Women at Saint Peter’s: Then and Now

With women now comprising a majority of the student population at Saint Peter’s University, it is hard to imagine a day before they were welcome on campus. But this reality was just one of the many topics that was explored during the inaugural event for the Alumnae in Action Network. The event was held in the McIntyre Conference Center on the Saint Peter’s campus on March 24. The theme of the breakfast event was “Women at Saint Peter’s: Then and Now,” and was designed to celebrate the success of Saint Peter’s alumnae and the University’s current student leaders.

The event was hosted by AnnMarie Cornacchia, wife of University President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D. “I am grateful to be here to see the launch of Alumnae in Action, because in my experience, the women of Saint Peter’s are always on the move. Those alumnae I have met since 1981 when my husband first came to Saint Peter’s, have been doers. In every field, in every walk of life, every day, they breathe life into the Jesuit value of being women for others.” she said.

The guest panelists for the event included Mary K. Whelan ’71, president of EMarkets Group LLC; Deborah A. Bello, Esq. ’76, vice president and chief regulatory officer at Prudential Financial; and Charlotte Caporrino ’17. The talented alumnae spoke about their time at Saint Peter’s and how their academic and professional experiences have shaped them. Caporrino, a marketing management and communication major, shared insights about her personal experiences at Saint Peter’s over the past two years. Ernabel Demillo, lecturer of communication at Saint Peter’s, and former anchor for “Good Day New York,” moderated the panel.

In addition to Caporrino, guests had the opportunity to meet and network with current Saint Peter’s female students in attendance at the event.

Whelan was a member of the second class of women in the day session to attend Saint Peter’s and she personally experienced some of the contention from the male students at the college during that time. She shared stories about how she was told she could only write for the student newspaper if she typed up the stories written by her male colleagues. However she also shared anecdotes about the success of the women at Saint Peter’s such as the fact that while at the time women only comprised 10 percent of the classes, they made up 35 percent of the dean’s list.

Bello, who attended Saint Peter’s only a few years later, said that this animosity among the male population was virtually gone by the time she arrived on campus. She met her greatest challenges when she entered the workforce after attending law school at Seton Hall University Law School. In fact, she was the first female at her first job that was not working as a secretary.

The most significant revelation that resulted from the panel discussion was the fact that regardless of whether it was 1967 or 2015, the women of Saint Peter’s felt the University provided them opportunities for growth, far beyond what they could have ever imagined.

“This event and discussion truly demonstrated that while so much has changed, so much has also stayed the same,” said Gloria Mercurio, executive director of alumni engagement.

“Saint Peter’s gave me a tremendous opportunity and a jump ahead financially,” said Bello, who received a full scholarship. “I will never forget the University for the advantages it afforded me. At Saint Peter’s I felt like a big fish in a little pond and that gave me a great deal of confidence when I went out into the world.”

“I wouldn’t have excelled as I have academically without my advisors and my small classes,” said Caporrino. “The community is pretty different from the stories the alumnae shared, but it is still a small campus that is easy to get to know and strangers quickly become friends. The smiling faces that you see every day are faces that you grow to know and love in a way.”

Beyond their personal experiences at Saint Peter’s, the panel also discussed current relevant topics such as glass ceilings, minorities in the workplace, pay gaps, sexual harassment, maternity-leave and resume and career advice.

The Alumnae in Action Network is the newest affinity group launched at Saint Peter’s. The University is proud to offer affinity groups that unite alumni based on profession, education and even common interest. Alumnae in Action joins the roster of the other alumni affinity groups including Alumni in Law, Alumni in Education, Alumni in Finance and Alumni in Healthcare. For more information about upcoming alumni affinity group events, please check the alumni calendar at