Founders of the Mac Mahon Student Center Honored at Hearts & Minds
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Posted by: Angeline Boyer
It all started with a phone call.
"Six years ago, former Saint Peter’s President Rev. James N. Loughran, S.J., called me and asked me to come to his office,” recalled Thomas P. Mac Mahon ’68. "After his call, I jumped into my car and came to Jersey City, clueless as to why I was going there.”
Mac Mahon would soon learn the reason for the phone call and the trip to Saint Peter’s. "Fr. Loughran said to me, ‘Tom, Saint Peter’s is the only Jesuit institution in the United States that doesn’t have a student center. We need you, and I would like you to chair a capital campaign to raise $50 million [to get us one].” Without hesitation, Mac Mahon agreed. And despite numerous setbacks, such as Fr. Loughran’s untimely death in 2006 and the collapse of the United States economy in 2008, the campaign endured. In fact, the campaign goal was raised from $50 million to $62 million due to the unshakable certainty displayed by incoming University President Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., and Vice President for Advancement and External Affairs Michael A. Fazio. They believed alumni and friends of the University would step up to the challenge in full force – and they were right.
In spring 2013, the Mac Mahon Student Center, named after the alumnus for contributing the largest gift in University history – $7.5 million – opened its doors for the official dedication ceremony and celebration of Hearts & Minds: The Saint Peter’s University Scholarship Dinner.
"A lot of blood, sweat and tears were put into this by an enormous amount of people,” said Dr. Cornacchia during the official dedication of the student center. "Today – despite some who felt all of this was nothing more than a fantasy – we have reached a new milestone in the history of Saint Peter’s University. Our dream has become a reality.”
The event served to honor the founders of the Mac Mahon Student Center, alumni and friends of the University who have generously supported the construction of the facility with investments of $500,000 or more. These generous benefactors include Carol B. Bastek, Ed.D. ’70, Thomas W. Duncan ’65, Hon. Frank J. Guarini H ’94, Thomas P. Mac Mahon ’68, M. Brian Maher HA ’07, William J. Marino ’66, Kathleen M. McKenna, Esq. ’75, Robert G. Morris, Joseph A. Panepinto, Esq. ’66 and Sodexo, Inc. In addition to these individuals, more than 8,000 gifts of all sizes were made over several years to Students at the Center: The Campaign for Saint Peter’s University.
The rainy and cold temperatures on Friday evening could not dampen the spirits of the hundreds of individuals who gathered in The Caroline L. Guarini Living Room in the Mac Mahon Student Center for the official dedication ceremony. After remarks from Dr. Cornacchia, student Renee Bryzski ’13, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, Congressman Albio ‘Sires ’74 and Mac Mahon, the building was blessed by Rev. Michael L. Braden, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry. Guests then headed up to the third floor of the student center for cocktail hour.
Afterward, guests gathered in The Duncan Family Sky Room, where the founders of the student center were presented with awards.
"My relationship with Saint Peter’s has been one sided,” Mac Mahon said. "Saint Peter’s has done more for me than I could have ever imagined. I guess it’s safe to say Saint Peter’s changed my life forever. In my life, there have been three constants: family, friends and Saint Peter’s.”
He added, "I hope that tonight you are excited as I am about the spirit of this new building.”
Surrounded by panoramic views of the Jersey City waterfront and New York City skyline, attendees enjoyed dinner, music and a performance by Cirque Le Masque, a team of artists that performed incredible feats of strength, agility, beauty and timing.
Hearts & Minds: The Saint Peter’s University Scholarship Dinner celebrates integrity, leadership and service to others. Proceeds from this annual event support the University’s General Scholarship Fund, which help deserving students to have access to a quality Jesuit education – students such as Brzyski.
"I would not have been able to call Saint Peter’s home for the last four years had I not received academic and athletic scholarships, as well as an abundant financial aid package to help pay for my education,” she said. "Living in households with divorced parents, it was daunting to think of the cost of college for both my brother and me. However, Saint Peter’s gave me the amazing blessings of aid and scholarships to help make college more affordable for me, thus paving the way for my brother to transfer in and graduate last year.”
Master of Ceremonies John Montone ’76, reporter for 1010 WINS, echoed this sentiment as host throughout the night, saying, "The General Scholarship Fund is a critical component of financial support for our students. The fund allows 98 percent of Saint Peter’s University students who are in need to receive annual financial assistance.”
He added, "With contributions to the General Scholarship Fund through Hearts & Minds, the University is able to ensure that those students receive a quality Jesuit education, an education that will allow them – like it allowed so many of us –to fulfill their dreams.”
More of these dreams will now become reality due to the success of this year’s scholarship dinner, an achievement the University hopes to repeat at Hearts & Minds in 2014.