When Catherine R. D’Angelo receives her undergraduate degree during Commencement Exercises on May 19 at the Queens, NY, campus of St. John’s University, she will proudly mark the occasion as the 13th member of her extensive family to experience life as a Johnny.
“Being Number 13 is definitely my go-to fun fact that I like to share with people at school,” said Catherine, who will earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Childhood Education from The School of Education.
Her connection to the University is a badge of honor Catherine shares with her mother, late father, brother, an aunt, grandparents, four uncles, a great uncle, and two cousins. “We are a big, noisy, Italian-American family,” said Catherine, who was born on Long Island, NY, and grew up in Monroe Township, NJ. Most of her relatives live in the New York metropolitan area.
The family bond with St. John’s was forged in 1953, when paternal grandparents, Angele Carabillo D’Angelo and Gregory D’Angelo Sr., each graduated from St. John’s original campus in Brooklyn, NY, where they lived at the time, with Bachelor of Science degrees in Pharmacy. Catherine’s grandmother would earn her Master of Science in Hospital Pharmacy in 1973, and later served as Assistant Dean of Pharmacy at St. John’s.
The soon-to-be graduate’s departure does not end the family link to the University. Catherine’s cousin, Lauren Caccavallo, recently became the 14th relative to honor the tradition when she enrolled in St. John’s College of Professional Studies with a major in Legal Studies. And two of Catherine’s relatives are employed at St. John’s. Her stepfather, Stephen M. DeBlasio, is Director of Campus Ministry on the Staten Island, NY, campus. He married Catherine’s mother, Paula Bozzi DeBlasio ’85Ed, following the death of her first husband, Ernest D’Angelo, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1980, and a Juris Doctor degree in 1983 from St. John’s School of Law. Her maternal aunt, Irene Bozzi Caccavallo ’75CBA, is Senior Secretary in the Office of the Provost on the Queens campus.
“I always had the comfort of knowing that I had adult relatives at St. John’s who I could reach out to if I needed help,” Catherine said.
That sense of security drew Catherine to follow in the footsteps of her family by selecting St. John’s for her undergraduate career. “During my college search, my mom told me, ‘You do not have to choose St. John’s just because everyone else in our family chose it.’ We toured other schools when I was looking for the right one, but none of them felt as at home as St. John’s. It was a perfect fit for me, and I believe this at-home feeling is what enticed all of my relatives to come to school here.”
“I am extremely proud, and I am sure my first husband would be, as well, that our children chose St. John’s,” Mrs. DeBlasio said of Catherine and her son, Andrew, who graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice. “I still burst with pride when I pull in through the main gates of the school and know that my children both had wonderful, unique experiences while attending ‘our University.’”
It is no wonder that Catherine felt comfortable at St. John’s. From her infancy, her parents often brought her to the Queens campus to attend Masses, alumni events, basketball games, and other activities. “My parents were both very involved in the Sunday Mass community at St. John’s when they were recent graduates,” Catherine said. “In fact, that’s how my mom and dad first met.”
The couple was married at St. John’s Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, now Lourdes Hall.
“I have various snapshots in my mind from my childhood visits to campus,” Catherine said. “We attended Mass at St. Thomas More Church soon after it opened on the Queens campus. I remember walking down the steps from the breezeway and seeing the D’Angelo Center for the first time, and I have great memories of going on all the rides at the alumni carnivals.”
Catherine also has a clear memory of the first time she felt that St. John’s belonged to her as much as it did to the rest of her family.
“It was a week into my freshman year and I was walking back to my dorm from a class,” she recalled. “I passed by one of my friends, and we stopped to talk. Then, as I turned to go on my way, I felt this whoosh! sensation, because I realized, suddenly, that I knew where I was going, that I had made friends on campus, and I was about to get some lunch. In other words, I was settling into my life as a St. John’s student.”
“I truly felt, at that moment, that St. John’s was my school and not just the place I heard about through all of my family members,” Catherine said. “I was now making my own memories.”
Those St. John’s memories include her experiences as a Service Retreat Leader for Campus Ministry; a member of the Catholic Scholars program, where she assumed a variety of leadership roles within the community of faith and service; and her work as part of the University President’s support staff through her membership with the prestigious President’s Society, the highest honor society at St. John’s.
“I enjoy doing service and I am a big proponent of social justice and advocacy. I would love to secure a leadership role in the nonprofit sector,” said Catherine, who may pursue a master’s degree in social work and will spend the next year in Trenton, NJ, with the Center for FaithJustice, a fellowship service program for youth in five Catholic parishes.
“I think it all comes back to the idea of the St. John’s Vincentian mission of helping those in need and tying your faith to the center of everything that you do with your life,” Catherine said. “That was another major reason why everyone in my family felt drawn to St. John’s.”