St. John’s University Hosts Inauguration of Honorable Melinda Katz ’90L, first female District Attorney of Queens County

January 10, 2020

What began with a post-Election Day campus space inquiry in a cell phone call to Joseph Sciame ’71Ed, St. John’s University’s Vice President for Community Relations, concluded just weeks later on January 6 with a festive and historic inauguration ceremony in Carnesecca Arena for Melinda Katz ’90L, the newly elected, first female District Attorney of Queens County.

Behind the scenes and in a relatively short time that included a two-week holiday break, the collaborative efforts of the University’s Office of Conference Services, Department of Campus Facilities and Services, University Dining Services, Department of Public Safety, Department of Athletics, Office of University Relations, School of Law, and a variety of local vendors made for a memorable public event that attracted 1,500 guests, dignitaries, and elected officials from across New York State. Some of the notable attendees included New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathleen C. Hochul, New York State Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and US Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, as well as multiple district attorneys, borough presidents, and members of the judiciary, New York State Legislature, and New York City Council.

The inauguration included a preevent cocktail reception sponsored by the School of Law in the newly refurbished Athletics Hall of Fame and a postevent reception held in Taffner Field House. The floor of Carnesecca Arena had to be set up with a stage, chairs, lighting, and sound equipment—which all had to be dismantled within hours so the arena could return to its regular use.

“It was an honor to host such a monumental event for the University for one of our alumna,” said Tamara A. Lajara, Director of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development, Office of Conference Services. “Pulling the logistical details together within three weeks over the holiday break certainly presented challenges, but our many support systems both on- and off-campus understood the significance of this event for the University and why collaboration was essential. With more than 1,500 guests in attendance in our arena, and approximately 1,000 guests for the postceremony reception, our departments executed a flawless event.”

At the ceremony and on behalf of the University, Michael A. Simons, J.D., Dean of the School of Law and John V. Brennan Professor of Law, delivered welcome remarks that reflected on the significance of the inauguration’s location at St. John’s, where District Attorney Katz first received her legal training.

“The ties between St. John’s School of Law and the Office of the Queens District Attorney are long and deep— like the ties between St. John’s University and the Borough of Queens. It is a particular pleasure for us to host this ceremony on our campus and a joy for us to see our alumna lead this office into the future.”

The formal oath of office was administered by another alumna of the School of Law, the Honorable Janet DiFiore ’81L, Chief Judge of the State of New York and the Court of Appeals. During her formal remarks which followed, District Attorney Katz recalled that one of her father’s last actions before his passing was to ensure that the $100 enrollment deposit for the School of Law was paid. “It was that important to him,” she declared.

District Attorney Katz went on to highlight the importance of service to others, a characteristic embedded in a St. John’s education. “The willingness to take action—to do what is right—has always been the foundation of public service,” she said. “We are in a position to stand up, speak out, and make real change.”

Before being elected District Attorney, Ms. Katz served as a member of the New York State Assembly and the New York City Council, and as Borough President of Queens County. As Borough President, she would annually sponsor the Katz Summer Concert Series featuring the Queens Symphony Orchestra that always included a regular visit to the Great Lawn at St. John’s.