A Family Affair in Every Way
As the late Bernard Babb ’53C, ’58L was always quick to point out, many times things happen for a reason that do not become apparent until years later. A double alumnus of St. John’s University, Mr. Babb once related how his connection to St. John’s began long before he ever set foot on campus: “The man who was to become my godfather came to America prior to 1900 with a letter from his bishop in Guyana as a recommendation to help him find a job. The first job he got was at St. John’s College, on Lewis Avenue in Brooklyn.”
After studying at St. Peter Claver School and Cathedral Prep Seminary, Mr. Babb continued his education at St. John’s University. He was a firm advocate of the Vincentian values that were a part of his St. John’s experience and believed that they were as relevant to today’s world as they were during his student days.
“The important thing is to do good, particularly among poor people,” he frequently remarked. “The Vincentian values will always be relevant to the world, because they are not something you merely think about—they are something you do.”
After graduating from St. John’s School of Law, Mr. Babb began his professional career as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, a position he enjoyed immensely because it gave him an opportunity as a young lawyer to learn how the legal system really worked. He later went on to serve for 15 years as a trial attorney within the Civil Division, US Department of Justice, after which he entered private practice, specializing in tariffs and international trade matters.
Mr. Babb’s Vincentian values remained with him throughout his legal career. As an attorney, he became very much aware of, and more tolerant of, human failings, but never lost his faith in people.
Mr. Babb’s generosity toward St. John’s was firmly rooted in his own experiences as a young student. He said, “I had to pay my dues to get to where I wanted to be, and I am happy to help young people following in my footsteps. I feel that it is my obligation to give back to show how much I appreciate what was done for me.”
Like many members of The McCallen Society, Mr. Babb included St. John’s in his estate plans, specifically taking advantage of the tax benefits associated with the popular IRA Rollover Plan. By making his gift from funds previously included in his IRA, he and his beloved wife Frances were able to support the University in ways that would otherwise have been unavailable to them.
In an interview shortly before his untimely death in 2012, he wisely noted, “It is easier to do it this way, and if you want to be pragmatic, it costs you less.”
Bernard Babb’s legacy and love for St. John’s continues to flourish through the ongoing generosity of his wife, Frances. She has always known what the University meant to her husband, and is committed to furthering his willingness to make a difference for others.
“Bernie loved St. John’s, particularly the School of Law, and I feel the same way,” she said. “The University is a very special place, and I am honored to be a member of the St. John’s family.”