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Celebrated Alumni Honored at St. John’s College Homecoming Weekend Reception

Thursday, July 5, 2018

As part of the Grand Alumni Homecoming Weekend, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences held an Alumni Award Ceremony and Reception on Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. in the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery on the Queens Campus.

Guests joined Dean Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D., to recognize the accomplishments of some of our most distinguished alumni and to view some of the outstanding works created by our students in the 2018 Annual BFA Student Exhibition. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages were served, and the reception was followed by an after party in Marillac Terrace. The event, which was well-attended, was free and open to all College alumni.

View a video of the event.

Read more about our distinguished alumni honorees:

Dr. Peter J. Calabretta, ‘55C, ‘58G, ‘65Ph.D – Distinguished Alumnus Award

Dr. Peter J. Calabretta, a triple alum of St. John’s University, is Chairman and Founder of Comax Flavors, a world leader in proprietary flavors technology based in Melville, NY. Comax has been providing flavors to the food and beverage industry for over 40 years and specializes in flavor creation, flavor improvements, proprietary flavor technology and customized solutions to every food and beverage flavor challenge. Prior to founding Comax in 1977, Dr. Calabretta worked at various other companies including Hoffman LaRoche, Stauffer Chemical, and Felton International. 

Dr. Calabretta and his wife, Louise, have five children: Peter, Paul M., Laura Calabretta Ferrante, Claudine Calabretta Muccini, and Catherine Calabretta Armstrong.  Two of his children followed in their father’s footsteps and earned degrees from St. John’s: Paul ‘83C, and Laura ‘86SVC.

A generous and loyal alum, Dr. Calabretta established the Peter J. Calabretta, Ph.D. Scholarship Fund to assist St. John’s University students in financial need. He studied Chemistry and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1955, his Master of Science in 1958, and his Ph.D. in 1965. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his M.S. award.

Colonel Terrance C. Holliday ‘68C – Distinguished Alumnus Award

Colonel Terrance C. Holliday is a veteran with 40 years of service in the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves, from which he retired with the rank of Colonel.

He served as the civilian Director of Public Affairs for the United States Air Force in New York. In 2010, Colonel Holliday helped create the first New York City Air Force Week to educate New Yorkers about the role of airmen and the contributions of the U.S. Air Force. He also served in the New Jersey Air National Guard where he coordinated public affairs and logistical support for global deployments during Operation Desert Shield.

From 2010 – 2014, Colonel Holliday served as the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs. In this capacity, he advised Mayor Bloomberg on issues and initiatives impacting the veteran and military community.

Colonel Holliday’s major military decorations include: the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Air Force Commendation Medal; the Air Force Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters; the Global War on Terrorism Medal-Expeditionary and Service; and the Southwest Asia Service Medal. In addition, he was awarded the Air Force Award for Exemplary Civilian Employee and the Air Force Award for Meritorious Service.

Colonel Holliday’s extensive career attests to the tradition of military service in his family. One uncle served as a mechanic with the famed Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, and another uncle fought with the 369th Infantry, the Harlem Hell Fighters, during World War I.

Outside his military service, Colonel Holliday retired from Allstate Insurance Company as a special investigator.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from St. John’s, an M.B.A. from the New York Institute of Technology, and a certification from the Academy of Military Sciences.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of his B.A. degree.

Ellen A. McBurney ‘12C ‘14G – Distinguished Young Alumnus Award

Ms. Ellen A. McBurney is a double graduate of St. John's College, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Government and Politics with a graduate concentration in International Relations. During her time at St. John's, Ms. McBurney was a leader on campus, serving as a member of the President's Society and recipient of the 2012 Spirit of St. John's Award.

Ms. McBurney is the Chief of Staff with Civic Builders, a national nonprofit organization focused on developing high-performing public charter schools in traditionally under-resourced communities. In her five years there, she has partnered with committed educators to invest over $700 million and launch 30 schools where 98 percent of students graduate from high school and 94 percent go on to college.

Outside of her work with Civic Builders, Ms. McBurney is committed to giving back to her local New York City community. She is the founding Board Chairwoman of Nexus Prep Charter School, an elementary school opening in downtown Jamaica, Queens. Ms. McBurney also continues to support the Developmental Disabilities Institute, a local nonprofit serving children and adults with autism. She became involved with the Developmental Disabilities Institute while a student at St. John's and has planned and conducted various fundraising events for the organization – such as walking from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Montauk Lighthouse and hiking mountains on New Year’s Eve – each year since her graduation. Together with her fellow St. John's alumni and fiancé, John Kenny ‘13TCB, Ms. McBurney has raised nearly $75,000 over the last six years for the Institute.

While an undergraduate, Ms. McBurney, as Senior Senator, spearheaded the development of the Student Government Inc. Senior Scholarship fund. She sought to “create a gift that carried the school’s mission and serves as a fundamental purpose directly to the students.” Since its inception in 2012, the fund has awarded more than $50,000 in financial assistance.

Dr. Jeffrey Gei-Hun Stepan ‘08C – Distinguished Young Alumnus Award

Dr. Jeffrey G. Stepan excelled in the “three Ss” – science, service, and soccer – while an undergraduate at St. John’s. A Chemistry major and Biology minor, he was actively involved with the Department of Chemistry and conducted research under the mentorship of Joseph Serafin, Ph.D.

Dr. Stepan also participated in numerous service activities at St. John’s including volunteering aid toward the recovery of New Orleans, LA after Hurricane Katrina. He also joined the men’s soccer team on an Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) trip to Vietnam. While managing a heavy academic load and volunteer activities, Dr. Stepan also played on St. John’s Men’s Soccer team for four years. He received numerous awards as a student-athlete including Academic All-American and All-BIG EAST Athlete and was captain of the team during his senior year.

After graduation, Dr. Stepan enrolled in the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO on a full scholarship. He completed the program in four years and concurrently earned a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Science in Clinical Investigation degrees in 2014. Dr. Stepan subsequently completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He is currently an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery. Reflecting his research interests, Dr. Stepan has published more than 35 papers in his field.

Dr. Stepan earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from St. John’s in 2008.