Gempesaw Accepts $15 Million Donation from Foundation

The gift is the largest in St. John’s University’s 148-year history



President Gempesaw and Maurice R. Greenberg stand together in Manhattan.

Derrell Bouknight, News Editor

Early last Wednesday afternoon, St. John’s University President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw teased the hundreds of people who filled Marillac Auditorium during his State of the University address. He told them that an announcement about a gift to the University would be made in a few hours.

His only hint: eight figures.

That Wednesday night at a dinner in midtown Manhattan in front of 80 attendees, Gempesaw announced that the University was the recipient of a $15 million donation from the Starr Foundation, a group whose stated goal is to provide financial support to institutions worldwide in educational, medicinal research, healthcare and public policy settings.

The gift was lauded as the largest in the school’s 148-year history. According to the University, the gift will establish the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at the School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science, which is part of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business.

Greenberg, chairman of the Starr Foundation, attended the midtown dinner last Wednesday night when Gempesaw announced the donation. He says his goal was to find students dedicated to their professions, and many from St. John’s impressed him.

“Over the years that I have been in the insurance industry, one of the important issues was to recruit intelligent people who were devoted to careers in the profession,” Greenberg said. “Many of the candidates we saw were from the St. John’s School of Risk Management. These candidates were more mature, focused and devoted to making a career in the insurance industry, and in most instances, making a significant contribution to that end.”

Since 1955, the Starr Foundation — one of the largest private foundations in the United States — has given away more than $3.3 billion,  with nearly two-thirds of the money going to programs and organizations throughout New York City and the rest of the state, according to the University’s website.

“At St. John’s University, we know our mission serves to transform the lives of our students,” Gempesaw said during his speech last Wednesday night. “This remarkable gift from The Starr Foundation will further position the School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science and our graduates to make an indelible mark on the insurance profession for generations to come.”

Half of the the donation will go towards student scholarship awards, 33 percent will help in supporting faculty members and the remaining 17 percent will be set aside for leadership endowment, according to the University.

Full and partial scholarships will be provided for students in the School of Risk Management through the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative, while new programs, resources and professional development will be targets of the Maurice R. Greenberg SRM Industry Leadership Endowment and Starr Foundation SRM Faculty Support Endowment, respectively.

Samantha R. Meneilly, a third-year SRM student who majors in actuarial science, said at the dinner Wednesday night that the school has afforded her opportunities to better her professionally.

“To this day, St. John’s continues to exceed my expectations,” she said. “And the person I have become is someone I never could have imagined when I first walked on campus.”

Greenberg added his final thoughts on St. John’s and how students who attended the school have become leaders in the field.

“Many of the leaders in the companies we managed were very often graduates of St. John’s and rose through the ranks to positions of importance,” Greenberg said. “As many know, the company I am referring to is AIG, which operated throughout the world and required knowledgeable people and devoted internationalists, skilled in the profession of insurance whether it be underwriting, product development or leadership. I am pleased that our gift will help the University continue to attract great candidates for our industry, especially for our company.”