Making sure the Office of Advancement operates smoothly on a daily basis is an essential task. These senior executives handle this job, providing general oversight to the operations of all the various offices within the office.
The team works closely with University President to set the goals and further the mission of the office. They also plan and implement high-level institutional events, such as the President’s Dinner.
St. John’s University has a strong foundation thanks to the generous support of its alumni and friends. The Office of Advancement makes sure it stays that way.
Our Offices collaborate to cater to all the needs and concerns of this important group of the University family. Sponsoring regional Alumni Chapters, hosting reunions and gatherings are just some of the many ways we keep alumni and friends informed and connected. We also encourage alumni to stay involved with today’s campus life by inviting them to mentor current students through a variety of programs.
Take your time to explore the different Offices of Advancement to get a better understanding of how we operate. From gift planning to reengaging with campus life, Advancement offers a variety of services to keep all of our alumni and friends involved.
Office of Advancement
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, New York 11439
Fax 718-990-6785[email protected]
Christian P. Vaupel, Ed.D.
Vice President for Advancement and University Relations
Assistant Vice President Institutional Advancement and Alumni Relations
Scott is responsible for the departments of Advancement Communications, Advancement Services, Alumni Relations, Annual Campaigns, Donor Relations, and Research and Prospect Management. Scott has more than 20 years of experience working in higher education advancement, including time spent at Allegheny College, Washington and Jefferson College, and American University. He joined the staff at St. John's University in 2006.
James Hogan '14CPS, '16MBA
Assistant Director, Advancement
James is responsible for the planning and execution of the annual President’s Dinner, the University’s premier fundraising event. He also assists with the University’s Alumni Convocation, The Jubilarian Society Dinner, certain alumni events, and other Presidential-level programs and initiatives.
Prior to this position, James served as a Graduate Assistant for St. John’s University’s Office of Advancement. As an undergraduate student at St. John’s, he worked as an Intramural Supervisor for Campus Recreation. He also interned for the Director of Athletics at SUNY New Paltz.
James received a B.S. in Sport Management from St. John’s College of Professional Studies and an M.B.A. in Marketing from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
Donna R. Cirigliano
Senior Executive Secretary
Donna is responsible for all administrative duties for the Senior Vice President and the Associate Vice President for Leadership Gifts. Her duties include assisting with the planning and organization of Presidential-level alumni events and private gatherings and overseeing the preparation and coordination of all materials for meetings of the Institutional Advancement Committee of the University’s Board of Trustees. She also prepares materials required for cultivation/solicitation appointments and prepares high-level correspondence for alumni, donors and prospects.
Prior to her current position, Donna served as Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Athletics. Before coming to St. John’s she was Secretary to the Director of Production at Joseph E. Seagram and Sons.
Cheryl O'Hara '01G
Director, Advancement Communications, Institutional Advancement[email protected]
Cheryl’s responsibilities include analyzing Advancement marketing efforts, including audiences, demographic data, and response rates, to evaluate success and refine methods. She manages and executes marketing initiatives by working closely with internal and external design, editorial, digital, and multimedia departments and vendors. She formulates and implements the communications process and guidelines for print, digital, social, and editorial units and ensures brand messaging and consistency throughout all marketing initiatives.
Prior to joining the Advancement team, Cheryl worked in University Events and the Office of Conference Services. A proud St. John’s alumna, Cheryl earned her Master of Arts degree in Sociology in 2001.
Assistant Director, Advancement Communications, Institutional Advancement[email protected]
Danielle focuses on creating communications from Advancement to St. John’s alumni, parents, and friends. She helps to manage and execute marketing initiatives by working closely with internal and external design, editorial, digital, and multimedia departments and vendors.
Danielle also implements the communications process and guidelines for print, digital, social, and editorial needs. She participates in idea and strategy generation for creating marketing outreach and new content across digital, print, social, and multimedia platforms.
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Management from the State University of New York at Cortland in 2021.
Gift Administration Assistant
Ms. Brown’s duties include the processing of donations to St. John’s University. She is also responsible for updating the most current information for the University’s alumni and donors.
Associate Director, Research and Prospect Management, Institutional Advancement
Tracy works with Advancement management, gift officers, and other departments to identify prospective donors interested in making gifts to the University. She provides information on potential and current donors and manages the research module in the Advancement database.
Prior to her current position, she served as Assistant Director of Research and as a Donor Relations Specialist in the Advancement Services department at St. John’s. Tracy earned a B.A. degree in History from the State University of New York at Purchase.
Director, Advancement Services
Lisa prepares financial reports and maintains all donor databases for the Division of Institutional Advancement. She strategizes best practices for Advancement Services processes and reporting tools and trains members of the division to use Banner Advancement and Banner Advancement Self-Services.
Prior to this position, Lisa was Database Manager for Institutional Advancement and Senior Assistant to the Director, St. John’s Development. She also served as Sales Associate and Office Manager at Carolina Amato, Inc. Lisa holds a B.A. in Communications from Cornell University in New York.
Matthew Muscarella, M.B.A.
Business Analyst, Advancement Services[email protected]
Matthew prepares filtered constituent lists and financial reports, provides constituent analyses, and maintains and improves donor databases for the Division of Institutional Advancement. He strategizes best practices for Advancement Services processes and reporting tools.
Matthew earned a B.S. in Computer Information Systems and a M.B.A. from Quinnipiac University.
Mohammad Ghani runs weekly/monthly reports, prepares financial reports, and addresses any ad hoc requests for the Division of Institutional Advancement. He also provides analysis to different departments using business intelligence tools such as Tableau.
Mohammad graduated from the City University of New York at Queens College with a degree in Applied Mathematics and has certifications in T-SQL, Python, and Power BI from Microsoft.
Adriana Dino '02TCB
Associate Director, Gift Administration
Ms. Dino oversees the daily operations of the Gift Processing department. She is responsible for tracking and accounting for donations and pledges to St. John’s University and the distribution of special projects. She is also responsible for departmental policies and procedures and following Council for Advancement and Support of Education and Internal Revenue Service guidelines as they relate to gift entry. Prior to her current position, she was employed at a private accounting firm. Ms. Dino earned her B.S. in Accounting from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University.
Director, Gift Administration
Carmen is responsible for overseeing the Gift Processing staff and all gift entry functions for the Division of Institutional Advancement including tracking and accounting for pledges and donations, proper designation of funds as specified by the donor, reconciliation of funds and donor tax receipts. She is also responsible for following, enforcing, reviewing and revising departmental policies and procedures and following appropriate CASE and IRS guidelines as they relate to gift entry functions.
Prior to her current position, Carmen served as Associate Director of Advancement Services, Assistant Director of Advancement Services, Staff Accountant at the St. John’s University School of Law, Comptroller at Zetlin and DeChiara LLP and Reconciliation Department Manager at Republic National Bank. She holds a B.A. in Accounting and Information Systems from the City University of New York, Queens College.
Gift Administration Assistant
Ms. Minton’s duties include the processing of donations to St. John’s University. She is also responsible for updating the most current information for the University’s alumni and donors. Prior to her current position, she served in the Office of the Bursar.
Director, Alumni Relations
Mark oversees alumni programming and engagement opportunities for St. John’s graduates as well as the daily operations for the alumni office.
Previously, Mark held the position of Associate Director for Alumni Relations managing activities and events for special constituencies. He began at St. John’s as Assistant Director in the Office of Annual Giving. In this capacity, Mark helped maintain and cultivate relationships with alumni and friends in support of a variety of annual giving initiatives at St. John's.
Prior to joining St. John’s, Mark was Development Associate at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula in the Bronx. He also held the position of Regional Director in the Cardinal’s Appeal at the Archdiocese of New York.
He graduated from Iona College with a B.A. in Journalism and his M.A. in Public Relations/Corporate Communications.
Associate Director, Alumni Engagement and Volunteer Programs
Rita Torsney-Sullivan is responsible for fostering relationships with alumni, affinity groups, and regional chapters through the St. John’s University Alumni Volunteer Program. She joined the Office of Alumni Relations in 2021.
Prior to Alumni Relations, Rita became part of the St. John’s community in 2016 as an Assistant Director for the Office of University Events, where she worked closely with Alumni Relations to plan events. She later became an Associate Director for the Office of University Events, which involved planning presidential events including Convocations and receptions. Rita is also a founding member of the Racial Justice Conversations Committee, and a member of the Equity and Inclusion Council.
Prior to transitioning to St. John’s, Rita worked in the market research industry for six years and gained experience in event management by working with non-profit organizations on fundraisers and as a founding member of RetroGameCon.
Rita received a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from SUNY Oswego and a Master of Business Administration from St. John's University.
Ashley Cimato, M.P.S.
Assistant Director, Alumni Relations
Ashley is responsible for developing, managing, and executing events targeted toward engaging the more than 195,000 alumni of St. John’s University.
Prior to working at St. John’s, Ashley gained experience in college admissions counseling, career advising, and precollege programming. In every role she has thrived on the opportunity to empower and engage with other people.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in General Business and a Master of Professional Studies in Humanistic/Multicultural Education from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Office of Alumni Relations
Director, Annual Giving
Ms. Schaefer focuses on new strategies and projects for annual giving fundraising efforts to support the University’s Vincentian mission to provide a well-rounded, service-oriented education.
Prior to this role, she was a business analyst in the advancement services group, researching avenues for new projects and programs for fundraising. Ms. Schaefer worked previously at St. John’s School of Law from 2007 to 2018 as the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations and Communications, producing alumni and fundraising publications and communications, and then as Director of Annual Giving, successfully building the annual giving program and introducing new multichannel fundraising initiatives and strategies for gift officers.
Prior to St. John’s University, she worked in Marketing and Economic Development and in Government and Community Relations over an 11-year career with the New York Power Authority, specifically focusing on federal and state legislative initiatives pertaining to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. She earned a B.A. degree from the City University of New York at Queens College in Sociology with a minor in Urban Studies.
Sylvia Jagota, M.B.A.
Associate Director, Annual Giving
Sylvia is responsible for the development of new programs to stimulate giving among constituencies, with a focus on student and employee populations. She also works on targeted campaigns for alumni and collaborates with the Director to coordinate mailings, emails, and social media solicitations.
Prior to St. John’s, Sylvia worked at Adelphi University as the Assistant Director of Annual Giving for seven years. She graduated from Adelphi in 2008 with a B.A. in Economics in 2008 and an M.B.A. in 2010.
Stacey Philips Varghese '99C
Director of Leadership Annual Giving and Engagement
Stacey manages all facets of administration for The Loughlin Society, including the acquisition and renewal of memberships, creation of solicitation strategy, and stewardship of prospects.
Stacey was formerly a Financial Analyst at Bear Stearns. She holds a B.A. in English/Government and Politics from St. John’s University.
Assistant Director, Annual Campaigns
Mr. McKay works on annual giving fundraising and stewardship efforts targeted toward alumni and friends of the University to help support St. John’s Vincentian mission of providing a well-rounded education to those lacking in economic, physical, and social advantages. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Gettysburg College.
Tara Sanon '10C
Assistant Director, Annual Giving
Ms. Sanon handles all data requests and analysis of student telephone engagement efforts. She is responsible for the daily operations of the telephone engagement program, managing demographic updates, and supervising and hiring student workers. Additionally, she collaborates with other offices within Institutional Advancement to help develop new programs to engage particular constituencies. She is also responsible for the Advancement department ’s budget. Ms. Sanon graduated from St. John’s University in 2010 with a B.A. in English and a minor in Business.
William Lipson '12MPS
Director, Annual Leadership Giving for Outreach
Mr. Lipson is responsible for recruiting new members of The Loughlin Society while renewing annual gifts from all alumni who are unassigned.
Before joining the St. John’s family, he worked at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA, in the Office of Development, organizing special events for various groups including alumni. He also held the position of Alumni Relations Associate at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he managed a full range of local, national, and international programming for more than 80,000 alumni. Mr. Lipson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Northeastern University and a Master of Professional Studies degree in Sport Management from St. John’s University.
Nick Vendikos '91SVC
Senior Director, Athletic Development
Nick is Senior Director of the Office of Athletic Development at St. John’s University. He is responsible for the department’s fundraising activities, including annual, major, leadership, and planned giving, and special events in support of the Office of Athletics’ mission and goals.
Prior to working at St. John’s, Mr. Vendikos was Director of Development for the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens/Futures in Education. He served on the senior management team of Generations of Faith, a fundraising initiative which raised a total of $130 million—the most successful capital campaign in the diocese's history.
Mr. Vendikos also served as President and CEO of the Cabrini Mission Foundation. As president, he was responsible for guiding development for global institutions.
Athletic Development Officer, Athletic Development
Allison cultivates and retains fund donors to support the 17 Division I Red Storm athletics programs. Her day-to-day responsibilities include planning, executing, and evaluating an annual program to garner additional resources for the athletic department.
Previously, Allison spent four years in the athletic development office at Fordham University. In July of 2020, she was promoted to Assistant Director of Athletic Development. In this position, she planned major fundraising events and oversaw alumni relations for all 22 Rams athletic programs.
Before entering collegiate athletics, Allison held roles in fundraising with Changing Our World and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. A former student-athlete, she was a member of the rowing team at the University of Kansas. She graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Science in Communication. Two years later, she earned a master’s degree in Public Administration and Public Policy from Wichita State.
Maria Gonzales Bullon ’20MBA
Athletic Development Officer, Athletic Development
Maria is responsible for all athletic fundraising events that benefit the 17 Division I athletic programs at St. John’s University. She previously worked for the University’s Athletic Development Department as a Graduate Assistant from 2018 to 2020, where she assisted with the department’s fundraising activities and special events.
Prior to working at St. John’s, Maria worked as a Senior Development Officer at a nonprofit where she oversaw operations, fundraising, and the organization’s financial responsibilities.
She was a member of the St. John’s Women’s Soccer team from 2014 to 2018 and graduated with her M.B.A. in Business Analytics and Marketing Management in 2020 from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. Maria is originally from Salamanca, Spain.
Rino Grzinic '77SVC
Director, Development, The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies
Mr. Grzinic is responsible for fundraising for The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies, as well as the most urgent needs of the University. Over his 20-plus years at the University, he has held various positions cultivating support for the University through special events, alumni relations, alumni reunions, annual giving, planned giving, and capital campaign gifts.
Mr. Grzinic came to the University with more than 20 years of consulting experience in institutional development, helping nonprofits raise more than $240 million for their capital and endowment needs. He earned a B.S. in Athletic Administration from St. John’s.
Nicholas Legakis '97SVC, '07MPS
Senior Director, Development, Office of Advancement; Director, Development, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences l[email protected]718-990-5312
Mr. Legakis oversees the Development staff in the Office of Advancement and is responsible for identifying and soliciting donors for St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He establishes relationships with these prospects and keeps them engaged with St. John’s, ultimately seeking their support for the University.
He has been a member of the St. John’s University team since 2003, where he served as Director of Institutional Advancement for the Staten Island, NY, campus until 2011. Mr. Legakis also served as the Director of Development for the New Jersey and Washington, DC, regions and the College of Pharmacy prior to his appointment to St. John’s College in 2017.
Prior to St. John’s, he worked at Staten Island Cable/Time Warner Cable as the Production Specialist/Sports Producer and a play-by-play announcer. He also currently serves as an Adjunct Professor within The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. He earned a B.S. in Communication Arts and a Master of Professional Studies degree from St. John’s.
Director, Corporate and Foundation Relations718-990-6776
Ms. O’Reilly is responsible for aligning St. John’s University’s priorities with the interests of corporations, foundations, and other organizations to establish and strengthen partnerships and inspire philanthropic support. This is accomplished in close collaboration with University leadership, faculty, colleagues, and alumni.
Prior to joining St. John’s Advancement team in 2019, Ms. O’Reilly spent nearly 17 years at Hospital for Special Surgery, a world-renowned specialty hospital raising funds from local and national foundations, as well as grateful patients. Her professional experience also includes two years working as a research technician at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine in the laboratory of distinguished microbiologist Jan T. Vilcek, M.D., Ph.D., coinventor of the anti-inflammatory, Remicade®. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from the University of New Hampshire.
Bill Schaeffer '73CBA
Director, Development, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business
Mr. Schaeffer is responsible for engaging the University’s alumni from The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and identifying prospective major donors and stewarding existing contributors. He works closely with the Dean of the College and other administrators in the division to solicit and secure support from the alumni base. He also works with the Tobin College of Business Board of Advisors.
A former Brooklyn Nets basketball player, Mr. Schaeffer returned to alma mater as Director of Alumni Relations in September 2003 to lead the University’s efforts in engaging and serving alumni and friends. In that role, he was responsible for outreach and coordination of activities within all of the University’s alumni chapters, focusing his efforts on chapter engagement.
During his student days in 1971–73, he played on the Men’s Basketball team, setting two individual season records for highest scoring average and highest field goal average. As the 1973 recipient of the Haggerty Award, Mr. Schaeffer was recognized as New York’s Most Outstanding Player, and in 1990 he was inducted into the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
He played for the New York Nets from 1973–76, and most recently enjoyed a successful career in equity research sales at various Wall Street firms including Jefferies Financial Group Inc., McDonald & Co., and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He earned his B.S. in Accounting from St. John’s.
Director, Donor Relations[email protected]718-990-2128
Dionne oversees the Office of Donor Relations and is responsible for the continuing development and administration of stewardship activities including significant interaction with leading donors and potential donors. Dionne manages all reporting and tracking relative to leadership gift acknowledgement and stewardship of endowed and restricted funds, including scholarships, fellowships, awards, prizes, professorships and chairs, as well as the drafting of donor agreements. She works as a liaison to other departments including the Office of the President, Dean’s offices of each college, Directors of Development, Annual Giving, and Alumni Relations. Her interactions with these offices aid in the development of new stewardship opportunities.
Prior to her current position, she served as Associate Director of Donor Relations and Assistant Director of Financial Reporting and Database Management in the Office of Advancement Services. Dionne joined St. John’s with relevant experience and skills gained from previously held positions at Del Laboratories Inc. and Sterling National Mortgage Company.
Dionne holds an M.A. in Sociology from St. John’s University and a B.A. in Communication, Rhetoric, and Persuasion from the State University of New York at Albany.
Sammantha McCalla ’99CBA, ’01MBA, ’20Ph.D
Associate Director, Donor Relations[email protected]718-990-6038
Sammantha manages and assists with various aspects of the Office of Donor Relations including the production of stewardship reports for endowed and expendable scholarship funds. She assists with acknowledgements and stewardship by writing, editing, and proofing leadership gift acknowledgements. She serves as a liaison between various other departments including Annual Campaigns, Alumni Relations, Student Financial Services, the Treasurer’s Office, General Counsel’s Office, and the President’s Office to resolve issues, complete required tasks, and to help identify new stewardship and solicitation opportunities.
Prior to her current position Sammantha served as the Assistant Director of Advancement Services and Advancement Services Liaison. Before joining St. John’s, she was a sales assistant in a brokerage firm and transaction coordinator for the subsequent broker dealer. She retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant after 12 years of service.
Sammantha holds a B.S. in Finance, an M.B.A. in Executive Management, and a Ph.D. in English from St. John’s University.
Susan Damiani '87CBA
Director, Gift Planning
Susan is responsible for the management of planned gifts that incorporate the University into the estate and financial plans of alumni and friends. She reaches out to graduates from our historic Schermerhorn Street and Lewis Avenue campuses, hosting events designed to keep them connected to St. John’s and to each other. Susan also handles marketing, solicitation and cultivation efforts for The McCallen Society whose members have included the University in their will. She also focuses on the stewardship of all activities and initiatives pertaining to the Notre Dame College alumnae.
Susan, formerly an Associate Director with the Futures in Education Foundation/R.C. Diocese of Brooklyn, comes to St. John’s with more than 15 years of fundraising and marketing experience. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from St. John's.
Shu Zhen Bernardin '07CPS, '10G
Associate Director, Gift Planning
Shu manages the day-to-day administration and operations of planned giving's marketing and stewardship efforts. She works closely with the Director of Gift Planning to seek and secure major and planned gifts for St. John’s University. She also serves as Gift Planning’s liaison with the University’s Finance, General Counsel and Advancement Services units to manage trust and estate administration and related matters.
Prior to this position, Shu served as the Stewardship Office/Project Manager in Stewardship and Events at New York University; Assistant Director of Donor Relations at the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University and previously worked for the Advancement Office at St. John's University in various roles.
Shu received a B.S. in Communication Arts from St. John’s College of Professional Studies and an M.A. in Sociology from St. John’s Graduate School of Arts and Science.
Robert D. Cote ’10C
Director of Development, The School of Education and Gift Planning
Robert is responsible for identifying and cultivating donors and alumni for The School of Education, as well as secure planned gifts for St. John’s University. Previous to this position, he worked with Campus Ministry, University Events, and the President’s Society from 2010 to 2016.
From 2020–2022 Robert worked at Mount Saint Michael Academy; from 2016–2020, he worked at the Archdiocese of New York, advancing the mission of those institutions through major funds, annual campaigns, and event fundraising. He was also part of the archdiocese’s $200 million capital campaign.
Robert earned a B.A. in Psychology with minors in Theology and Business Management from St. John’s University in 2010, and is currently completing an M.B.A. in Catholic Philanthropy at the University of Mary.