Thirty-six St. Joseph’s College alumni gathered virtually Saturday, Jan. 23, to honor the memory of SJC Brooklyn alumnus Joseph M. Lewinger ’00, playing a game of trivia to raise money for a scholarship created in Lewinger’s name.
Hosted by the Office of Institutional Advancement, the event raised $1,150 to go toward the Joseph M. Lewinger ’00 “Mr. St. Joe’s” Endowed Scholarship for Future Educators, which was established by his family after Lewinger died last March due to COVID-19 complications.
To date, the scholarship has received over $13,700 in donations.
“I just wanted to thank everyone, from all the Lewingers, for supporting this scholarship and for keeping my brother’s memory and legacy alive,” Lewinger’s sister Denise ’02 said on Saturday. “If everyone lived their life like Joe and put in the extra effort — at home, in relationships, at work and in their community — the world would be a better place.”
Lewinger worked at The Mary Louis Academy, an all-girls Sisters of St. Joseph-accredited high school in Queens, where he served as assistant principal before passing. Passionate about educating and empowering future generations, his scholarship will help to continue his legacy of supporting dreams of higher education for aspiring teachers.
“Anyone who knew him knew that he really was “Mr. St. Joe’s”, so to have a scholarship named after him is exactly what should be happening,” his sister added.
As a student, Lewinger earned his nickname through his involvement on campus, which ranged from being an active participant in the Student Government Association, Chapel Players Dramatic Society, Psi Phi Omega fraternity and the men’s basketball team.
Sharing Memories about ‘Mr. St. Joe’s’
After trivia, members of the College community reminisced while sharing stories about Lewinger, including his wife Maura ’99, Men’s Basketball Coach Joseph Cocozello ’95 (who, during his first year at the College, coached Lewinger), and his friends and former classmates and teammates.
“I’ve got a funny story about — I guess it was one of the first basketball games I went to see him play,” Maura Lewinger said. “I knew — because he was so competitive — that if you guys lost, it wasn’t going to be good. You guys won, but he played horribly, so he was still grumpy.
“And I was like, ‘That’s all right, you don’t really play so well anyway,'” she recalled while laughing. “Then he stopped the car and turned to me and said, ‘I love you.’ And that’s the first time he ever told me he loved me — after I told him he sucked.”
Fellow teammate Jason Kreitsch ’99 still remembers just how big a role Lewinger played in the SJC Brooklyn community.
“He was the heart of the basketball team,” Kreitsch said. “He wasn’t the best player, but he was the whole spirit of that team. And then with student government, he was the best treasurer I think we ever had. He put his heart and soul into everything he ever did. He was a great guy.”
Cocozello, who led the event alongside Associate Director of Financial Aid Vanessa Barrios ’00, said he was honored to help support such a cause.
“Anything we can do to keep his memory going is so important to our school,” Cocozello said.