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Second Annual Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend Celebrates Past, Present, and Future

Monday, June 5, 2017

St. John’s graduates from a wide variety of class years—many bringing family and friends—returned to the Queens campus on June 2 and 3 to reconnect with alma mater, meet former classmates, and support current students during the University’s Second Annual Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend (GAHW).

The University’s largest alumni celebration drew 1,600 participants, an eight percent increase over last spring's attendance. The graduates ranged from 50th anniversary celebrants to those who earned their degrees within the past decade. This year's theme was “Re-engage, Reminisce, and Renew.”

For many, the highlight was the Grand Alumni Signature Celebration on Saturday, June 3. Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s, welcomed guests to dinner in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom. “Homecoming,” he said, “is remembering the past, celebrating the present, and staying in touch for the future. Tonight, you have come home to St. John’s.”

Activities for the Entire Family

“St. John’s is much more than a place,” observed Mark Andrews, Director of Alumni Relations. “It’s the people, the success, the history, and the tradition. Our alumni in large part make St. John’s what it is. That’s something we celebrate this weekend and embrace throughout the year.”

Overnight guests checked in to campus housing as early as Thursday, June 1. After a complimentary breakfast on Friday, GAHW offered two new events: alumni boarded buses for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Tour in Lower Manhattan and visited the on-campus SJU Heritage Exhibit. Later, they attended the Individual College and School Award Ceremonies and Receptions, followed by the outdoor “After Party” Alumni Gathering.

On Saturday, fitness-minded alumni took part in the St. John’s 5K Run/Walk and Kids Fun Run or the Kids 4 Confidence Charity Kickball Game, organized by basketball alumnus Anthony Mason, Jr. Other activities featured a Brunch and Q&A with Dr. Gempesaw, Campus Walking Tours, Academic Lectures, a Q&A with SJU Red Storm Athletics and Coaches, and Academic Lectures.

With food, music, rides, and games, the Alumni Great Lawn Party drew hundreds of alumni and their families. “We had to come back for this,” said Diane Miltakis Mussalli ’98Pharm.D. She and her husband, Andrew, a 1998 biology graduate, brought their three children. “It’s a beautiful way to spend the afternoon,” she observed.

The Heart and Soul of St. John’s

The Alumni Signature Event opened with Mass and the University Alumni Award Ceremony in St. Thomas More Church. St. John’s honored six distinguished graduates:

  • Harry R. Beeth ’67CBA, ’70MBA (Pietas Medal)
  • Lee D. Eisenberg, M.D., FACS ’67C (Outstanding Alumni Achievement Medal)
  • Steven J. Farella ’77SVC (Heritage Circle)
  • Sr. Beryl F. Herdt, O.P. ’67Ph.D. (Pietas Medal)
  • William J. Montgoris ’67CBA (University Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • Salvatore J. Zizza ’67UC (President’s Medal)

The Celebration Reception and Dinner paid special tribute to 50th Anniversary alumni, who established a scholarship with a class gift of $50,000. William Montgoris, the Class Chair and Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, delivered the Alumni Remarks.

A Trustee Emeritus, Mr. Montgoris drew cheers from his classmates as he recounted their days at St. John’s former Schermerhorn Street campus in Brooklyn. He urged his fellow alumni to “do anything you can do, in any way,” to support current students. “They are much as we were 50 years ago,” he said.

As the evening ended, Kayla Knight ’19CPS, of St. John’s Mixed Chorus, sang “Home,” by Phillip Phillips, and the University’s “Alma Mater.” Introducing her, Dr. Gempesaw thanked alumni for attending the weekend’s festivities. “You are the heart and soul of St. John’s,” he said.