St. John’s University Receives Historic $15 Million Gift from The Starr Foundation

September 16, 2018

History was made at a dinner held in midtown Manhattan on September 12 when Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, announced that St. John’s received its largest single gift in the 148-year-old existence of the University.

Standing in front of 80 attendees, including guest of honor Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, Chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc., and Chairman, The Starr Foundation, Dr. Gempesaw announced the historic $15 million donation which will establish the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at the School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science (SRM)—part of The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s.

Since 1955, The Starr Foundation—one of the largest private foundations in the United States—has given away more than $3.3 billion, of which almost two-thirds went to organizations and programs in New York City and State. The Starr Foundation provides major financial support to institutions worldwide, in the areas of education, medical research and healthcare, human needs, culture, and public policy.  

“At St. John’s University, we know our mission serves to transform the lives of our students,” Dr. Gempesaw told the St. John’s Board of Trustees, members of the SRM Board of Overseers, faculty, administrators, supporters, and key leadership from The Starr Foundation, who attended the special event. “This remarkable gift from The Starr Foundation will further position the School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science and our graduates to make an indelible mark on the insurance profession for generations to come.”

The Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative consists of three strategic funds. The Maurice R. Greenberg Scholarship Fund will provide full and partial scholarships to SRM students; The Starr Foundation SRM, Faculty Support Endowment will support professional development, new resources, and enrichment activities for faculty; and the Maurice R. Greenberg SRM Industry Leadership Endowment has been created to support new programs and resources for SRM activities. Fifty percent of the total endowment fund will be used for student scholarship awards; 33 percent will go towards faculty support; and 17 percent will be allocated for the leadership endowment.

The funds will expand academic programs, enhance teaching and learning activities and risk industry-focused professional programs, and attract the best and brightest students from around the globe to pursue academic studies and careers in the insurance industry.

Approaching the podium to sustained applause, an enthusiastic Mr. Greenberg was effusive in his praise of St. John’s University and SRM, reflecting,

“I think that throughout my career, I was always looking for talent. And it came from different industries and different schools, as well as the military. But when we found out about St. John’s, and the insurance school, we focused on it. We hire many people from St. John’s who want a career in insurance, and they make great contributions to the profession. I hope that our gift is going to help the school become even bigger and even more professional than it has been. It’s a major benefit to the industry.” —Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg

Samantha R. Meneilly, a third-year SRM student majoring in actuarial science, shared heartfelt reflections on her college search that led her to St. John’s and on a path to a career in the insurance industry.

“The moment I heard that I received a Presidential Scholarship from St. John’s, which would cover my full tuition, I started crying,” she told those in attendance. “Suddenly, this dream I had for my future was going to be a reality. To this day, St. John’s continues to exceed my expectations and the person I have become is someone I never could have imagined when I first walked on campus.”

Thomas Fiorillo ’16TCB, who is a Senior Actuarial Analyst at Willis Re, described to the audience how his experience as an SRM student afforded him up-close networking opportunities, career preparation, and guidance from a supportive community of faculty and industry professionals—so many of whom greatly impacted his personal and professional growth.

“The generous scholarships, vast academic opportunities, and the supportive team of professors at SRM not only gave me unparalleled knowledge but also a direction for my career,” Mr. Fiorillo said.

Reflecting on the personal mentorship he received from Mr. Greenberg, Kevin H. Kelley, Vice Chairman of Liberty Mutual Group Global Risk Solutions, and Chair, SRM Board of Overseers, observed, “All of us who have been lucky enough to work for Hank learned how to build businesses that created opportunity for countless employees and provided meaningful solutions for customers. He has always been a great leader, a teacher, and a model for best practices in business.”

“With this gift, the School of Risk Management becomes immeasurably stronger and will build on its more than century-old mission of educating future business leaders, who themselves will endeavor to define this industry for generations to come,” proclaimed Brandon W. Sweitzer, Dean of SRM.

Bringing the momentous evening to a close, William L. Collins ’76C, ’12HON, Chief Executive Officer, Brencourt Capital Management, and Chair, St. John’s Board of Trustees, said, “Investing in students—especially those most in need—is at the heart of the promise of a St. John’s education,” he continued, “and now, with the support of The Starr Foundation, this investment will serve students, who like Mr. Greenberg, will endeavor to define the insurance industry. Most important, this is an investment in a promise—a promise made almost 150 years ago and one that not only endures, but thrives, today.”  

Click here to read more about the partnership between St. John’s University and The Starr Foundation.