St. John’s alumni head to the races


Mark O’Rourke leaned over the porch rail at Saratoga Race Course, cheering and pumping his fists in the air as the stampeding thoroughbreds sped by on the turf, kicking up dirt and grass behind them, their muscular bodies pumping hard as the jockeys leaned pressing them forward.

Before anyone had the chance to blink, the horses crossed the finish line, nose and nose–a photo finish.

“It is a wonderful day at the Races,” O’Rourke said.

St. John’s alumni cheered alongside O’Rourke, holding up their winning tickets. Even those who lost a dollar or two on the race celebrated with the winners.

“As part of the event we sponsored a race,” Elizabeth Austin, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations- Chapters, said.

The St. John’s University race was the first post of the day at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, Aug. 17, as part of the annual St. John’s Alumni Day at the Track. Alumni gathered in the winner’s circle, posing with the winning jockey after the conclusion of the race .

“It is an event that everyone really loves,” Austin said. “A lot of people traveled up from the City to be here.”

Over 70 alumni and friends gathered under the Race Course pavilion, a front seat to the races of the day, to celebrate Saratoga’s 150th Anniversary and to enjoy each other’s company. St. John’s decorated tables for the alumni; red and white balloons took over the event. And although the day could have been mulled when a jockey went airborne off of his injured horse during the first run, the alumni tried to remain in high spirits.

Jacob Dobbs, class of 1981, won some money betting on the St. John’s race. Proudly sporting his winning ticket, he joked about going to cash it in for the big bucks.

“I try to make all the St. John’s events,” he said. “Because I gained so much from St. John’s I have to give back.”

Dobbs, who now lives in Rotterdam a town right outside of Albany, works as a counselor in a prison. He said he has a word of advice for current students.

“They really need to know St. John’s is a tremendous institution,” he said. “They are fortunate to be there. Get as much out of it as you can because St. John’s grads do great.”

Mary Marquis, class of 1995, agreed. She said it was the professors at St. John’s who made her fall in love with the University in the first place.

“We had some excellent professors, excellent instructors,” she said.

Marquis added the beautiful weather made for a great day.

“We came because we thought it would be a nice way to connect with people from St. John’s and have an exciting day at the Races,” she said.

St. John’s has dozens of alumni chapters across the nation from Albany to Los Angeles. Austin, an undergrad from the class of 2008 and 2010 for grad, was hired less than a year ago to revamp the St. John’s Alumni Chapter program. She has been revitalizing the regional chapters by hosting events and programs with a high concentration in the Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and Florida area.

While the Saratoga event has a lot of alumni attending from the City, it also has a lot of alumni from the Albany Chapter, too.

O’Rourke, president of the Albany Alumni Chapter, is a graduate of the law school. He said, there are about 300 members in his chapter.

“We need more of the law school alumni to come out,” he said. “All alumni.”

O’Rourke highly encourages every alumni to get involved.

“I think the alumni association is really the enduring strength of the University,” he said.

If interested in joining an alumni chapter contact, Elizabeth Austin at [email protected].