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St. John’s University Celebrates 20th Annual President’s Dinner on October 27th

 St. John’s University Celebrates 20th Annual President’s Dinner on October 27th
Friday, October 27, 2017

St. John’s University will hold its 20th Annual President’s Dinner on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the New York Hilton Midtown. St. John’s President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., and his wife, Clavel Gempesaw, Ph.D., will host the University’s premier fundraising event of the year.

The President’s Dinner is an annual highlight at St. John’s that gives the University community the opportunity to come together to celebrate its Catholic and Vincentian values. Many past Spirit of Service Award honorees will be in attendance as well as University benefactors, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors and other members of the St. John’s community.  

The President’s Dinner raises funds each year in support of scholarships for the University’s most deserving students, especially those most in need. The event honors St. John’s Spirit of Service Awardees. This year’s honorees include: Rev. Michael J. Carroll, C.M., former Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians); St. John’s double alumna Sharon F. Hajjar and her husband, alumnus John H. Hajjar M.D., Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Sovereign Health Systems; Francesca M. Kurre and alumnus Frank L. Kurre, Managing Partner at Grant Thornton; and Synchrony Financial. Double alumna and St. John’s Trustee, Margaret M. Keane, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Synchrony Financial, will accept the Spirit of Service Award on behalf of her company.   

“Since its inception in 1998, the President’s Dinner has raised more than $26 million in net revenue which has been distributed as scholarship support for St. John’s students,” said University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D. “This means that by receiving an average scholarship award of $5,000, more than 5,200 St. John’s students have been supported by the generosity of our alumni and friends. Clavel and I wish to extend our sincere thanks to all those who support the President’s Dinner as well as our warmest congratulations to the honorees for their outstanding records of service.”

For more information visit the event website at or contact Jeanne M. Umland, Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement, at (718) 990-6776 or via e-mail at [email protected]. For media inquiries contact Jen Tucholski at (917) 209-7164 or via e-mail at [email protected].

Spirit of Service Honoree Biographies

Rev.  Michael J. Carroll, C.M. — Father Carroll recently finished a nine-year term as the Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) and as Vice Chair of the St. John’s Board of Trustees.  Under his direction, notable effort has been given to recruiting candidates to the Congregation and a strong Formation Program has been established. Fr. Carroll opened a new residence and program for Vincentian Seminarians on the Theology level. He also initiated a Leadership Training Program for confreres under the age of 50 as well as an ongoing Formation Program for confreres over the age of 50. As President of the National Conference of Visitors in the United States, he helped to preserve and continue common formation on the Internal Seminary Level in America. Fr. Carroll led the Eastern Province in establishing the 100-year-old Panama Mission as a Region of the Congregation of the Mission with their own Regional Superior and Council. In Panama, he also supported the effort of the region in establishing a new House of Formation for the candidates in philosophy and theology.

Sharon F. Hajjar — Mrs. Hajjar graduated from St. John’s with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from St. Vincent’s College in 1979. She then went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree from St. John’s College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions in 1986. For several years, Mrs. Hajjar played a dual role, working as a registered pharmacist while spending considerable time raising three sons: Michael, Brian and Marc. Mrs. Hajjar and her husband, Dr. John H. Hajjar, are deeply committed to the Vincentian values of helping the poor and underserved. In 2011, they received the St. Joseph’s Health Care System’s William F. Johnson Award for their commitment to the hospital and the community. The Children’s Hospital was renamed the Sharon and John Hajjar Women’s and Children Pavilion at St. Joseph’s. Their philanthropy also extends to education and other efforts with Mrs. Hajjar actively ensuring that their cherished values of caring for those in need are fully realized.

John H. Hajjar, M.D. — Dr. Hajjar is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Sovereign Health System. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1977. Upon graduation, Dr. Hajjar went on to Georgetown University School of Medicine, graduating in 1981, and completed his surgical and urological training at New York University. After conducting research into the genetics of renal cancer following his residency, Dr. Hajjar entered the private practice of urology in northern New Jersey in 1987. In 1992, he established one of the first ambulatory surgery centers in New Jersey. That center served as a prototype for the many ambulatory surgical centers in New York, New Jersey and Florida now operated or under development by Surgem LLC, a management and development company Dr. Hajjar founded in 2005. Today, he devotes all of his professional energies to the growth of Sovereign Health System, a fully integrated community healthcare organization providing clinical expertise and state-of-the-art technology for patients throughout the tri-state area.

Francesca M. Kurre — Mrs. Kurre graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, magna cum laude, from Adelphi University in 1984. She began her professional career at Arthur Andersen LLP and within a year of joining the audit staff, she moved up to senior audit management. In 1986, Mrs. Kurre was promoted to Assistant Director of Human Resources of the audit division and became Director in 1988. In 1991, she left her professional career to begin a family with her husband, Frank. Among her many charitable endeavors, Mrs. Kurre is actively involved with her local parish as well as with the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception and Chaminade High School. Along with her husband, she has been honored by the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Suffolk in 2002 and by the College of Mount St. Vincent in 2017. For both Mrs. and Mr. Kurre, their proudest accomplishment has been raising their children, Kristen, Frank, Lauren and Michael to become loving, compassionate, and empathetic individuals imbued with a Vincentian spirit of caring and concern for others.

Frank L. Kurre — Mr. Kurre currently serves as the Managing Partner of Grant Thornton’s Northeast Region. Prior to this position, he was the Managing Partner of the Metro New York & New England Market Territory. In that role, Mr. Kurre was responsible for all services provided by Grant Thornton to clients in eight states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. He also previously served as the National Managing Partner of the firm’s Higher Education & Not-for-Profit Practice. In that capacity, Mr. Kurre was responsible for all services performed by the firm for higher education and not-for-profit clients nationwide. Over the past 33 years, he has served Fortune 1000 companies, middle market public and private companies, financial institutions and large not-for-profit organizations. Prior to joining Grant Thornton LLP, Mr. Kurre was a Partner at Arthur Andersen LLP.  He is a member of the Grant Thornton Partnership Board, a governing body consisting of ten members elected by the firm’s partners and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Kurre is in his second three-year term on the Partnership Board.

Mr. Kurre is a member of the Board of Governors of St. John’s University. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Catholic Health Services of Long Island and chairman of the health system’s audit and compliance committee. He is a member of the Manhattan chapter of Legatus. Mr. Kurre formerly served as an advisory member to the Accounting Practices Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also serves on the Boards of Directors of the St. John’s Institute for Catholic Schools and the Dominican Foundation.

Mr. Kurre received a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from St. John’s University, summa cum laude, in 1984 and was awarded the President’s Silver Medal for graduating with the second highest index in the College of Business Administration. Mr. Kurre also received his Master’s degree in Pastoral Studies from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 2013 and was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Rockville Centre in May of that same year.

Synchrony Financial — Synchrony Financial is one of the nation’s premier consumer financial services companies with roots in consumer financing tracing back to 1932. According to the June 2017 Nilson Report, the company is the largest provider of private label credit cards in the United States based on purchase volume and receivables. Margaret M. Keane, who graduated from St. John’s University in 1981 and later received an M.B.A. from the University in 1987, has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Synchrony Financial since February 2014. She is also a member and Secretary of the Board of Trustees at St. John’s University.  

Synchrony Financial prides itself on being a responsible corporate citizen. The company recognizes that the most effective charitable investments they can make are strategic partnerships with organizations that work toward social change which result in long-term impact.  The Synchrony Families That Work Program aims to move low- and moderate-income working families to become self-sufficient. The program is designed to drive both financial and employee volunteer support to three major social focus areas that present obstacles for working families:

  • Family Homelessness: To decrease the number of homeless families by supporting housing and shelter programs.
  • Help with Kids: To alleviate the childcare burden for working parents by supporting pre-school, after-school and summer programs. 
  • Economic Security: To assist income providers of families to move their finances forward by supporting financial education, job readiness and small business programs.