Lost for 50 Years a St. John's Class Ring Finds Its Owner

St. John's class ring found after fifty years
December 6, 2019

Kevin Houlihan ‘63CBA can’t pinpoint when he lost his St. John’s University class ring on a North Carolina beach, but he figures it was in the latter part of 1965 or early in 1966.

At the time, the New York City native was down south serving his country. “After graduating from St. John’s University, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and, later, was assigned to the Third Marine Division,” Houlihan says. “When I returned from overseas, I joined the Second Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC.” Houlihan left the Marine Corps in mid-1966, but his St. John’s ring stayed behind.

“I always tell people, ‘don’t inscribe your ring with your wedding date or I love you forever, put your phone number on it,’” says Steven Ray, who took up the hobby of metal detecting years ago and then launched his own business, Emerald Isle Metal Detecting, in Emerald Isle, NC. The company’s website is filled with images of his successes: treasured items lost and found, and smiling people reunited with them.

In September 2017, Ray was metal detecting with a friend around the Surf City Ocean Pier when his Minelab CTX-3030 signaled. “I was expecting that first alert to be a penny, as usual,” he shares. “But I dug down in the sand and saw it was a class ring.” That’s when the detective work began.

“At first, I had a very hard time trying to get the inside of the ring clean enough to see the name inscribed there,” says Ray. “Although I finally made out ‘Houlihan,’ my online search for the owner came up empty and I tabled the effort until this past summer.” Picking up the search again, Ray sent an email that reached Irene Watson and, through her, Jean Nolan at St. John’s University School of Law.

“I work in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at St. John’s Law, and Irene works in our Office of Admissions,” Nolan says. “She sent me Mr. Ray’s email outreach for help. It didn’t take long for me to find Kevin Houlihan in the St. John’s University alumni database.”

Houlihan, who retired as Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service and went on to do consulting work, says he was surprised when Nolan called him with the good news about his long-lost St. John’s class ring. He contacted Ray right away and, soon, the ring was back on Houlihan’s finger.

“I’m one of those people who believes in the goodness of others,” Houlihan says. “This entire experience only reinforces that belief for me. Total strangers took the time out of their busy lives to help someone reunite with a significant sentimental piece of his past.”

“I was delighted it all worked out so well,” Nolan says of the unique opportunity to assist a St. John’s alumnus. Ray echoes the sentiment. “I’d hope someone would be honest enough to try and return something I lost and that means a lot to me,” he says. “Most items I find have very little chance of reuniting with the rightful owner. This was a very happy exception.”

The happiness is also Houlihan’s, judging from a photo he shared with Ray recently. In it, he’s smiling broadly and holding up one hand. On his finger is a gold ring with a St. John’s red stone. “I’ve told this story to many people since it happened,” Houlihan says. “They tell me it reminds them of times in their own lives when someone went out of their way to help them or a loved one. It shows that the kindness of strangers is alive and well.”