Luncheon Highlights McCallen Society Mission

Members of The McCallen Society enjoyed a mass and luncheon on September 18, 2019.
September 25, 2019

As the St. John’s University alumni network continues to expand and grow, members of The McCallen Society are eager to make a difference in a deserving student’s education—and hopefully inspire them to leave a gift for others following in their footsteps.

“I think The McCallen Society really shows the gratitude members have for the education they received and their willingness to share that blessing with others through their generosity,” said Rev. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M. ’13HON, Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, at the recent McCallen Society Annual Recognition Mass and Luncheon held on September 18, 2019.

Welcoming members to this year's luncheon, Susan M. Damiani ’87CBA, Director of Gift Planning and The McCallen Society, acknowledged the importance of their special connection to St. John's. “Today, you make the choice to be an active member of our University family, and to provide the support that we need to continue to keep our mission of service to others strong in the future,” she said. “That is a very special commitment, because it ensures that your legacy lives on at St. John’s for generations to come."

There are now more than 700 donors in The McCallen Society, including Marilyn A. Verna ’66Ed, ’96Ed.D. “The University’s mission remains unchanged, and that is why I support St. John’s as a member of The McCallen Society,” she explained. “For me, it is about being able to assist young people on their journey as they work to achieve their dreams.”

Jeffrey W. Fagen, Ph.D., Dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, believes that every university should have a legacy society with enthusiastic members like Dr. Verna. “We benefit greatly from donations made by members of The McCallen Society,” he said. “This support helps us with scholarships, especially for students in financial need.” He noted that many students depend on financial assistance in order to attend the University. 

Sitting with John Tutunjian ’59C and his wife, Florence, Dr. Fagen noted the ongoing generosity of this loyal couple. “John actually has a dinner for the students, and now we have three in his endowed fund,” he said.

For members Joseph V. Etzel ’88P, ’90Pharm.D. and Micheline Sayour ’82MBA, the University holds a special place in their hearts. Ms. Sayour worked full time while obtaining her M.B.A. at night. Now, she assists the Office of Gift Planning through the McCallen Volunteer Program (MVP). 

“There are many worthwhile causes; I wanted to give back to the institutions and places that mean something to me and helped me along in my career,” Ms. Sayour said. “It gives me a sense of connection and community, which is really important these days.”

A first-generation college student, Dr. Etzel is now an associate clinical professor and advisor for two different student organizations at the University, Phi Delta Chi, a Pharmacy fraternity, and Rho Chi, a Pharmacy honor society.

“St. John’s provided me with scholarships so I could earn my degrees,” Dr. Etzel said. “The University still gives me so much; I want to give back for the future. The students that I see every year are really exceptional.”

Click here to learn more about The McCallen Society. 

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