Rahel Solomon speaking at the 24th annual president's dinner

President's Dinner

Twenty-Sixth Annual President's Dinner

Monday, October 30, 2023
New York Hilton Midtown

1335 Avenue of the Americas | Directions
6 p.m. Cocktail Reception | 7 p.m. Dinner
Black Tie Optional

About The President's Dinner

Since its inception in 1998, the Annual President’s Dinner has been a celebration of what makes St. John’s University unique – the vibrant combination of scholarship and service. For more than 150 years, the University has been “faithful to the mission,” committed to extending the opportunity for a superior academic education to deserving students regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Funds raised from the President’s Dinner are used to support scholarship assistance for students who, because of economic burdens, might otherwise be unable to realize their dream of a St. John’s education. In the past 25 years, the President’s Dinner has raised more than $51 million in scholarship support for St. John’s students.

More Information

James Hogan '14CPS, '16MBA
St. John’s University, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11439
Tel 718-990-3352  |  Fax 718-990-2008
[email protected]

2023 Spirit of Service Honorees

John R. Bender '87CBA

John R. Bender ’87CBA currently serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Allied World Reinsurance Company and Cofounder and Chairman Emeritus of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. He started out working in the claims department of St. Paul Reinsurance as a Claims Assistant and was eventually recruited into underwriting. When St. Paul Companies spun off their reinsurance company into Platinum Underwriters, Mr. Bender was named Senior Vice President, Commercial Underwriting, and ultimately Chief Underwriting Officer. After nearly 20 years, Mr. Bender joined Allied World Reinsurance Company, where he is now President and Chief Executive Officer, Global Reinsurance. 

While at a friend’s barbecue on July 3, 1999, Mr. Bender and friends Tim Kenny and Enda McDonnell devised a new and unique way to raise money for a good cause. Mr. Bender paired the idea of shaving heads with helping children fight cancer and is Chairman Emeritus and Co-Founder of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Since then, he has distinguished himself as the “Iron Man” of St. Baldrick’s—being the only person in St. Baldrick’s history to have been shorn every year.

Mr. Bender currently serves on the boards of Polish Reinsurance Company, the Reinsurance Association of America, and the Brokers & Reinsurance Markets Association, and is a member of the St. John’s Red White Club, whose members contribute gifts that have an immediate and tangible impact on University athletic programs.


Mary Jane Helenek, R.Ph. '82P, '84GP, '87MBA

Mary Jane Helenek ’82P, ’84GP, ’87MBA, a member of St. John’s University’s Board of Governors, is a highly accomplished, entrepreneurial pharmaceutical executive with a 30+ year successful track record of developing and launching pharmaceutical products, driving expansion and leading highly profitable turnarounds through execution, discipline, and strong people management skills. 

She is a visionary operations leader with solid experience managing all levels of the business, including administration, budgeting, commercial, manufacturing, research and development, and quality. Ms. Helenek quickly identifies opportunities and risks in business plans and budgets to repeatedly drive success. She has outstanding relationship-building skills, strong communication abilities, and exceptional emotional intelligence that excels in matrix and hierarchical structures.

Currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Provepharm, Inc., the US organization of Provepharm Life Solutions, based in Marseille, France, Ms. Helenek is responsible for all aspects of the US operations, including clinical development, finance, and commercial operations. She attracts superior talent and develops high-performing teams, and is a forward-thinking COO who lays the foundation for long-term success.

Prior to joining Provepharm, Ms. Helenek was the President and Chief Executive Officer of American Regent, Inc. (formerly Luitpold Pharmaceuticals Inc.), a group company of Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd., where she grew annual revenue from less than $10 million to nearly one billion dollars. She delivered nearly $7.5 billion in revenue and over three billion dollars in profits during her tenure as CEO.

Prior to joining Luitpold, Ms. Helenek was a Clinical Pharmacist at Syosset Hospital, now part of Northwell Health (formerly North Shore LIJ hospital network), and worked as a pharmacist in various settings throughout Long Island. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, and is involved in many charitable and service endeavors. She is also an inventor holding several US and international patents.

Ms. Helenek earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, cum laude; her master’s degree in institutional pharmacy administration; and a master of business administration degree from St. John’s University, and a master’s degree in legal studies from Washington University in St. Louis, MO.

Michael X. Mattone, Esq. '91L

As Chief Executive Officer of Mattone Investors, LLC, Michael X. Mattone ’91L is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the firm, including overseeing acquisitions/sales, development, financing/capital activities, leasing, and management. In addition, Mr. Mattone is responsible for the creation and execution of the firm’s long-term goals and strategies, including geographic focus, portfolio leverage, and strategic institutional partnerships. He began his career as an associate attorney at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP in the firm’s real estate department before joining the Mattone family business in 1993.

Mr. Mattone’s professional affiliations include the American Bankruptcy Institute, Catholic Lawyers Guild of Queens County, Columbian Lawyers Association, Institute of Real Estate Management, International Council of Shopping Centers, New York State Bar Association, Queens County Bar Association, The Retail Network, and the Young Mortgage Bankers Association. He has been appointed a receiver and manager in numerous real estate litigations and served on the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee in the Bally’s Total Fitness Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.

He is involved in several charitable causes and serves on the board of several not-for-profits, including the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, NY; Jamaica Center Business Improvement District; NewYork-Presbyterian Queens Board; Queens Council of the Boy Scouts of America; Queens Economic Development Corporation; St. John’s University School of Law Alumni Association; and the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Sports Board. He is also a charter member of the Legatus Long Island chapter.

Mr. Mattone earned his B.A. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania (1987) and his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law (1991), where he was a member of the Law Review. He currently serves as a member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees. Mr. Mattone is admitted to practice in New York and Connecticut and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and is a triathlete, swimmer, and Ironman finisher.

Dr. Solly Walker '57CBA, '94HON

Solly Walker ’57CBA, ’94HON, who was inducted into St. John’s University’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993, was the first African American to play basketball at St. John’s. Led by Coach Frank McGuire—who would be inducted in 1977 into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—the St. John’s Men’s Basketball program was becoming a national contender when Mr. Walker joined in 1950.

In his sophomore year during his first varsity season, Mr. Walker faced overt racism when St. John’s was scheduled to play the University of Kentucky on its home court, Memorial Coliseum, in Lexington, KY. Coach McGuire threatened to cancel the game after Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp initially refused to allow Mr. Walker to play. The coach relented and Mr. Walker became the first African American to play in an integrated basketball game there.

During Walker’s junior season of 1952-1953, St. John’s advanced to the National Invitation Tournament Championship game. The following year as a senior, he led the team in scoring with 14.0 pts. and 12.2 rebounds per game.

Mr. Walker had a standout career at St. John’s, and upon graduation was drafted by the New York Knicks. He declined the National Basketball Association’s offer and began a long career in the New York City educational system, working with children with special needs. He eventually became one of the first African American high school principals in New York when he was named Principal of P.S. 58 Manhattan High School (now P.S. 35). Mr. Walker retired in 1999.

On May 2, 2017, Mr. Walker passed away at the age of 85—but his legacy lives forever in the St. John’s Athletics Department. He was always focused on the athletic success of Red Storm student-athletes and was deeply interested in their academic progress. As a tribute to the St. John’s legend, the Solly Walker Academic Support Services Fund was developed to enhance the academic profile of the University’s student-athletes.


of St. John’s students come from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds

Fall 2022


ranked among all national universities in the U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 list of Top Performers on Social Mobility

Tied for first among national Catholic universities and colleges; Second among national private institutions in New York; Tied for ninth among national private institutions.


of the more than 15,000 degree-seeking undergraduates attending St. John’s are Pell Grant recipients

Fall 2022