St. John’s University Receives Historic Gift from Lesley H. and William L. Collins

September 12, 2019

History was made with the exciting news of a new era at St. John’s University. At a reception in midtown Manhattan on September 11, Dr. Gempesaw announced that with the unanimous approval of the Board of Trustees, the College of Professional Studies is renamed The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies, effective immediately.

“All of us at St. John’s are deeply grateful to Lesley (’83SVC) and Bill Collins ’76C, ’12HON for the extraordinary support that they have given and continue to give to our University. With a $10 million gift commitment, the generosity of Lesley and Bill Collins will provide scholarships for students through the University’s Partners for Student Success initiative and will also establish a Distinguished Chair position in the College,” announced President Gempesaw.

He continued: “I am also very pleased to announce that the inaugural holder of The Lesley H. and William L. Collins Distinguished Chair and Dean of the Collins College of Professional Studies is Dean Katia Passerini, Ph.D., PMP, who also holds a faculty appointment in the Division of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Science.

The Collins College of Professional Studies was established as a Junior College in 1962 and was known as St. Vincent’s College between 1972 and 1999. It was renamed the College of Professional Studies in 1999. The College offers dynamic, innovative, and fast-paced professional programs in communications, media, journalism, criminal justice and homeland security, computer science, analytics, information technology, administration and economics, sports management, and other programs.

“This is such an exciting time for our students, faculty and the entire College stated Katia Passerini, Ph.D., PMP, Dean of the Collins College of Professional Studies. “This gift is transformational and recognizes the hard work of the past, epitomizes our current strengths and paves the way for the success that is yet to come. The gift provides essential scholarships for our students who can enroll in professional and innovative programs, leading to graduate masters or excellent career placement prospects. I truly believe this is a new era and we are ready with new technology, pedagogy and experiential learning to match the learning needs and aspirations of our ingenious students.”

William J. Janetschek, Chair of the Board of Trustees, delivered introductory remarks stating: “Lesley and Bill know that St. John’s is about giving young people a chance. Together, and through their leadership and philanthropy, Lesley and Bill have been deeply committed to ensuring the success of the young women and men who study at St. John’s; our talented and dedicated faculty, administration, and staff; and our commitment to fostering an environment for exceptional teaching and learning. The generous gift that we celebrate tonight will ensure that the success story of Lesley and Bill Collins will be shared with future generations of the St. John’s family.”

Lesley and Bill are deeply devoted to St. John’s Catholic and Vincentian mission to help those most in need and to ensure the success of its students. They have served St. John’s in numerous capacities over the years, including as Co-Chairs of the Annual President’s Dinner, and as Co-Chairs of The Loughlin Society, which recognizes leadership annual gift contributors to St. John’s. In addition, they are members of The Founders Society, which was created to acknowledge the generosity of St. John’s most exceptional supporters who demonstrate unparalleled dedication to academic excellence and the Vincentian ideals of caring and compassion for others.

Bill Collins has often talked publicly about the fact that he received a scholarship which made it possible for him to attend St. John’s. He grew up in Queens, and, like so many of the University’s alumni and current students, is the child of immigrants to the United States. As a student, he was a member of the President’s Society and served as Editor-in-Chief of the official student-run newspaper of St. John’s University, The Torch. Bill describes the lasting impact of the scholarship support that he received as an undergraduate student:

“I am an example, among many alumni, of the opportunities found at St. John’s—and I am so very grateful, for when I came to St. John’s, the University offered me an academic scholarship. For me, that made all the difference.”

He added, “We are honored and proud to be associated with St. John’s University and we are particularly pleased to be part of recognizing the achievement, innovation, and growth of the College of Professional Studies.”