiring words with some 360 alumni, faculty, administrators, friends, and students who came together at the New York Hilton on January 27, 2017 for the Law School Alumni Association’s annual luncheon.

The attendees enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of community and connection with friends old and new. They also celebrated this year’s Belson Medal recipients. Named for the late Maxine '98HON and Jerome Belson '48, '80HON, the medal goes to individuals who have demonstrated a special loyalty and dedication to St. John’s Law and a respect for the University’s mission, and whose philanthropy has had a significant impact upon the advancement of legal education at the Law School.

Another luncheon highlight was the presentation of the Recent Graduate Service Award to Eun Chong (EJ) Thorsen, a partner at Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, in recognition of her outstanding service to alma mater. Accepting the honor, Thorsen acknowledged her fellow alumni in the room as “leaders, innovators, and problem solvers who are ambassadors of St. John’s Law out there in the world.”

Tracing her childhood journey from South Korea to New Jersey and, later, to law school, Thorson said, “Like many of you, St. John’s Law gave me the knowledge, tools, relationships, and resources to become a confident, hardworking attorney with grit and compassion who serves the bar and community.” That service to profession and community, she shared, includes her new role as the first Asian American president of the Queens County Women’s Bar Association. 

Service—to St. John’s and to the people of the State of New York—is a hallmark of the life and career of the Law School’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Hon. Joseph W. Bellacosa, associate judge (ret.) of the New York State Court of Appeals and former dean of St. John’s Law. The award is presented to a person who exemplifies a true Vincentian spirit, service to others, commitment to the Rule of Law, and generosity, dedication, and loyalty to alma mater. Judge Bellacosa is the second alumnus to receive the award. The first recipient was Joseph M. Mattone, Sr., '53C, '55L, '94 HON, who accepted the honor at the Law School’s 90th Anniversary Gala in June.

Congratulating Judge Bellacosa, Dean Simons noted that, at each step on his professional path, “whether as an attorney, a professor, a law school administrator, a court administrator, a judge, a trustee, or a dean, [Judge Bellacosa] gave of himself in service: in service to the ideals of the legal profession; in service to goals of justice; in service to the mission of St. John’s. And in each setting, he made the institution better, and by doing so made a difference in people’s lives.”

Taking the podium to accept the award, Judge Bellacosa paid tribute to Jerome and Maxine Belson and to the unwavering support they gave the deans of St. John’s Law over many years. “We all raced our unbroken relay and handed off the baton of leadership, inspired by the Vincentian attitude and frame of mind devoted to service among one another, in tandem with the long line of fabulous faculties and individual professors of our wonderful Law School experiences across the decades,” Judge Bellacosa said.

Continuing the race analogy, he observed: “Metaphorically, [races] are symbolic of all of you and me, and countless thousands of others not present in this room beyond this fabulous metropolitan region, extending over alma mater’s 90-year history, so far—running, running, running  . . . in service to people in need of legal guidance, in public service work of many kinds, like my dear judicial colleagues, and in many communities, not-for profits, and other local government services, delivered to the neighborhoods we came from, live in, and to all people in various levels and degrees of need.”

That is the St. John’s Law story, Judge Bellacosa said, and it’s one for which the alumni gathered at the luncheon and joined in community across the globe can be very proud.