A lively contingent of more than 100 St. John’s University students, alumni, and employees proudly joined in the 2023 New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, the oldest and largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world.
On a sunny, warm Friday afternoon, the spirited group of St. John’s revelers marched up Fifth Avenue. They were buoyed by sustained cheers from spectators who lined the parade route, which extended from East 44th Street to East 79th Street.
The New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the oldest and largest in the United States. The tradition began on March 17, 1762—14 years before the Declaration of Independence. The parade in honor of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and the Archdiocese of New York, includes approximately 150,000 marchers and usually draws almost two million spectators.
“Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and by the energetic reaction of the spectators, everyone loves St. John’s,” shared Mark A. Andrews, Director, Office of Alumni Relations. “This year, being featured in the television coverage of the parade garnered many positive messages from alumni who watched the parade from home.”
The St. John’s group was led by student color guard members of the Red Storm Battalion of the Reserve Officers Training Corps—and bagpiper Robert P. Lynch, Esq., ’77C, ’80L, Adjunct Professor, Division of Administration and Economics.
Brian Browne, Associate Vice President of University Communications and Public Affairs, has voluntarily coordinated St. John’s participation in the parade since 2005. “I have been marching in this parade my entire life, so for me what makes this day special is to see others experience the impact of the Irish spirit and the proud traditions of the parade for themselves—especially first-time marchers.”
One new participant in the St. John’s parade experience was Vanessa Bethencourt, an international graduate student from Venezuela who is studying International Hospitality Management at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. Having just arrived in the United States in January, Vanessa was impressed with the long history and rich traditions of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade and festivities.
“It was special for me to see in a diverse New York City just one culture, the Irish, being celebrated so proudly by so many different people and for so long,” she observed. “The parade was exciting and fun, and the actual march went quickly because I was enjoying myself so much.”
Before stepping off, a special St. John’s alumni brunch was held at Stout New York City on East 41st Street where generations of Johnnies enjoyed Irish food, music, and good cheer. During the breakfast, Martin Whelan ’84CBA was designated Honorary Grand Marshal of the St. John’s parade delegation. Mr. Whelan is President and Majority Partner in the Stout NYC Hospitality Group, and an avid supporter of St. John’s who makes his various bars and restaurants available for University-sponsored events. Stout NYC is the Official bar of St. John's Athletics.
“Marty is so good to St. John’s throughout the year, and we want to celebrate him in a distinct way today, said Mr. Andrews.
As the owner of a dozen successful businesses in the New York City area, Mr. Whelan has made community involvement a priority. He and his partners support a large variety of local charities, including The New York Foundling, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Hope Lodge, and St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Mr. Whelan also serves on the board of the 34th Street Partnership, a nonprofit business improvement district dedicated to beautifying and maintaining the area it serves.
All St. John’s students are encouraged to participate in the college-level research paper Scholarship Contest sponsored by the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Celebration Committee. Students can participate as the University is an affiliated member of the committee. The deadline for submissions is 11 p.m. on April 4.