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Classes of 1955 and 1965 Return for 2015 Alumni Weekend

One hundred alumni and their spouses returned to campus on September 19 and 20 for Alumni Weekend 2015. Over the weekend, the Classes of 1955 and 1965 reconnected with friends, explored Jersey City and learned about how far alma mater had come since their commencements.

“We were so pleased to have two classes celebrating 50 and 60 years as graduates.  It was a great time and opportunity to meet alumni and hear such great stories as everyone reminisced about their time at Saint Peter’s and how their lives evolved after graduation,” said Gloria Mercurio, executive director of alumni engagement. “Reunion Committee Co-chair Garry Prime ’65 mentioned something that resonated with me during his remarks, which was you can remove students from Saint Peter’s [as they graduate], but you can’t remove Saint Peter’s from the students.”

During the two-day reunion, alumni were able to enjoy a variety of activities such as walking and shuttle tours, a cocktail reception and dinner dance , the Alumni Mass and a special Golden Peacock Society Brunch.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the well-attended State of the University Luncheon. The luncheon featured a dynamic panel that included Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University, Rev. Mark DeStephano, S.J., professor of modern and classical languages, Mary Kate Naatus, Ph.D., assistant business professor and acting director of the Ignite Institute, Hon. Kevin Callahan ’69, associate professor of criminal justice, and Erich Sekel, associate director of campus ministry for community service. Garry Prime ’65 served as the panel’s moderator.

Each speaker touched upon his or her role at Saint Peter’s and provided examples of the University’s accomplishments and student success stories. The panel also showed alumni how those at Saint Peter’s are still very much being men and women for others through a variety of humanitarian efforts and programs.

Dr. Cornacchia kickstarted the discussion by sharing all the strides Saint Peter’s has made in recent years. From new leadership, grants and facilities to a new strategic plan, booming enrollment and a nod from MONEY® Magazine, which named Saint Peter’s as fifth in the nation for “Colleges that Add the Most Value.” Dr. Cornacchia pointed out that there has been and continues to be a lot of growth at the University. He also emphasized the positive impact of Saint Peter’s moving from being a college to a university.

“It’s an exciting time here at Saint Peter’s,” he added. “The transition to becoming a university has been transformational — Saint Peter’s is becoming the place to be.”

Fr. DeStephano showed the alumni how Saint Peter’s is also the place to transform the lives of students. He recounted several stories of students who had come to Saint Peter’s with personal and socioeconomic challenges and had gone on to head global corporations, travel the world and attain their professional dreams. Meanwhile, Dr. Naatus described how Saint Peter’s Ignite Institute is making a difference in the local business world by focusing on local economic development.

“Saint Peter’s is such an amazing community and it’s a wonderful place to be,” she added. “It’s my sixth year teaching and I love my job.”

Callahan, who has never lived more than two miles away from Saint Peter’s, emphasized what an important role the University has played throughout his life. Now an associate professor in the criminal justice department, Callahan described how fortunate he is to be with students every day in such a collaborative, inviting environment.

Callahan also thanked the alumni for their continued support for Saint Peter’s.

“What you have done for this school and what you give just by being present today; what you have contributed and continue to contribute — that is your legacy,” Callahan added.

Before the discussion came to a close, Sekel brought up the many community service events and projects in which he is involved. He described the Junkyard Dogs, where students help clean up the streets of Jersey City, and The Campus Kitchen, where volunteers take trays of leftover food and repackages and repurposes it into nutritious meals for those in need. He recalled how when The Campus Kitchen had just opened a year ago, he had set a target for 50 meals a week. By the end of the month they had hit 800 meals and a year later, they had surpassed 10,000 meals.

“It’s so amazing to watch these students; it makes you speechless when these students show up to these community service events,” he said. “I’ve fallen in love [with Saint Peter’s] — I’m here for life.”

Following the State of the University Luncheon, alumni attended a Jersey Jesuit conversation. There, Rev. Rocco Danzi, S.J., director of campus ministry, discussed Jesuits in today’s world and how being a Jesuit has changed in the University over the years while Damian Halligan ’55 talked about the history of Jesuit education in Jersey City.

“Saint Peter’s is still expanding,” said Halligan. “You have to keep in tune with the times and keep developing — that’s how we became a university.”

During the weekend, alumni presented their reunion gifts to the University. The fundraising efforts of the Classes of 1955 and 1965 resulted in $87,000 and $594,013.01, respectively.

“It has been said that giving back propels you to feel empowered and confident that you can make a difference,” added Mercurio. “Financial support from our alumni is critical to the University’s efforts to give the same, quality Jesuit education that you received to generations of new students.”

View more pictures here.