The University held its 14th Annual President’s Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria on Oct. 27. The evening, hosted by St. John’s President Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., is the largest annual fundraising event for the University.
The 2011 President’s Dinner was the most successful to date, raising a grand total of $3 million. The money is raised through donations, ticket, table and plate sales for the black tie event, said organizer and Vice President for University Events Pamela Shea-Byrnes.
“Tables range from $10,000 to $50,000,” she said. “And there are also tables and tables of St. John’s employees who buy their own tickets, which is quite a testament to people’s belief that this is a special thing, and something worthy of supporting.”
Shea-Byrnes said the money would go directly toward financial aid, providing scholarships for students enrolled at the University’s six locations.
“Every penny that’s raised tonight goes to our students,” she said. “Every bit of that remarkable, ridiculously wonderful number.”
The evening began with a cocktail hour, after which guests took their seats for the presentation of the “Spirit of Service Awards”. The honorees, chosen each year by Fr. Harrington, are individuals who “have lived their lives in accordance with the Vincentian philosophy of caring and concern for others,” according to a press release.
The 2011 honorees were Peg and Peter D’Angelo, Bill Janetschek, Jr. and James Pellow, Ed.D.
In his acceptance speech, Pellow thanked “a few close friends who inspired me to think big and do more. They introduced me to the idea of serving at a big level and making an impact.”
Pellow is the president and CEO of the Council on International Education Exchange.
Janetschek, CFO and partner of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Company, received the Spirit of Service Award for the work he’s done mentoring underprivileged kids, and putting them through college.
“It humbles me to be here with the other honorees because they seem to have done so much more,” he said. “My parents raised me to always take care of those less fortunate than yourself, and those values were further molded when I went to St. John’s.”
Janetschek attended the University on a scholarship provided by a private donor.
“I got out of college and said to myself, ‘if I ever have the opportunity to do that for someone else I certainly would,’” he said. “Had I not had that opportunity and gotten that scholarship, who knows if I even would have went to college. The only thing I’m sure of is I don’t think any other road I would have taken could have been the road that got me here tonight.”
Peg and Peter D’Angelo were the final recipients of the award. Peg attended St. John’s as an undergraduate student and Peter was a graduate student of the University.
“Our experiences were quite different,” Peg said. “But we both agree that the concept of serving others was and is an important part of a St. John’s education.”
Peter praised Fr. Harrington for his leadership, and for upholding the Vincentian value of service to the poor.
“The financial status of more than 40 percent of recent entering freshman classes is below the government’s defined poverty line,” Peter said. “Peg and I are absolutely convinced that educating these students is the best way to end that cycle of poverty.”
Fr. Harrington took the stage to thunderous applause, and thanked each of the Spirit of Service award recipients individually. He extended thanks to the University’s Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, “for sharing so generously their time, their wisdom, their resources – to make us the University we are today.”
After recognizing the organizers of the event and honoring the alumni and members of the Vincentian order in attendance, Fr. Harrington closed the ceremony with praise for the University.
“It’s been 141 years of quality education for all,” he said. “141 years of firm commitment to mission. 141 years of opportunity for countless young women and young men. We thank you for your trust and for your belief in St. John’s University. We have so much to celebrate.”