The love and success story of two University alumni was the center of attention on Oct. 18 when the third floor D’Angelo Center Coffeehouse was renamed the Sodano Coffeehouse in honor of the couple’s donations to the University.
Valerie Sodano ’49 and her late husband Gerard Sodano ’49 were honored in a private ceremony, attended by University officials, in the newly renovated coffeehouse on the third floor of the D’Angelo Center, which was renamed after the couple.
With Valerie Sodano present, the two were commemorated for their $250,000 donation to scholarships, annual contributions toward student aid and the donation that made the renovations to the coffeehouse possible.
“We thought if we ever got to the point and have enough money we would make a donation so that the students can get a better life and have a chance to get ahead regardless of what their parents had,” Sodano said in an interview with the Torch.
“This is the main concern I have about our country and education is going to save it, nothing else,” she added.
Along with the new name, the popular on-campus hangout was equipped with new sofas, tables, chairs and a projector in order to promote a sense of togetherness among students who use the facility.
“I think it’s awesome,” senior Ruben Muniz said. “It has a very nice vibe especially during open mike nights. They made a good place even better.”
“It’s a nice spot to go and hang out and relax after a long day of classes,” junior Harjrudin Cecunjanin said. “I would study and go do homework there.”
Sodano said that one day when she was attending St. John’s she came late to business class and was forced to sit with the “fellas” in the back of the room. She then began to show pictures of her recent cruise trip. Gerard, who was sitting behind her, asked her to show him the pictures and initiated a conversation before they were both reprimanded by their professor to leave the room if they wanted to talk.
After that moment, the Sodanos began a relationship that lasted more than 50 years. Gerard died earlier this year.
After graduating from the University, Gerard became the Vice-President for a fine paper company and Valerie was a financial analyst for Mobil Oil, both having successful careers in the business industry.
Although the two didn’t have any kids of their own, Sodano says that, “St. John’s students are all my children.”
“This is something I’ve wanted to do for my husband because he’s not here right now,” Sodano said. “He would be very happy and pleased. Enjoy it; I hope all the students enjoy it.”