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Hundreds of alumni from throughout John Jay’s proud 49-year history returned to their alma mater on April 9 for a festive annual reunion that featured a salute to the College’s “Founding Generation” and the first-ever after-party.
The reunion was in fact a full day of events that included a video presentation featuring Distinguished Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook and Jim McCann (BS ’75), founder of 1-800-Flowers and a trustee of the John Jay College Foundation. A discussion that paired faculty members with their former students followed. There were also building tours, career-advice sessions, and pre-dinner receptions.
Returning alumni were welcomed at the soaring, light-filled Lynn and Jules Kroll Atrium in the College’s new building, where many guests couldn’t help but note the stark contrast between the gleaming new facility and the place they knew as John Jay, whether at the Police Academy, 360 Park Avenue South, South Hall or North Hall. President Jeremy Travis told guests that John Jay has “become a true go-to location for New York City.”
At the dinner in the new student dining hall, the Alumni Association honored Distinguished Professor of History Gerald Markowitz with the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award. Markowitz, author of the history of John Jay, Educating for Justice, was honored for more than four decades of teaching at John Jay and a distinguished record of scholarship. He paid tribute to his faculty and staff colleagues for having recognized “how important and thrilling it is to teach at a public university,” and said he continues to be “inspired year after year by how hard our students work.”
Thomas Belfiore (BS ’79, MA ’96), the winner of the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award, was saluted by New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano (BS ’76) as one of “the people who have served the city and kept us safe.” Belfiore enjoyed a successful 20-year career with the New York City Police Department before moving on to a variety of prominent private- and public-sector positions, including his current job as Deputy Chief Security Officer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “If I were to be considered a success,” Belfiore told the audience, “it’s because I surrounded myself with people like you, and then chose to listen to you.”
An inaugural Outstanding Young Alumnus Award was presented to Dominick Cromartie (BA ‘00), who used his John Jay education as a springboard to Harvard Law School, where he earned a JD degree in 2003. Cromartie, who is currently a litigation associate at Davis & Gilbert LLP, told the reunion attendees: “We believed that we could achieve more, and make a greater contribution. I’ve noticed that current students share these same values as well.”
The Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship for 2014 was presented to Milton Pelotte, a Criminal Justice major who is on track to graduate in 2015. He hopes to follow his John Jay career with launching a nonprofit organization that will help youth from low-income families connect with career-building mentors.
On a picture-perfect spring evening, guests also got to enjoy the reunion after-party on the Jay Walk, John Jay’s rooftop campus commons. The event was hosted by former John Jay student and now Latin music entrepreneur Johnny Marines, with guests DJ Camilo of Hot 97 radio and Tahiry Jose (BA ’02), star of VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop.”
By the end of an evening filled with wall-to-wall music and dancing, the Twittersphere was abuzz with reunion-related messages. “Thanks for having us; such an honor.” Jose said in one of many post-event tweets. Marines added: “I want to thank President Jeremy Travis @JohnJayPresJT, for inviting me to host the very first Alumni Reunion after-party.”