On Thursday, September 14, members of The McCallen Society gathered for their Annual Recognition Mass and Luncheon, a popular event that recognizes the generosity of individuals, both living and deceased, who through a planned giving initiative demonstrate support for the mission of St. John’s University. The society is named in memory of former University Treasurer Rev. Thomas J. McCallen, C.M., who was instrumental in acquiring the Hillcrest Golf Course that became the University’s Queens, NY, campus.
The celebration began with Mass in St. Thomas More Church; Rev. Patrick J. Griffin, C.M. ’13HON, Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, served as the principal celebrant with assistance provided by Rev. Aidan R. Rooney, C.M., M.Div., M.Th. ’78NDC, Executive Vice President for Mission.
During the liturgy, a symbolic candle ceremony was held, and prayers were offered to remember all the departed McCallen Society members. During his homily, Fr. Griffin, invoking the liturgical feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, cited the importance of symbols and reminded the congregation how the universal symbol of the Christian faith—the cross—represents Christ’s victory over death.
Following Mass, guests enjoyed lunch in the Ballroom of the D’Angelo Center. Welcoming them to this year’s event, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President, noted that “higher education faces many challenges, but St. John’s has positioned itself in a good place because of our strong academic programs—and our future is bright.”
He continued, “We can’t do what we do and serve the students that we serve here without your support, and for that I am grateful. We rely on the generosity and investment of McCallen Society members in our students and in our future.”
Members of The McCallen Society in attendance were grateful for the gathering to show their support for the University that means so much to them for many distinct reasons.
Victor Visconti ’68Ed, surrounded by friends from The School of Education, remarked, “St. John’s University gave me my start in life and guided me in the earliest days of my teaching career. My experience was everything that I wanted and more—and that keeps me coming back and staying involved.”
Clare M. Byrne ’76C, ’80MBA, ’06MLS, ’12APC was happy to return to campus for the festive occasion and shared, “I had such a wonderful experience here and I want others to experience that as well, so that’s why I give back.”
Among the most generous of the University’s donors, The McCallen Society has 175 annual giving members and 145 Loughlin Society members; 107 McCallen members are endowed scholarship grantors.
A video that highlighted the direct impact of the McCallen Society and its 797 members was broadcast that featured students and young alumni expressing personal gratitude for their generosity. The video highlighted the $4,583,421 contributed by the McCallens to the University.
As guests dined on lunch and enjoyed a musical performance by student members of the Voices of Victory and the Mixed Chorus, Susan M. Damiani, M.B.A. ’87CBA, Director of Gift Planning and The McCallen Society, moved about the ballroom and observed, “The McCallen Society members are vital to the future of St. John’s. Their dedication to the University is inspiring.”
After lunch, McCallen and Founders Society member John “Jack” P. Clarke, Esq. ’55CBA, ’57L, Visiting Professor, Department of Law, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, regaled the crowd with personal anecdotes and stories of his eight-decade association with St. John’s. “Fr. McCallen had the good vision to move St. John’s forward—and we now must do the same,” he said.
As a student in the 1950s, Professor Clarke saw firsthand the influence and impact of Fr. McCallen. Now, decades later, he helps honor that legacy by paying tribute to the memory of the Vincentian who helped launch the collegiate careers of countless students and who changed the trajectory of the University by negotiating for the purchase of what would become the Queens campus.
Professor Clarke concluded his rousing remarks by sharing, “A benefit of The McCallen Society is that we can pay it forward after we are gone and leave a legacy like Fr. McCallen and so many others did.”