When Lola Santangelo ’63Ed began her collegiate life, it was not at St. John’s University. She had excellent grades, so she decided to save her parents the expense of tuition at a private college and enrolled at Queens College, a branch of the City University of New York. Within days, however, it was apparent to her family that she was not happy.
“My dad asked me what was wrong,” she recalled. “I told him that there was something lacking, and I was pretty certain that I knew what it was. Even though I never attended parochial school, I had always been a devout Catholic and really wanted that religious atmosphere in college. My father was so generous and immediately told me that I was going to St. John’s. I loved every moment at the University; it was just incredibly beautiful for me.”
At that time, the only classroom buildings on the Queens, NY, campus were St. John Hall and St. Albert Hall. There was a chapel located adjacent to the lounge area of St. John Hall, and Ms. Santangelo made it a point to spend time there daily. The sense of energized renewal she experienced in those moments of spiritual contemplation remain among the fondest memories of her student days. It was also how she met Albert Santangelo ’62C, the young man who would one day become her husband.
“He noticed me walking through the lounge every day on my way to the chapel, and I guess he liked what he saw. It was a more proper atmosphere when I was a student. Men were required to wear jackets and ties on campus, women were only allowed to wear slacks when the temperature fell below 30 degrees, and nobody would dare wear sneakers or walk on the grass. Back in those days we had formal dances every few months— and I really mean formal! The women wore gowns, the men were in tuxedos, and the Count Basie Orchestra frequently provided the music. I dragged my future husband to every one of those dances, and he never objected. We were married right after I completed my bachelor’s degree in elementary education.”
Following graduation, Ms. Santangelo taught elementary school for seven years—at the princely annual salary of $5,400—before opting to raise her family as a stay-at-home mom. Since both she and her husband were alumni of the University, it was not surprising that when it was time for their children to embark on their own college careers, St. John’s was the logical choice.
“We are truly a three-generation St. John’s family,” she said.
“My son Albert (’90CBA) and my daughter Bianca (’93CBA) both earned their degrees at the University, as did my daughter-in-law Victoria Santangelo ’98C, ’01GEd, ’11G and my son-in-law David Mavrovic ’92CPS, ’94TCB. And, that is not all! Bianca and Victoria both work at the University. My granddaughter, Gianna, is currently going to St. John’s; my grandson, Antonio, will be attending next year; and my grandson, Franco, will hopefully follow in their footsteps in the future.”
Although it has been more than five decades since her student days, the Vincentian values that were such a part of her University experience continue to resonate within this dedicated alumna. She is committed to making a difference for those in need by sharing her time and talents in a variety of her parish activities. She also appreciates the reality that those values will be instilled in her grandchildren as they become immersed in their own St. John’s experience.
“I am very aware that as a long-standing graduate of this wonderful University, I have an obligation to continue to set an example for the young people in my family who follow in my footsteps,” she acknowledged. “St. John’s traditions and values have always been profoundly important to me, and I cannot wait to see them take root and blossom in my grandchildren. What a wonderful legacy!”