23rd Annual President’s Dinner a Virtual Success

April 12, 2021

St. John’s University celebrated its 23rd annual President’s Dinner, A Virtual Celebration of the Impact of Giving on Thursday, April 8. The event, which supports scholarships for St. John’s students most in need of financial assistance, raised $2.2 million. The evening was buoyed by the first-hand account of several students whose lives have been directly impacted by the generosity of donors to St. John’s.

In his welcoming remarks, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., who began his tenure as President of St. John’s in February, took the opportunity to thank all of the University’s generous benefactors. “In keeping with our Catholic and Vincentian heritage, these funds go directly to students most in need,” Fr. Shanley stressed, adding that in the last year, St. John’s gave out $289 million in institutional financial aid and scholarships to students.

“Your generosity, in whatever amount, changes the course of these students’ lives because you enable them to continue their education in this very difficult time.”

For President’s Dinner Chairs James J. Shannon ’87CBA and Anissa Mitrano Shannon ’89SVC, ’91Ed, their involvement with other alumni has been intensely gratifying and a wonderful extension of their St. John’s experience. “The President’s Dinner is the single most important fundraising event that we do each year,” stated Mr. Shannon, who serves as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees.

This year represents a number of milestones for the University, including its 150th anniversary. “I am pleased to say that St. John’s has been faithful to the mission for 150 years,” Mr. Shannon remarked.

Christian P. Vaupel, Ed.D., Vice President for Advancement and University Relations, noted that he often speaks with alumni who are grateful for their St. John’s education and the scholarships the University provided. Each year, more than 95 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.

Dr. Vaupel told prospective donors that by supporting the President’s Dinner, “you are making it possible for current and future generations of students to enjoy the St. John’s experience. The students for whom we are most concerned are those who are academically eligible and qualified to attend St. John’s, but, may not have the resources from home to afford a St. John’s education.”

Several students shared their St. John’s stories, relaying how generous donations from alumni have enabled them to fulfill their dream of a college education. Harlem, NY, native Amari Brown ’20CCPS, a Sport Management major, said the scholarship he received from St. John’s greatly impacted his decision to attend college. “It definitely motivated me to push my limits and strive for greatness.”

Describing himself as a “timid, wide-eyed freshman,” Amari said he felt very welcome on the University’s Queens, NY, campus. “I consider St. John’s my second home.”

Childhood Education major and current student Teresa Neri is the first in her family to attend college, and noted that the scholarship offered to her by St. John’s exceeded the financial awards from other schools. “I have had so many more opportunities here than I would have had at any other school,” she said. Teresa has traveled to Rome, Italy, twice, and to Georgia on a service trip with the Office of Campus Ministry. “St. John’s helped me find who I am and what I want to do.”

“When I took the campus tour, I felt like I was already home,” recalled Amanda Belgrave, a Finance major in The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Amanda plans to be an executive director in the financial services industry. “I am able to dream that big because of St. John’s.”

“The most rewarding part of working at St. John’s is interacting with our amazing students,” noted Gina M. Florio, Ph.D., Interim Dean of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Chemistry and Physics. “Our students are diverse in perspective and experience. They are smart, thoughtful, and critical, and bring more to the table than people could ever imagine. They have a passion for learning and a desire to do good in the world.”