Annual President’s Dinner Celebrates Service and Scholarship
For more than two decades, the annual President’s Dinner has brought together generations of alumni, trustees, administrators, staff, faculty, friends of St. John’s—and most importantly, students—to raise funds for scholarships, especially for those students most in need. As St. John’s premier fundraising event, the Dinner also serves as an opportunity to honor men, women, and organizations with the Spirit of Service Award for exemplifying the University’s Vincentian mission of service.
Held in the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown on Friday, November 2, the 21st Annual President’s Dinner raised more than $2.7 million—including $110,000 raised at the Dinner itself—that will directly benefit the University’s most deserving undergraduate and graduate students. The Dinner drew 800 preregistered guests.
A festive atmosphere permeated the event, which allowed the University to express its gratitude to the men and women whose generosity enables students to attain the dream of a St. John’s education.
“When I joined St. John’s over four years ago, I believed we could overcome the daunting challenges of higher education and continue to thrive as one of the nation’s premier Catholic universities,” said Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s. “We not only provide an excellent education, we transform lives.”
Dr. Gempesaw thanked the many generous donors and benefactors in the audience. “We cannot do this alone,” he said. “We need all of your support, so we can continue to provide much-needed scholarships for our students. Your presence here tonight signifies your commitment to the next generation of St. John’s students.”
Brian T. Shea ’83CBA, ’16HON, and his wife Patricia ’83C, served as Co-Chairs for the Dinner. Addressing the honorees, Mr. Shea—a member of the St. John’s Board of Trustees—said, “Each of you exemplify the Vincentian values of service to those most in need and are deserving of our admiration and gratitude. Your generosity will impact the lives of many worthy students, whom we hope will carry forward the message of St. Vincent de Paul for generations to come.”
The President’s Dinner serves as an opportunity for St. John’s to present the Spirit of Service Award to alumni and friends who embody the University’s Catholic and Vincentian values in their life and work. This year’s honorees were
Chief Financial Officer of WarnerMedia Inc.; Administrative Officer, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.; Member, St. John’s University Board of Trustees
Yvette E. DeGannes ’86CBA
Owner and Chief Executive Officer, Loft41 Jewelry Studio
• James E. Galowski ’85CBA
Partner—Credit Europe, Apollo Global Management, LLC
Anmarie C. Galowski
Former Provost, St. John’s University; Former Dean, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; Professor, Pharmacy, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
• Global Loan Opportunities for Budding Entrepreneurs (GLOBE)
Accepting on behalf of GLOBE was Founder and Director Linda M. Sama, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Global Initiatives; Joseph F. Adams Professor of Management; and Executive Director, Center for Global Business Stewardship.
Tarik S. Turner ’98C, Senior Vice President, US Sales Trading–Institutional Equities, Macquarie Capital (USA), Inc., and member of the St. John’s Board of Trustees, served as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Turner, who as a student athlete played for the Men’s Basketball team, spent several years as the Red Storm’s radio analyst, as well as an analyst for SNY-TV (NY), St. John’s television network, and FOX Sports Interactive Media, LLC. He continues to serve as a television analyst.
Among the dignitaries in attendance were the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, Ph.D., D.D., Bishop of Brooklyn; the Most Rev. John O. Barres, S.T.D., J.C.L., D.D., Bishop of Rockville Centre, NY; the Most Rev. Robert J. Brennan ’84C, Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre; the Very Rev. Stephen M. Grozio, C.M., Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees; and William L. Collins ’76C, ’12HON, Chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and his wife, Lesley H. Collins ’83SVC.
Mr. Turner highlighted noteworthy St. John’s achievements since last year’s President’s Dinner, including the opening of several new state-of-the-art and innovative teaching and learning facilities such as the Inclusivity Resource Center, the Academic Center for Equity and Inclusion, the Media Arts and Design Lab, and the Technology Commons.
Mr. Turner also took a moment to welcome Mike Cragg, who joined St. John’s from Duke University in October as St. John’s new Athletic Director. Last season, the St. John’s Men’s Basketball Team defeated Duke—at the time, the fourth ranked team in the country—as well as number-one-ranked Villanova University, the eventual national champions.
A Commitment to Service is Celebrated
Each of this year’s honorees expressed deep gratitude for the influence St. John’s has had on their lives. “Tonight is just a small way to give back for all that St. John’s has done for us,” Mr. Desroches explained. “It is where my wife and I first met. It is where we became adults, and it was the launching pad for our professional lives.” Ms. DeGannes noted that, as a first-generation college student, St. John’s served as a great stepping-stone into the larger world, where she felt inspired and empowered to follow her dreams. “It was a place where you felt safe and at home.”
Mr. Galowski, who once served as an usher for St. John’s Men’s Basketball games and worked in the equipment room in Alumni Hall (now Carnesecca Arena), noted that he and his wife were very moved by the evening’s celebration. “It is very humbling. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to be part of everything that St. John’s, and the Vincentians, stand for.”
“I do not think I can adequately capture in words how extraordinary this evening is and how much it means to me,” Dr. Mangione stressed. “I love St. John’s University, and to be given this honor by my alma mater, and the institution I have spent 40 years with, is a dream come true.”
“This is such a special honor for GLOBE,” Dr. Sama observed, noting that several students who participate in GLOBE, and the Daughters of Charity who serve as partners in the program, were in attendance. “We hope that it draws more positive attention to an important program.”
Bishop Barres noted that he was pleased to be seated with five members of the President’s Society, the highest honor society for undergraduate students at the University. “I was struck by these remarkable students who were so involved in the leadership of St. John’s and its global culture.” He added that all of the honorees possessed a “beautiful charism” that had been cultivated at St. John’s. “Underneath all of it was class, character, faith, and integrity. It is a real-life expression of St. John’s global commitment to the Church and to the world.”
“St. John’s University does so much for the young people of New York, especially for immigrants and for the poor,” Fr. Grozio said. “And an event like this is an opportunity to celebrate all the good that St. John’s does, while helping the mission to continue. We are so grateful to all who have come tonight.”
In 2017–18, St. John’s raised a record $27 million in cash gifts, Mr. Turner noted, and the University awarded more than $250 million in institutional financial aid and scholarships to 92 percent of all undergraduate and graduate students.
“Tonight is so important because it gives students the chance to reach that dream of higher education,” explained Government and Politics major Brianna Anderson, a junior from New Jersey. “I came to St. John’s on a scholarship, and it has opened so many doors for me to explore my interests and to learn more about myself. A night like this is wonderful because it helps students who might think they can’t afford to achieve that dream of higher education.”
Daniel Sparrow, a native of Queens and also a third-year Government and Politics major, was impressed by the evening’s honorees and their potential to serve as role models for current students. “I was especially impressed by the work of GLOBE and the impact it has had in so many different parts of the world.” He added that each of the honorees expressed a sense of gratitude for all St. John’s had done for them and was struck by their intense desire to give back. “It is great to see how everyone is connected and serving a greater purpose.”
“The promise and pride of a St. John’s education that many of you have received continues to inspire and guide our efforts on our path to progress,” Dr. Gempesaw said during his closing remarks. “We will strive to achieve even greater heights of academic excellence, as we deepen our commitment to our Catholic and Vincentian mission.”
As the evening concluded, guests were treated to a rousing musical performance by St. John’s alumnus Carvens Marcel Lissaint ’14CPS, an actor who currently stars on Broadway as George Washington in the hit musical Hamilton. Accompanied by Nigel W. Gretton, Director of Performing Arts at St. John’s University, Mr. Lissaint also invited a member of the President’s Society, Kayla L. Knight ’19CPS, and Doctoral Candidate Remy A. Martin ’16P, ’18GEd to join him in singing the classic Marvin Gaye hit, “What’s Going On.” With an enthusiastic crowd singing along, it was evident that the St. John’s community exhibits a true dedication to support fundraising efforts for student scholarships, particularly for those most in need.