When people come to visit St. John’s University, they often mention their surprise at finding such a haven in the midst of the city.
They ask about the purpose of the property before it became the Queens’ campus of SJU. Do you know the answer?
Well, before it gave rise to an institution of higher learning, our current space contained a golf course.
The first location of St. John’s College in 1870 was in a one-room house in Brooklyn. This house is depicted on two tableaus in very public areas of the University.
The Vincentian Community bought the golf course in 1936, construction began in 1954 and St. John’s Hall was opened in 1956.
In my more imaginative moments, I can see people wandering around our campus calling out “Fore” before they launch their little round missile into the air.
Sometimes, I have thought that this single word should be the University cheer.
When a golfer uses it, it intends to give warning to anyone within earshot that something is coming their way, so watch out.
As we turn you, the SJU student, loose in the world, perhaps we should shout the same: “Look out world, here comes a person with ideas and visions—someone who is intent on making this a better place.”
Or, we could call out “Four.”
In this year, over and over, the faculty, staff and administration have heard the need to commit ourselves to four elements which make up our strategic plan for a productive future.
These four elements center upon our students: ensuring student success, recruiting, recognizing and retaining the best faculty, staff and administrators, enhancing our teaching and learning environment and expanding global and community partnerships.
As we accomplish these goals, we make our University a true center of learning and a boon for our students and community.
Or, we could call out “For” as we strive to articulate and achieve the purpose of our University—our Mission.
What are we here for? At St. John’s, the answer is key.
We intend to be an institution of higher learning, which holds up the Catholic and Vincentian values on which the University was founded.
Significantly, we insist that the University did not give rise to the mission, but the mission gave birth to the University.
From the very beginning in 1870, the college embraced the stated purpose of “providing the youth of the city with an intellectual and moral education.”
That goal endures and with a particular emphasis upon the way in which the marginalized among us may be served as our students or by our students.
And so, fore-four-for, the one sound suggests ways in which we can reflect upon the history, ideals and mission of St. John’s.