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Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend Brings Four Days of Celebration to St. John’s

Monday, June 4, 2018

St. John’s University alumni, their families, and friends returned to alma mater on Thursday, May 31, through Sunday, June 3, to reconnect with former classmates while supporting current students during the University’s third annual Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend (GAHW).

“You have come home to St. John’s to celebrate, and to remember the past—the hard work and sacrifices you made in order to earn your St. John’s degree—and most specially, the friendships that have endured through the years,” said Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s.

GAHW is St. John’s largest alumni gathering and has grown in popularity each year since its inception in 2016. In response, the University expanded GAHW from two days to four and added a wide range of new events to the schedule. This year, a record 1,667 people attended the event.

The celebration began Thursday evening with two new events, the ’80s Revisited: Alumni Reunion at Citi Field, where the New York Mets hosted the Chicago Cubs; and the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) Sunset Dinner Cruise, aboard the Spirit of New York. Both events were sold out weeks in advance and were added to GAHW at the request of a group of particularly engaged alumni.

“This GOLD cruise was by far the best alumni event I have ever attended,” said David Puswald ’12TCB, who was among the 172 alumni and guests who sailed around lower Manhattan. “I got to reconnect with old friends and even made some new ones throughout the night. The vibe was amazing. I hope this becomes a staple event.”

On Friday, 50 GAHW attendees enjoyed an exclusive tour and lunch at the nearby famed West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, NY, the former site of the US Open Tennis Championship. The club has also hosted numerous concerts throughout the years from legendary performers, including The Beatles, The Who, and Frank Sinatra.

“The tennis club was absolutely fabulous,” said Robin Martinez Dixon ’92SVC. “It is a beautiful place, and every person I spoke with who went on the tour had a great time.”

For many, the highlight of the weekend was Friday evening’s Grand Alumni Signature Celebration, which began inside St. Thomas More Church, where Mass and the University Alumni Award Ceremony were held.

“Our University has always been blessed with an extraordinarily loyal body of alumni and alumnae, and we thank you for all that you do for alma mater,” said Christian P. Vaupel, Ed.D., Vice President for Advancement and University Relations, who served as master of ceremonies for the awards presentation. “You continue to play a vital role in the life of this institution—you serve as models for current and future generations of alumni.”

This year, the University honored the following distinguished graduates for their achievements and commitment to St. John’s:

  • Andrea M. Alonso, Esq. ’78C, ’81L (Heritage Circle)
  • Most Rev. Raymond F. Chappetto, D.D., V.G., V.E. ’78G (Heritage Circle)
  • Peter P. D'Angelo ’78MBA, ’06HON (University Lifetime Achievement Award)
  • Marie E. Kaiser-Napoli, Esq. ’89C, ’93L (Pietas Medal)
  • Arthur J. Mirante II, Esq. ’68L, ’98HON (Pietas Medal)
  • Damon A. Young ’93CBA (Outstanding Alumni Achievement Medal)

The celebration continued inside the D’Angelo Center, where a reception and dinner were held. The Class of 1968, which is celebrating its 50th reunion this year, was welcomed to the University’s Jubilarian Society. It was noted that members of that class donated $336,513 to St. John’s University in fiscal year 2017–18.

In his address as Alumni Speaker, Peter P. D’Angelo, Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees, stressed the importance of St. John’s Vincentian mission to provide an excellent education for all people, especially those lacking economic, physical, or social advantages.

“I truly believe education is the most effective way to lower levels of poverty in the country,” he said. “I have met many of the current students and recent graduates, and I can assure you that our University continues to help mold well-rounded individuals.”

The University’s colleges honored their own alumni at a series of Distinguished Alumni Award ceremonies, held in each school concurrently on Saturday.

Alumni came to GAHW from as far away as Los Angeles, CA, including Barbara Kirk ’72C, who had not been back to campus since she graduated. “My fondest memory of my time on campus is how well St. John’s prepared me for my career,” said Ms. Kirk, who earned her degree in mathematics and minored in computer science and physics. “When I entered the job market, I did so with a strong work ethic that I developed at St. John’s. I am forever grateful to the University.”

This year, GAHW included more than 20 events, including Saturday morning’s St. John’s 5K Run/Walk and Kids Fun Run and Brunch with the President.

Focusing on the theme of “Celebrating Our Founding Mission: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” the brunch included a Q&A session with Dr. Gempesaw, as well as a discussion of St. John’s, from its early days in Brooklyn to new challenges and opportunities for the University. 

“It was a great chance to reconnect with the University and learn about where the institution is headed,” said Elizabeth Simun-Janson ’12TCB, who attended the brunch. “It was also fun to come back to campus with friends and network with alumni from other years.”

Throughout the afternoon, guests enjoyed a wide range of events for all ages, including tours of the Queens campus, an inside look at St. John’s Athletics facilities, a magic show, and a lecture and discussion of the book 111 Places in Queens That You Must Not Miss with its author, Joe DiStefano.

Due to the weather, the Alumni Great Lawn Party was moved indoors to Taffner Field House. There, guests like Javier Minniti ’97CPS, of Woodside, NY, enjoyed food, games, music, and other fun activities for alumni and their families.

“I have been coming to alumni events like this just about every year since I graduated,” said Mr. Minniti. “We come as a group, but it is fun to see new faces outside of that circle of friends. It is always an amazing experience.”

The celebration continued into Saturday evening with the After-Party Alumni Gathering inside Marillac Terrace. There, guests enjoyed an eclectic mix of food that represented the diverse cultures of Queens, as well as live music.

The weekend wrapped up on Sunday at the Staten Island Alumni BBQ, which was also moved indoors. Graduates of that campus enjoyed an afternoon of food and fun inside the Campus Center Gymnasium.

“It is always a good time when you can reconnect with classmates and continue the St. John’s Staten Island campus tradition,” said Jo Ann Howard ’74NDC. “I had so much fun today with friends from the past and present.”

“St. John’s alumni have so many fascinating stories of success and accomplishment, both personally and professionally,” said Mark A. Andrews, Director of the Office of Alumni Relations. “At the very core is their abundant pride in being a St. John’s graduate. This weekend brings all of that together in one big celebration for everyone.”

Plans are already underway for next year’s Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend, which is tentatively scheduled to take place from Thursday, May 30, through Sunday, June 2. Be sure to mark your calendar.

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