St. John’s to Celebrate Legacy of Professor Robert R. Tomes, Ph.D.

Professor Tomes headshot
March 6, 2024

The life and legacy of Robert R. Tomes, Ph.D., Professor, Division of Arts and Humanities, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies, at St. John’s University, will be remembered at a memorial celebration on Friday, March 15, in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom on the University’s Queens, NY, campus.

Organized by the Collins College of Professional Studies, the event will feature dinner and musical guests, including the G&P Orchestra. Tickets can be purchased here.

Proceeds will support the Dr. Robert Tomes Humanitarian Scholar Award, established in Dr. Tomes’ name to provide educational resources consistent with the University’s Vincentian mission of access for all.

The Humanitarian Scholar Award recognizes Dr. Tomes’ life of joy, service, scholarship, and love of St. John’s.

“We miss his scholarship, his brilliance, and his outstanding teaching performance,” said Luca Iandoli, Ph.D., Dean, the Collins College of Professional Studies, and Professor, Division of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Science. “More than anything else, we miss him as a friend and a dear colleague.”

A lifelong Staten Island, NY, resident, Dr. Tomes was born on September 13, 1955. He was an alumnus of New York University and the City College of New York, from which he received his license in Administration and Supervision in 1987.

He dedicated his time to the pursuit of knowledge and education. Before joining the faculty at St. John’s, Dr. Tomes worked in community relations at the New York Public Library and the New York City Department of Education’s Court Street headquarters as a director of after-school programs and teacher recruitment officer.

A dedicated Catholic, Dr. Tomes eventually arrived at St. John’s, where he enjoyed a long and rewarding 35-year career. He spent his first 10 years as Associate Dean on the Staten Island campus, teaching popular History courses such as Contemporary United States History and History of the Vietnam War. He also authored several books, including Apocalypse Then: American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954–1975.

Dr. Tomes died on October 24, 2023; he was 68 years old. Dr. Tomes is remembered for his sense of humor, charisma, and optimism. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and his daughters, Claire O’Hare, Kathleen Ciavattoni, Christine Tomes, and Julie Tomes.

“Bob had a unique way of making anything better with his presence,” Dr. Iandoli said. “Whether it was a keynote presentation, an academic conversation, or the frequent and casual chit-chat I had with him at the coffee machine, which was often accompanied by the best laugh I have ever heard.”

A self-taught guitarist, Dr. Tomes shared his musical gifts with his fellow Catholics as a church musician at St. Patrick's, St. John the Baptist de la Salle, and Our Lady Help of Christians churches, on Staten Island. He also enjoyed playing for his family and performing stand-up folk songs. His favorite genres were traditional Irish music, rock, social justice songs, and children’s music.

Tickets for the celebration and fundraising event are available for purchase. Alternatively, online donations are accepted for the Humanitarian Scholar Award.

“With this event, we want to celebrate Dr. Tomes’ contributions and dedication to St. John’s and his exquisite and rare humanity,” Dr. Iandoli said.