Joining more than 250,000 other marchers on a sun-splashed Fifth Avenue, a diverse contingent of St. John’s University administrators, faculty, staff, students—including members of the Irish Society and the Red Storm Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) color guard—and dedicated alumni participated in the 258th annual celebration of the New York City (NYC) St. Patrick’s Day Parade. As approximately two million parade spectators looked on, the lively collection of Johnnies stood out in red in what was otherwise an emerald city.
Tyler Gulston, a first-year student from Queens Village, NY, joined in the march. “As a native New Yorker and as someone with no Irish ancestry, I always wanted to experience this parade,” he said. “I had a wonderful time marching with my friends and my school—St. John’s.”
The first NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in 1762, 14 years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it has been held continuously ever since. The parade is the oldest and largest civic parade that celebrates the Catholic faith of Ireland, Irish heritage, and the global contributions of Irish culture. It attracts marchers from around the world, and when the feast day of St. Patrick—March 17—falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, the parade is held a day earlier.
For years, Brian Browne, Executive Director for University Relations and Assistant Vice President for Government Relations, has coordinated the University’s participation in the annual parade. “The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is one of those iconic New York City celebrations,” he said. “What I enjoy the most is when I see someone experience marching in the parade for the first time; it is always a memorable occasion.”
One such novice marcher was Alexandra McGill, a first-year student from Hawthorne, NY, who joined with her friends and was thrilled to be part of a parade that she had only watched with her family in the past. “It was an incredibly special experience for me, especially seeing and hearing the amount of support that St. John’s received from the crowd,” she said. “What a great day to celebrate the Irish and St. John’s!”
The theme of this year’s parade was immigration. It was led by Grand Marshal Brian J. O’Dwyer, a politically active attorney who is also the founder of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, a Queens-based organization that advocates for and serves new immigrants in New York City. Grand Marshal O’Dwyer is the son of Irish immigrants and his late father, Paul O’Dwyer, who once served on the New York City Council, graduated from St. John’s School of Law in 1929. As the University delegation marched up Fifth Avenue to rousing cheers of “Go, St. John’s!” Grand Marshal O’Dwyer made a point to leave his spot on the parade reviewing stand to personally greet the St. John’s delegation.
The St. John’s festivities began with the celebration of the Eucharist at the Church of Our Saviour on Park Avenue followed by an alumni brunch. The festive St. John’s crowd included alumni of all generations who march annually.