Four Influential Black Alumni Who Make St. John’s Proud

Collage of 4 notable St. John's black alums
By Toni Critelli

Over the past 150+ years, St. John’s University has been part of the academic journey for many influential figures and pioneers.

In honor of Black History Month, we recognize four of our St. John’s Black alumni who have significantly impacted their respective industries by demonstrating the potential of what can be achieved when driven by enthusiasm, effort, and commitment.

We are proud to celebrate their exemplary accomplishments and hope their example inspires and motivates others to reach for the stars.

1)  Jonelle Procope ’77L

Alumna holds the role as Chief Executive and President of the historically famous Harlem, NY, theater, the Apollo.

Harlem’s Apollo Theater’s President & CEO Jonelle Procope
Photo credit: Shahar Azran

Jonelle Procope graduated from the St. John’s School of Law in 1977. She is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the influential Apollo Theater, a position she has held since 2003. Additionally, she has been an Apollo board member since 1999.  

The Apollo Theater is a legendary music venue and has been a staple in African American culture for more than 90 years. It was one of the first places to celebrate African American performers. It has also been the starting point for some of the most influential black artists in music history, including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Jackson 5, James Brown, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and many more.

Ms. Procope recognized the potential of her leadership role to maintain, repair, and enlarge the well-known theater, and this decision launched a rewarding career for the next 20 years. Today, she has raised more than $63 million for theater restoration and preservation. She continues to preserve its integrity, fueled by community and belonging.

2) Dr. Sharod L. Tomlinson ’21Ed.D

Alumnus is the Director of R.I.S.E., St. John’s University’s youth empowerment network for Black and Latinx students.  

Sharod L. Tomlinson Ph.D., Associate Dean of Student Success and Engagement


Dr. Sharod L. Tomlinson, Associate Dean of Student Success and Engagement, has had a passion for peer mentorship and leadership since the beginning stages of his career. Before graduating with a School of Education- Administrative and Instructional Leadership degree from the St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dr. Tomlinson was a women’s basketball coach and a youth minister leader at his local church in Queens, NY. Additionally, he has been helping individuals achieve their goals and realize their potential as a Gallup-certified strengths coach

In 2016, he was appointed Director of R.I.S.E, a student network that aims to enrich the academic experience of Black and Latinx first-year students through mentorship and skill-based development. Today, the program has more than 50 peer mentors and 150 mentees.

Most recently, Dr. Tomlinson completed his School of Education dissertation, “From Admission to Graduation: Finding Meaning, Achievement, and Identity in Students Support Programs,” which focuses on the positive impact of university mentoring programs on Black and Latinx students. 

3) King Mouhammad Nabil Mforifourm Mbombo Njoya ’15CPS

Alumnus is crowned the 20th King of Central African Country, Cameroon, at 28 years old.

King Mouhammad Nabil Mforifourm Mbombo Njoya, the 20th King of Central African Country
Photo credit: Royal Bamum Palace

Mfon Mforifoum Mbombo Njoya Mouhammad Nabil graduated from the College of Professional Studies (now called The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies) in 2015. During his years at St. John’s, Mfon addressed real-world social justice issues as an Ozanam Scholar and completed a capstone thesis exploring the sustainability of cultural patrimony programs in Cameroon.

Six years later, at 28 years old, he was crowned King and Sultan of the Bamum Kingdom. King Njoya is the 20th king in a ruling dynasty dating back to the late 14th century. The Bamum Kingdom is among the African continent’s most famous traditional kingdoms, with more than 1.25 million residents.

4) Elaine Weddington Steward ’87L

Alumna is the first African American Assistant General Manager in Major League Baseball history.

Elaine Weddington Steward. Vice President/Club Counsel of the Boston Red Sox
Photo credit:

Elaine Weddington Steward graduated in 1987 from St. John’s University’s School of Law. However, she found her true passion working for Major League Baseball (MLB).

While studying for her Juris Doctor degree on the Queens, NY, campus, Ms. Steward had the opportunity to intern in the public relations department of the New York Mets. After two years in that role, she was hired by the Boston Red Sox as an Associate Counsel, and within two more years, she was promoted to Assistant General Manager at the age of 26—becoming the first African American woman and the second female minority in MLB to hold this position.

St. John’s University is proud of the achievements of our alumni; don’t miss these other success stories: 

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Toni Critelli

Digital Content Creator

Toni Critelli is a full-time staff writer for Johnnie's Blog. Through engaging content, she captures the essence of the institution, its students, faculty, and alums.