On a drizzly July 23, 2019 evening, more than 250 St. John’s University alumni and friends, members of The Loughlin Society, The McCallen Society and their guests, enjoyed good food and good fellowship at a pre-event barbeque prior to the 21st Annual Great Lawn Summer Concert on the Queens campus. Although inclement weather required that the barbeque be redirected inside to the reception area of the newly refurbished Peter J. Tobin College of Business, and the concert to the Little Theater, the rain could not dampen the spirits of everyone who participated in what has become a St. John’s tradition for more than two decades.
“This is the closing event of our Summer Social activities,” noted Susan M. Damiani ’87CBA, Director, Office of Planned Giving and The McCallen Society. “Our alumni and donors have been getting together all summer to delight in their connection to St. John’s, and it’s nice to see them taking part in this wonderful tradition, particularly as we celebrate the 150-year anniversary of our University. Tonight is a great way to say thank you to our generous donors, and let them know how much we appreciate their support.”
“What’s also important about tonight is that it brings together the St. John’s community with our neighboring external Queens communities,” remarked Joseph Sciame ’71Ed, Vice President for Community Relations. “Every year the University and our corporate sponsors provide this free concert by the exceptional Queens Symphony Orchestra, and it is always incredibly well attended. Our neighbors really look forward to coming onto campus for an evening of wonderful music and culture. They know that we support the arts in Queens county, and they definitely appreciate it. And of course, this is another way to show our appreciation to our wonderful donors who do so much for St. John’s students.”
The impact of donor generosity has been a direct benefit to our students for the past 150 years. The University was founded to provide a quality, affordable education to the children of immigrant, and while many things have changed during these intervening years, that unique Vincentian commitment remains as strong today as ever.
“The generosity of our donors provides our students with wonderful advantages that they otherwise wouldn’t have,” said Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., M.Div.’70C, Executive Vice President for Mission. “Their support provides scholarships, offers exceptional internship opportunities and a multitude of other unique aspects of a St. John’s education. Many of our donors were first generation college students who came from families with financial needs, and the same is true of our students today. They may look differently and may dress differently, but they have the same hopes and dreams that have motivated the students of this University since we opened our doors in 1869.”
Although shifted from the traditional outdoor venue, the casual atmosphere of the barbeque definitely added to the sense of closeness that is always found at St. John’s events. Our alumni know that, in addition to reconnecting with old friends, they’re showing their appreciation to the University that is still very much a part of their lives.
“I had a good time here when I was an undergraduate,” acknowledged quadruple alumna Clare Byrne ’76C, ’80MBA, ’06MLS, ’12APC, “and I felt that it was important for me to help other students achieve the same great experience that I had. I have wonderful memories of my student days at St. John’s, especially of my participation in the Glee Club. Those memories have stayed with me, even after all these years, and as a member of both The Loughlin Society and The McCallen Society, I’m happy to do my part to help the students of today and tomorrow.”
For many of the alumni, the reality that the St. John’s family is forever resonates with them on a deeply personal level. Regardless of how many years have passed since their days on campus, they are grateful for what the University did for them and are eager to establish those same connections in their children and close family members.
“Both of our children attended St. John’s, and we’re encouraging our daughter-in-law to do the same,” said Gail DiLeonardo Konecsni ’72MT. “Our family is definitely a St. John’s family in every sense of the word, and by becoming part of The Loughlin Society and The McCallen Society I’m able to help deserving students acquire the means to finish their education, especially those who need financial support to bring their dreams to reality. Knowing that I’m reaching out to these young people is a wonderful feeling.”
Although not an alumna, Rosalba Basso has become one of the University’s most recent and generous donors. Her membership in The Loughlin Society provides an opportunity to keep alive the legacy of a beloved friend and colleague who devoted her life to the Vincentian commitment to making a difference for those in need.
“Every year I make a gift to The Alice C. Burke ’75C, ’77G Campus Ministry Expendable Scholarship,” she said, “because that scholarship goes to students who are reaching out to make our world a better place for everyone. The young people who are granted this scholarship are very important to me. When they leave St. John’s and go out into the world, they will carry the spirit of service that they learned here into their personal and professional lives. They trust us with their educational futures, and I am always happy to do what I can to help them along their journey to success.”