July 19, 2022

St. John’s University will hold its premier fundraising event—the 25th Annual President’s Dinner—on Thursday, October 27, at the New York Hilton Midtown. St. John’s President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., will host this annual celebration of what makes St. John’s University unique: the vibrant combination of scholarship and service. The Dinner begins with a reception at 6 p.m.

For more than two decades, the annual President’s Dinner has brought together generations of alumni, as well as University benefactors, faculty, administrators, staff, members of the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, and other members of the extended St. John’s family—and most importantly, students—as it has raised funds for scholarships, especially for those students most in need. Over the last 25 years, the President’s Dinner has raised more than $48 million in scholarship support.

This special occasion is also the venue for the presentation of the highly regarded Spirit of Service Award to outstanding people and organizations exemplifying the Catholic and Vincentian values that are at the heart of St. John’s mission.

“St. John’s University creates opportunities for deserving students to receive a transformative education, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Fr. Shanley.

“For the last 25 years, funds raised at the President’s Dinner have supported students who have sought the benefits of a St. John’s experience. In addition, the Dinner provides us with the unique opportunity to recognize several outstanding honorees for their service to St. John’s and the broader community.”

The Spirit of Service Award is bestowed to alumni and friends who embody the University’s Catholic and Vincentian values in their life and work. These select individuals serve as role models as they incorporate St. John’s values into their lives in a meaningful way. Many past Spirit of Service Award honorees will be in attendance as the University celebrates the 25th anniversary of the dinner.

This year’s honorees are

Nickolas (Nick) Davatzes ’62C, ’64G, ’95HON (Posthumously)

Nick Davatzes served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Arts and Entertainment Networks (A&E) from 1983 to 2005 and oversaw the successful launch of the A&E Network and the History Channel. Prior to that, Mr. Davatzes was Senior Vice President, Group Executive, Senior Vice President, Administration and Human Resources, Warner Amex Cable Communications, Inc. from 1980 to 1983. He began his career at Xerox Corporation in 1968, serving in various executive roles, including Vice President, Sales and Marketing. He segued into information technology at Intext Communications Systems from 1978 to 1980.

Mr. Davatzes was a US Marine Corps veteran. Over his long career in media, he earned many accolades from military service and related organizations, as well as other civic and professional accolades. Among them were the National Humanities Medal presented by former US President George W. Bush in 2006; his 2005 induction into the Cable Hall of Fame; and the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres Medal bestowed by the French government in 1989.

Mr. Davatzes served on the St. John’s University Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2008. He was previously honored by St. John’s University with the Pietas Medal (1989), the President’s Medal (2002), and the Medal of Honor (2012). Mr. Davatzes passed away in 2021.

Anita Gomez-Palacio ’65Ed, ’89PD

Anita Gomez-Palacio earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from St. John’s University in 1965. That year, she began her teaching career as a French and Spanish teacher in New York City schools until 1970, when she traveled to Spain to teach for another 10 years.

Upon her return from Europe, she was awarded three consecutive Title VII scholarships. Ms. Gomez-Palacio attended Teachers College, Columbia University, earning both an M.A. in Bilingual Education and TESOL, and an Ed.M. in Instructional Technology. These degrees were followed by a Professional Diploma in Administration and Supervision from St. John’s University.

After serving as a teacher and administrator in Community School District 25 in Queens for 15 years, she was appointed Principal of Marie Curie Middle School in Bayside, NY, in 1995. In 2001, Ms. Gomez-Palacio became Executive Director of Operations at the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators; she retired in 2013. She currently serves as a member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees and the University’s Equity and Inclusion Council.

Robert E. Evanson’58CBA

Robert E. Evanson retired in 2003 as the President of McGraw Hill Education, a $2.5 billion global publishing unit. Prior to that, Mr. Evansonserved as President, Higher Education and Consumer Group, and Executive Vice President, Corporate Development, for the McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. Mr. Evansonjoined the Macmillan/McGraw Hill School Publishing Company as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 1992. 

Before joining McGraw Hill, heheld various posts at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. from 1985 to 1992, including Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Prior to that, he held senior financial positions at Harper & Row, Consolidated Rail Corporation, and Amtrak, and was a partner at Arthur Andersen & Co.

Mr. Evanson earned his Master of Business Administration degree from New York Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from St. John’s University. Upon graduation from St. John’s, Mr. Evanson served in the US Marine Corps. He is also a 2016 honorary degree recipient from the New York Institute of Technology.

Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., M.Div. ’70C

Rev. Bernard M. Tracey, C.M., M.Div., St. John’s Executive Vice President for Mission (retired), has been an integral member of the University community for more than 30 years. An alumnus, Fr. Tracey served as Campus Minister from 1984 to 1986. During that time, he also directed the Vincentian Service Corps at the University and at Immaculate Conception Church in Philadelphia, PA (1983–86).

He went on to hold top administrative posts at St. John’s, including Assistant Vice President and Director of the 125th Anniversary (1993–95); Associate Vice President and Acting Director of Public Relations (1995–96); Executive Assistant to the President (1996–97); Vice President of Institutional Advancement (1997–03); and Vice President for University Relations (2003–06). He was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees (2013–14), while serving as Superior of St. Vincent’s Seminary in Philadelphia, from 2006 to 2014.

Fr. Tracey held many pastoral positions beyond the University. A Director of Campus Ministry at Niagara University in the late seventies and early eighties, Fr. Tracey served also as an Associate Pastor and Campus Minister at St. Mary’s Parish, in Greensboro, NC (1974–75); Associate Pastor of St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Philadelphia (1975–79); and Pastor at Philadelphia’s Immaculate Conception Church (1981–84).

Fr. Tracey earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s in 1970, with a major in sociology and a minor in philosophy. He earned his master’s in divinity from Mary Immaculate Seminary in 1974.

For information visit President’s Dinner.


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