As St. John’s University begins its 150th anniversary year, many things are different, yet the most important remain the same: the institution’s commitment to providing an outstanding, exciting, and unique educational experience to a diverse group of learners .
Held on August 23, the New Student Convocation is typically hosted in Carnesecca Arena on the Queens, NY, campus, but safety concerns mandated that this year’s opening school event take place online. But the enthusiasm and fanfare normally on display in person was still evident, as new students got a taste of what it means to be a Johnny from administrators and their peers.
“You belong to a bright and diverse group of young women and men who have excelled in academics and extracurricular activities,” said Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., President of St. John’s University, during his welcoming remarks.
Dr. Gempesaw noted that there were more than 2,200 new and transfer students from over 30 states, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, making up one of the largest cohorts of any Catholic college in the US. St. John’s also welcomed students from 13 countries.
“You are among our brightest, most talented, and accomplished first-year students,” Dr. Gempesaw said.
“You are joining St. John’s at one of the most challenging times of your lives. But always remember that despite these challenges, you have the potential to succeed—and we believe you will succeed.”
Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, noted that despite the uncertainty caused by the global health situation, the entire St. John’s community has worked tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty, administrators, and staff. “Your safety is our number one priority as we welcome you to our great University.”
Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M. ’70C, Executive Vice President for Mission, acknowledged that incoming first-year students begin their St. John’s journey in unprecedented times. He explained that the University plays a critical role in the educational landscape of New York City, “not by closing itself off from society and the world, but by becoming more engaged with its students and the wider community, working its way through the challenges and controversies of the city, nation, and world.”
“This year is historic as we celebrate 150 years of providing an excellent education to students while remaining faithful to our mission,” observed Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs. “We will continue this proud tradition, even as our nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic and issues of social injustice.”
She added, “Ours is a community that respects one another and learns from our shared experiences and the experiences that make each of us unique. We are blessed to know that as incoming members of the St. John’s family, you bring the hope and talent that will make the future brighter for all.”
Roger Guevara, a Management major and President of Student Government, Inc. (SGI) on the Staten Island, NY, campus, recalled his own uncertainty when he arrived at St. John’s. He quickly immersed himself in campus life, joining clubs, attending events, and volunteering with organizations that promoted its Vincentian mission.
“Now is the time to uncover the real you and to realize your full potential. You are a Johnny and part of our St. John’s family.”
“People say that college is the best time of your life,” observed Patrick Kohn ’22Pharm.D., President of SGI on the Queens campus. “I know a lot of you are watching this at home wondering if that is true. I can honestly say that it is, even being online last semester.” He encouraged first-year students to get involved. “This is your college experience.”
Psychology major Katlyn Weydig agreed with Patrick and said she is determined to make the most of her first-year experience. A commuter student, Katlyn came to St. John’s because it was close to home and New York City: the best of both worlds. “There are so many great activities, like Red Storm basketball games, that I cannot wait to experience.”
Her twin sister, Chloe Weydig, an Adolescent Education major, was attracted to the diversity of the St. John’s student body. “I love how inclusive it is and how the University offers so many opportunities.”