A half century of academic excellence was joyfully marked as more than 200 alumni, students, faculty, leadership, and friends of St. John’s University gathered on Thursday, April 28, for the 50th anniversary celebration of the campus on Staten Island, NY.
Hosted at the Above, at the Hilton Garden Inn Staten Island, Staten Island’s only rooftop ballroom with an outdoor patio, the evening of dining, dancing, and honoring the campus’s longtime supporters was the culmination of a year-long “Bridge to the Future” observance to mark the establishment of the 16.5-acre campus in the leafy, Grymes Hill neighborhood, considered one of the most desirable and safest residential areas in New York City.
Notre Dame College in Staten Island was a premier women’s higher education institution for nearly 40 years. It became part of the University in 1971, thus creating St. John’s Staten Island campus.
“The room was filled with our guests and their 50 years of memories, friendships, and St. John’s stories,” said James O’Keefe, Ph.D. ’79NDC, Vice Provost, Staten Island campus, and Professor, Department of Criminal Justice. “From the original members of the Notre Dame College Alumnae Association to alumni from the 1970s through today, and including our current student leaders, we all gathered to express our collective affection and to honor the generations of Johnnies who came before us—and the truly transformational value of a St. John’s education.”
A major highlight of the festivities was the announcement of a new initiative, The Lois and Richard Nicotra Scholarship. It combines the love and appreciation the Nicotras have for St. John’s University with their mission to help students who graduated from Susan E. Wagner High School, the couple’s other treasured alma mater, to attend the Staten Island campus with a four year, reoccurring Scholarship.
Richard Nicotra ’76NDC, ’86HON, Owner, The Nicotra Group, LLC/The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation, is the youngest person in the history of the University to receive an honorary doctorate. Lois Nicotra ’77NDC, ’83GEd, Owner, The Nicotra Group, LLC/The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation, delivered the University Commencement Address in 2017.
“It was very special for us to host the Staten Island campus’s 50th anniversary at our Above Rooftop because St. John’s is very dear to us, both personally and professionally,” said the Nicotras, who own the restaurant, in a joint statement. “We met at St. John’s, and our Everything Yogurt business idea was born in a St. John’s classroom, thanks to an undergraduate assignment. We know the Staten Island campus is still a very special place.”
Proceeds and donations from the festivities will go to the Staten Island Scholarship Fund, which continues to help provide assistance for Staten Island students.
“The Notre Dame College Alumnae Association is happy that St. John’s University took ownership of ‘our’ campus, continuing the high Christian and moral values promoted by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame. We are grateful for St. John’s continued recognition and support,” said Maureen O’Brien ’62NDC, President, Notre Dame College Alumnae Association.
Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., University President, and Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University Distinguished Professor, and Provost Endowed Chair, were among the University leaders who attended.
Also present was Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M. ’78NDC, Vice President for Mission Integration in the Office of University Mission and Ministry at Niagara University. Fr. Rooney will return to his alma mater as Executive Vice President for Mission, effective August 1.
“The 50th anniversary event was a lovely experience of reconnecting with St. John’s, and it brought back memories of my Staten Island Johnnies family,” Fr. Rooney said. “We were a close-knit group, and it’s nice to see that feeling continues with this generation of students.”
Kristine Albano Garlisi ’95NDC, ’97G, Chief Operaring Officer for The Nicotra Group, was pleased to attend the celebration with her daughter, Grace Garlisi, a Childhood Education major on the Staten Island campus who expects to graduate in 2024.
“That was a very special moment, to be there with Grace and have the opportunity to greet her friends and professors,” said Ms. Garlisi.
“My husband, Roy Garlisi ’92SVC, and I met at St. John’s, and so much of our adult life, professional opportunities and friendships grew from our college experience,” Ms. Garlisi added.