A jubilant crowd of nearly 200 alumni and friends from St. John’s University gathered for an exciting evening of dancing, dining, and great music at the second annual Alumni Gala on Saturday, April 29, at the Inn at New Hyde Park in New Hyde Park, NY. The sold-out event capped a host of activities that brought Johnnies together from around the nation to reconnect and reminisce during 2023 Reunion Week.
“I get so energized about Reunion Week and anytime we have a chance to gather together as a St. John’s family,” said Mark A. Andrews, Director, Office of Alumni Relations. “It is a glorious moment for each of us to bring our individual passion for St. John’s University front and center with great enthusiasm and to share that with everyone else.”
“I am extremely grateful to St. John’s University as it opened many doors for me,” said Weedens E. Blanchard ’94SVC, ’97MBA, ’07PD, ’17Ed.D., during his welcoming remarks.
The gathering erupted in cheers and applause as soon as Dr. Blanchard said he was “extremely delighted” to share that his son, Noah Avery Blanchard, will enter St. John’s as a Cyber Security Systems major for the Fall 2023 semester. “I am very proud that my son will follow in the steps of his grandfather, his father, and his two uncles to become a Johnnie.”
Dr. Blanchard is Teaching Fellows Program Director and Manhattan Educational Program Director at Adelphi University. At St. John’s University, this year marks his 20th anniversary as Adjunct Assistant Professor with The School of Education and The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. Additionally, he is Copresident of the University’s 1990s Black Alumni Collective, which boasts almost 450 members.
During the evening’s festivities, the Class of 1973 was honored with a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of their graduation from St. John’s. “This means so much to me because I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at St. John’s,” said Rosanne Buckley Hanratty ’73C. “The University helped me to grow tremendously, partly by making available a few classes, including those in African history and community organizing, that changed my life.”
Many of the guests needed no coaxing after a sit-down, four-course dinner to kick up their heels on the dance floor while tunes filled the Inn’s Gable Room as they were spun by Anthony Gelo ’00CPS, in his capacity as DJ for the celebration. Mr. Gelo, owner of Good Times Productions LLC, was also DJ at the inaugural Alumni Gala in 2022.
Guests also lined up outside a photo booth set up adjacent to the dance floor for individual and group shots they could take home as mementos. Others poured through yearbooks for the Class of 1973, as well as for the Classes of 1983 and 1998, which are respectively celebrating 40 and 25 years since their commencements.
Joneil James ’03C, who was a mathematics teacher before becoming a librarian for the New York Public Library, said of her decision to attend the gala, “I want to meet other alumni, network, and taste some really great food.”
Of her undergraduate years at St. John’s, Ms. James said, “I had a very valuable opportunity to meet and interact with people of different nationalities and cultures.”
“This is an amazing night. My friends and I are having a blast and we will be back next year,” said Caitlin A. Cassidy '21Ed, '22Ged.
Martin “Marty” Moran ’52C has many fond memories of the Vincentian priests who he said greatly impacted and enhanced his college experience. “We had Vincentians to the right of us and Vincentians to the left of us when we attended the Lewis Avenue campus in Brooklyn, NY,” said Mr. Moran. Noting he served during the Korean War as an aviator with the US Navy, Mr. Moran recalled, “The priests kept in touch with all of us who enlisted in the military service to let us know where everyone was stationed and how they were doing.”
“Those priests stayed very close to us,” said Mr. Moran, a member of the Lewis Avenue Alumni Association.
Although she is not an alumna of St. John’s, Kathleen Falk, Ph.D., nonetheless cherishes deep ties to the institution through the memory of her late husband, Walter “Skip” Watts ’86Ph.D. “I have a very long history with St. John’s,” said Dr. Falk. She explained that during their first four years of marriage, Dr. Watts was a student at St. John’s, preparing for his career as a clinical psychologist. “I was walking with our baby son in his stroller at my husband’s commencement exercises,” she recalled.
Throughout Reunion Week activities that preceded the gala, Johnnies were treated to festivities, including sport outings, brunches, and happy hours by various organizations connected to St. John’s. This includes the Women Investor's Club Wine and Wealth sold-out dinner on April 24. Appreciation dinners were also held for alumni volunteers and the St. John’s Board of Trustees.
A major highlight of the week was the Graduates of the Last Decade (GOLD) Spring Social. Graduates of the past 10 years were invited to reconnect with each other and include their friends on Thursday, April 27, at 230 Fifth rooftop bar in Manhattan.
Another popular event was the Hispanic/Latinx Alumni Happy Hour. Hosted by the Hispanic and Latinx Alumni Association chapters on Friday, April 28, at Stout New York City in Bryant Park, Manhattan, the goal of the event was to reconnect and network with all Johnnies, including current students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and staff, as well as meet the next generation of campus leaders.
In addition, Rev. Brian Shanley, O.P., President, St. John’s University, hosted a dinner in recognition and appreciation of all alumni volunteers.
Jeffry Wengroff ’73CBA, a member of the St. John’s University Board of Governors and one of the gala attendees, said of his alma mater, “I would do anything for St. John’s. This University installed my moral compass.”