Here’s a look back at SJC Brooklyn’s most important stories from 2020.
Celebrating 50 years of being coeducational: St. Joseph’s College became a coeducational institution in the 1969-70 academic year. Kenneth Byrne, a retired elementary school teacher who in 1972 became the first male graduate of St. Joseph’s College, told us this in January that his experience at SJC was unique, to say the least. “I was the only guy in any class until my last semester there,” he said. “It was an odd little thing.”
Backyard Mission Trip benefits local communities: A group of SJC Brooklyn students spent a week of their winter break serving communities in Brooklyn, Queens and Brentwood. Students volunteered at a soup kitchen; learned about poverty, migration and the environment; and participated in morning and evening prayers. The trip also featured visits to New York City’s Tenement Museum, the 9/11 Memorial and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Recognizing Black History Month: Spoken word artist Harold Green visited SJC Brooklyn to help celebrate Black History Month. Throughout the event, Green recited poems he has written about love, violence and racism, and the importance of following your passions. In between pieces, he spoke to the audience, sharing his inspirations for the poems and offering words of advice.
Students arrange bouquets to deliver to local nursing home: SJC Brooklyn’s Recreation Club teamed up with local nonprofit BloomAgainBklyn for the second time to create bouquets with donated flowers to send to residents at Cobble Hill Health Center, a nursing home.
I Heart SJC Week: St. Joseph’s alumni reminisced about the friends, relationships and memories they made at the College during the second annual #IHeartSJCWeek.
Tariq Shah ’18 gets published: Shah, a graduate of the Writer’s Foundry in 2018, published his first book, “Whiteout Conditions,” on March 17. Reviewers from BuzzFeed News and the Chicago Tribune called the book a “must-read” for 2020 ahead of its publication.
SJC established the COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund: St. Joseph’s created the fund to help the students most affected by the novel COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on the College’s campuses and programs.
Developing a quick transition to remote learning: Amidst the rise of coronavirus cases in the United States in mid-March, St. Joseph’s College switched to a remote delivery of face-to-face courses, to help prevent the spread of the virus. The Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) offered a series of remote training sessions about how to use Canvas, St. Joseph’s learning management system, to faculty entering the unfamiliar territory of remote teaching. Students also rose to the challenge as they adjusted to learning remotely.
Giving Day: The College’s second annual Giving Day raised nearly $59,325 from 432 donors in just 24 hours. The one-day fundraising event — which celebrated St. Joseph the Worker Day — focuses on the needs of St. Joseph’s College students during the coronavirus outbreak and moving forward.
Answering the Call: Many SJC Brooklyn students and alumni continued to work outside their homes in essential positions as the state, nation and world coped with the coronavirus outbreak. Employed as recreation therapists, hospital workers, public health officials, and other positions society relies on to function, these College community members selflessly put their lives at risk while living out the College’s motto: Esse non videri — “To be, not to seem.”
The Class of 2020 graduates: SJC Brooklyn graduated nearly 300 students in May, amid the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Class of 2020 is full of accomplished students, who have spent their time at St. Joseph’s College working hard in the classroom, breaking records on the field and court and getting involved on campus.
Valedictorian Amarfi Collado, a political science graduate who was a member of the ACES and Honors programs, shared an optimistic message with her peers when the official commencement ceremony was postponed because of restrictions on large gatherings amid the pandemic.
I’m extremely proud of my 2020 fellow graduates. Their resilience is one to be emphasized after their entire lifestyles were turned upside down during the pandemic. When one’s routine is suddenly taken away, most people can’t cope with it, but the Class of 2020 seniors have been coping and working hard to stay focused and maintain traditions. — Amarfi Collado ’20
Nurses pinning ceremony: SJC Brooklyn celebrated the second graduating class of its four-year nursing degree program with a special virtual pinning ceremony for the campus’ 34 graduating seniors. During the ceremony, SJC Brooklyn Interim Executive Dean Raymond D’Angelo, Ph.D., praised the nurses for weathering the storm of a final semester marred by the coronavirus pandemic, and for entering the field at such an important time in history.
Students thrive amid adversity: When COVID-19 hit, Rajiv Basnet was one of millions of people who saw their carefully laid plans deferred when his summer internship in Germany was canceled. Yet, for the Academic Center for English Language Studies (ACES) scholar and budding data scientist, the trifecta of adversity, perseverance and success comes second nature. After speaking to last year’s valedictorian and alum of the prestigious Microsoft Data Science Summer School (D3) program, Adnan Hoq, Basnet decided to post an application and was selected to join the ranks of SJC ACES students picked for the coveted program.
Biology department recognized: St. Joseph’s College Department of Biology earned honorable mention from the National Biological Honor Society Beta Beta Beta (or TriBeta) for the Lloyd M. Bertholf Award. The award’s purpose is to celebrate both locally and nationally the chapters with members who actively conduct and publish research and participate in district and national conventions and other scientific meetings.
College appoints new executive dean: Phillip Dehne, Ph.D., a 19-year faculty veteran at St. Joseph’s, began his new position as executive dean on July 1. Previously, Dr. Dehne served as the associate chair of SJC Brooklyn’s Department of History, coordinator of the SJC 100 Freshman Seminar program, chair of the Promotion and Awards Committee, and as a member of the Curriculum Committee and the Faculty Interest Council, among other committees.
Learning to cope with pandemic-related anxiety: SJC Brooklyn Psychology Associate Chairman Peter Lin, Ph.D., who has experience studying disasters and mental health, used his expert knowledge to help the College community manage stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He gave tips on ways to harmonize your mind, body and life — the key principles toward coping with stress during a disaster.
SJC Brooklyn alumnus Anthony Ruggiero ’17 ’19 gets published twice: Ruggiero, a writer and a U.S. history teacher, published an article about special education in the National Association for Special Education Teachers eJournal; and wrote a book about former Queen Mary I of England.
Betsy Bonner presents her new memoir: Bonner, then a Writer’s Foundry faculty member, wrote a memoir, “The Book of Atlantis Black: The Search for a Sister Gone Missing,” that carefully attempts to analyze and make sense of the mysterious final months before her sister’s disappearance, alleged overdose and death. She presented the book during a virtual Brooklyn Voices event.
Faculty member Betsy Bonner's memoir "The Book of Atlantis Black" just received serious praise from the @nytimes! Read the review: https://t.co/hieXW5MZwG. Congrats, Betsy! #amreading pic.twitter.com/esklq0iVWK
— The Writer's Foundry (@writersfoundry) August 8, 2020
Racing against racism: Alec Willis ’18 ran 16 miles from the north shore of Staten Island to the south shore, side-by-side with his friend, Azeem Wilkerson, raising $2,000 to support anti-racism causes in their hometowns. The men — Willis is white and Wilkerson is black — started and finished the race together, symbolizing the importance and urgency of teaming up to defeat racism.
Graduate student gets an NYPD promotion: Mike King, a 20-year NYPD veteran graduated in December from the cyber security master’s degree program at SJC Brooklyn, was tapped as the new head of the Special Victims Unit at the New York Police Department.
Investiture: New students attended a virtual ceremony for Investiture — a 105-year College tradition that marks the first academic event of the year for the freshman class. The ceremony allows family members and loved ones to see their children make the leap to college life. It additionally symbolizes the beginning of the Class of 2024’s journey as college students and St. Joseph’s investing them into the College community.
New teachers start their careers virtually: Many new educators who graduated from college in May take on an unprecedented beginning to their teaching careers. Marisa Nikas and Shannon David, both child study graduates in the Class of 2020, said they were ready for the challenge of beginning their teaching careers amid the pandemic. Nikas is teaching students from kindergarten through second grade in a bridged class at District 75 Schools in the P4K building, while David is working with toddlers at the Dillon Child Study Center.
SJC President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., is reappointed: The College’s Board of Trustees extended the president’s appointment for an additional five years. Dr. Boomgaarden will continue to lead the College through June 2025.
Celebrating the founding of the Sisters of St. Joseph: The St. Joseph’s College community recognized the 370th anniversary of the founding of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph on Oct. 15. Founded in LePuy, France, the religious community has grown to serve 53 countries. It includes the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood branch, which founded St. Joseph’s College in 1916.
Interning amid a pandemic: Matthews Avendano, a senior marketing major, landed two virtual internships during COVID-19. In the spring, he interned at Manhattan Ridge Advisors, a wealth management firm located in midtown Manhattan, where he tracked client portfolios, recording financial data and creating presentations for clients. Following his experience at Manhattan Ridge, Avendano secured a second internship. This one was with Leviathan Leasing, a start-up real estate leasing firm.
Veterans Day: The SJC community celebrated those who served, and who continue to serve, through a series of virtual events organized by Office of Military and Veteran Services. The week included career resources for veterans and active military members, a Catholic Liturgy in the Kennedy Chapel and a special tribute video dedicated to SJC’s veterans.
Thanksgiving Food Drive: The SJC Brooklyn community donated nonperishable food to families in need, ahead of Thanksgiving. The College collected an assortment of nonperishable items for the food drive, including cereal, juice boxes, instant mashed potatoes and gravy. The drive benefitted Grandma’s Love, Inc., a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that provides food to elementary school children and their families who might otherwise go hungry.
Diversity and Inclusion Week: St. Joseph’s College kicked off its first Diversity and Inclusion Week in November, celebrating the unique individuals that make up the College community. The series of events reflected social responsibility — one of St. Joseph’s core pillars — and charism, a value at the heart of the Sisters of St. Joseph’s mission. The theme was “Celebrating Our Diversity: Building an Inclusive Campus.”
Giving Tuesday supports students: The St. Joseph’s College community supported student success this on Giving Tuesday. Ninety people raised just shy of $10,000, supporting three campaigns that directly benefit St. Joseph’s College students. The donations contributed to three different campaigns: a scholarship in memory of SJC Brooklyn alumnus Joe Lewinger, who died of COVID-19 in March; a new campus food pantry in the Center for Wellness to support current SJC students (and when resources allow, staff and faculty) who face hunger by providing immediate non-perishable food choices; and support for The CSJ Dear Neighbor Hope House Grant, which provides financial assistance to Hope House students in their pursuit of college studies.
Delivering backpacks to the homeless in Brooklyn: Sister Marie Mackey, C.S.J., campus ministry director at SJC Brooklyn, and a group of nine honors program students, donated 30 bags filled with toiletries and other essential supplies to the homeless along Atlantic Avenue.
Giving Tree Toy Drive: The SJC Brooklyn community held a Giving Tree Toy Drive during the holiday season for children at P.S. 65X Mother Hale Academy in the Bronx.
The Class of 2020 formally graduates: St. Joseph’s College held a virtual commencement ceremony for the more than 300 graduates in SJC Brooklyn’s Class of 2020, and their families. The ceremony featured individualized slides for the graduates, highlighting their accomplishments. The College postponed the traditional commencement ceremony in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s graduates may still take part in an in-person SJC commencement ceremony during the next three years. This includes the commencement for the Class of 2021, provided the College can safely hold a ceremony this spring.