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A Message to the St. John’s Community from President Gempesaw

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

As St. John's University commences our 148th academic year, I write to welcome you and to address recent national and world events. To our newest undergraduate and graduate students, I say welcome to St. John's. To our returning students, I say welcome back. To our entire University community, I say welcome home.

Recently, our nation bore witness to the abhorrent acts of hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia. The divisive acts of violence that erupted in Charlottesville are, in a word, evil. We must stand together on the side of good versus evil and unite against any form of racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, neo-Nazism, bigotry, and discrimination. As a Catholic and Vincentian University, we join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in their clear condemnation and heartfelt prayer: "We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy, and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love's victory over every form of evil is assured... Let us especially remember those who lost their lives. Let us join their witness and stand against every form of oppression."

These are challenging times for our country and the world. We share in the grief and pray for the victims from 34 countries impacted by the recent terrorist attack in Barcelona. Threats of terrorism and violence exist both in the United States and abroad. With over one thousand St. John's students studying abroad every year, we will continue to take the necessary precautions possible to keep our students and faculty safe.

St. John's University was founded in 1870. Over the course of the last 147 years, throughout periods of poverty and prosperity, and times of tragedy and triumph, the Catholic and Vincentian mission of St. John's University has remained the same. Our founding mission endures—to be a place where immigrants, the children of immigrants, and especially those most in need can obtain a quality education that expands their opportunities to be successful and productive citizens. 

Even before the Statue of Liberty took residence in New York Harbor and before her torch was lit, the lamp of opportunity was already burning brightly in a small wooden building in Brooklyn where St. John's held its first classes. That lamp, now replicated on top of the D'Angelo Center—a building inspired by the Great Hall on Ellis Island—is not only a tribute to our founding, but serves as a perpetual reminder of what our University stands for. We are a campus of diverse people who come from near and far to find a home at St. John's. It is in our diversity and commitment to inclusivity that we learn to understand each other so we can be stronger in meeting the challenges we face today.

Again, welcome home. I extend my personal best wishes to all of you for a successful academic year.

Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D.