St. John’s will host annual awards

This year St. Patrick’s Day will not only be a day for the Irish, but a day to recognize some of the outstanding women at St. John’s University at the Women of Distinction Awards dinner March 17 at 6 p.m. in the University Center Commons.

The theme of the two-hour ceremony is “Women Empowering the Future.” The ceremony will follow a candlelight vigil in the chapel and will begin with a prayer, followed by dinner, the awards presentation and a key note address.

The program may also include student reflections of women who influenced their lives.

“In 1996, we decided that women were not being recognized on campus,” Mary Pelkowski, director of Campus Activities said.

“And what we decided to do is really celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing women from our own community that have given outstanding contributions such as: community service, leadership, being a mother, adoption, contributions to women’s studies, and anything that would signify an outstanding woman.”

Margaret Fitzpatrick, president of St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, N.Y., is scheduled to be the keynote speaker.

A total of five awards will be given at the ceremony. Four people will receive the Women of Distinction Award and will include a staff member, student, faculty member, and a member of the administration.

One woman will also receive the Saint Louise de Marillac Award.

According to Mary Reese of Campus Ministry, the objective of the awards is to recognize just how important women are, and that those outstanding women are right here at St. John’s University.

Louise de Marillac was a wife, mother, widow, teacher, nurse, social worker, organizer, and radical thinker. She was extremely dedicated to the poor, and those who needed support. She knew what suffering was like, and she also knew what love was.

Louise de Marillac was an incredible woman who helped others, and shaped the world around her. The women who are nominated for this award have somehow followed in her footsteps.

Organizers hope to point out that famous or well-known women should not be the only ones acknowledged. There are plenty of women in the world who have done just as much and should be recognized.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Laura Bush could come here, or wouldn’t it be wonderful if Mother Teresa could walk through the door?” Pelkowski said. “But you know, the thing is, we have our own Mother Teresa’s right here.”

Students on campus agree with the awards ceremony and all it entails.

“It is very important that they are doing this award. So many awards are given to men that now this highlights the importance of women,” said Patti Ann Montana, a senior.

Kristin McAuley, a junior, agreed. “I think it is great to acknowledge how much women are able to accomplish because many times it is over looked.”

Women who have already won the award will sit on the committee to decide who the nominees will be for both the Women of Distinction Awards and the Louise de Marillac Award.

“Sometimes people retire and the students are hard to find, so we take people from each category [staff, faculty, student, and administration] and put together a committee,” Pelkowski said.

“I feel that out of all these people that have received the awards, they are like unsung heroes for the time that they have given back to their respective communities, or volunteer at soup kitchens, or work at Momma’s House (a place for unwed mothers).

“I think that it’s a really, really, great event for people to sit back and reflect on what a wonderful thing it is to be a woman, and the contributions that have been made right here in our own University community,” Pelkowski said.

This year’s committee includes Jodi Cox, Joan D’Andrea and Pam Shea-Byrnes.

Pelkowski said that it is an honor to have those who won the award already come back and present the award to the next outstanding women of the year.

Cox, D’Andrea and Shea-Byrnes are good presenters “because they were all the first year recipients, so now it’s an award and a legacy that is carried on,” Pelkowski said.

Pelkowski said that St. John’s also will be honoring a famous woman athlete.

This year the ceremony will also welcome New York Power goalkeeper and U.S. Olympia Saskia Webber for the Women in Sports Dinner.

The creators of the awards are Eileen Devine, Charisse Willis, and Mary Pat Beirne. Student Government, Student Programming Board, Haraya and the Gender Issues Sub-Committee of the Education for Justice Committee funded the awards.

Applications for the Women of Distinction Award and the Louise de Marillac Award are available in the Department of Student Life.

Applications are due no later than noon, Feb. 28. For more information contact Mary H. Pelkowski at ext. 6258.