Planning comes second nature to Marilyn (’66Ed, ’96Ed.D.) and Elaine Verna ’54CBA. They believe that the future is determined in large measure by the present, which is why these dynamic sisters embrace the concept of planned giving through their membership in The McCallen Society at St. John’s University.
Both attended St. John’s campus on Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn, NY, and pursued different careers after graduation. Elaine used her degree in accounting to specialize in auditing at the New York City Board of Education, while Marilyn spent her entire professional life in the classroom, initially teaching mathematics to fifth graders and later educational research at the college level. They readily acknowledge that the University prepared them well for lifelong professional success, and their love for and commitment to alma mater is as strong today as ever. “I came to St. John’s because my sister went there, and for both of us it has always been about the people,” remarked Marilyn. “From my first days at the University, there was a genuine sense of warmth that made me feel like I had become a part of a very loving family. It was like a second home back then, and I still feel that way today.”
Both sisters agree that although St. John’s has changed significantly since their student days, the changes have actually expanded the sense of family that makes the University so incredibly unique.
“When Elaine and I were students, St. John’s was overwhelmingly a commuter school,” recalled Marilyn. “Today it is still a commuter school, but it is also residential. Bringing in young people from all across the country—and around the world—expands everyone’s perspectives, and fosters an appreciation for the differences that are inherent in every person. The University is still a family, but now it is an extended family.”
The ways in which these two enthusiastic alumnae support St. John’s reflect the differences that lie within their similarities. Marilyn’s estate plans include the creation of a scholarship to help young people in financial need realize their dream of a quality education at the University, just as she and her sister did those many years ago. She also supports the St. John’s library, and hopes to establish a genealogy and an Italian multimedia collection to allow people to research and learn about their past and culture.
A sports enthusiast since her student days, Elaine’s generosity is directed to the University’s athletics programs, particularly baseball and men’s basketball. “I have always been a big fan of St. John’s sports teams,” she noted, “and I was especially fond of Coach Lou (Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON) and Chris Mullin. I knew many of the players on the baseball team, some of whom went on to have a wonderful career as outstanding professional athletes. I am very committed to making those same opportunities available to the many young men and women athletes who follow in their footsteps.”
For both Verna sisters, membership in The McCallen Society is a great way to contribute to the success of the University in the future while enjoying the wide array of social and educational events offered regularly by the Office of Gift Planning.
“The McCallen Society activities are wonderful,” said Marilyn. “No matter when we graduated or what campus we attended, the members are warm and welcoming people who have one thing in common—a love for St. John’s. We are all family, and a very special family at that!”