More than 100 people recently recognized the achievements of women alumni during “Celebrating the Women of St. John’s,” a signature event hosted by the University’s Office of Advancement in recognition of Women’s History Month.
The festivities and luncheon, which took place on Saturday, March 26, at the iconic Garden City Hotel after a two-year postponement because of the pandemic, was an opportunity for alumni and friends to reconnect with alma mater and form new relationships.
“We are celebrating the passion, progress, and grit of all of the women who came before us and sit among us,” said St. John’s Head Volleyball Coach Joanne Persico ’91MBA, who delivered her spirited and impactful keynote speech before an enthusiastic crowd, which included members of The McCallen and Loughlin Societies, faculty, students, and parents.
“We are all teammates, connected through our St. John’s experience, our New York City experience, and our faith and spiritual experience.”
“There are so many common threads among us, even though some of us met each other for the first time today,” said Coach Persico, who was selected as the event’s speaker based on her position as a leader of students and her devotion to the values of St. John’s. She is also a proud alumna who benefited from the strength of the institution’s alumni network. “We are mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses, entrepreneurs, and pioneers in various industries.”
The coach underscored the strength and empowerment of women and the ability everyone possesses to do good for others. She also focused on the success of St. John’s alumni and the importance of celebrating those achievements to inspire current students and to connect all alumni, with pride, to the University.
Coach Persico, the only head coach in the volleyball team’s National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I history and the longest-tenured, female coach in the annals of St. John’s athletics, named St. John’s legends Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON, former Red Storm Men’s Basketball Coach and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and Kathy Meehan, Senior Deputy Athletics Director, as her mentors.
During the program, which was led by Jessica Y. Lazo ’09TCB, Ann J. Jawin ’77PD was honored posthumously with the Woman in Achievement award. Ms. Jawin was founder of the Center for the Women of New York, a voluntary nonprofit organization that is a one-stop, walk-in shop providing a wide variety of resources for all women.
Highlights of the program included a stirring rendition of “God Bless America” performed by Susan M. Damiani ’87CBA, Director of Gift Planning, Clare Byrne ’76C, ’80MBA, ’06MLS, ’12APC, and Kathy LaVache ’74ED, alumni of the University Glee Club.
Alexandra Checkers ’19C, ’20MBA was deeply moved by the celebration. “Being surrounded by such inspirational and motivated alumni was truly an honor,” said Ms. Checkers. “It was even more special to me because I was able to attend the event with my mother, Kim Cozza ’93CBA, and my sister, Adrianna, who is a current first-year student at St. John’s.
“We as women have come so far; I am grateful to have attended a University that continues to appreciate and celebrate our accomplishments.”
Also in attendance, Diane Smith ’90SVC observed, “Once again, I am reminded of how grateful I am to be an alumna of the University. The speakers were inspiring. They are examples of successful women who embrace St. John’s values. It reminds us all to give back.”
For Catharine Borzon ’85CBA, “It’s exciting to know I am part of a group of women doing exceptional work.”