John H. Mark E '58, in honor of Sr. Rose Daly and in memory of the Rev. William J. Dahms
Helen McElhinney Wright '63, in honor of the many happy years that she, Ann McElhinney Murry '60, Candace McElhinney Garrett '65, and Maureen Garrett McElhinney '65 spent at St. Jean's
These are the first lines of our school song and upon reflection, I think the Jeanites are the jewels polished and molded by the Congregation of Notre Dame, a few lay teachers…think: Dr. Pagano, Miss Doran…, to a lesser extent, the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and, of course, our families.
Sometime in the 1950’s, St Jean’s became a client of my dad’s. Charles McElhinney was a distributer of candy and chips primarily to mom and pop stores and Catholic schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens. So he had done his homework, having personally visited several all-girl Catholic High Schools. When my sister Ann was ready for High School, Daddy suggested St. Jean’s. Through meeting with Mrs. Murphy every Friday during lunch he experienced the vibe at St. Jean’s and liked it. (Although he would have never used the word “vibe”.) I followed three years later and two years after that, Candace and Maureen, our sister-in-law. Yes, we even got our brother Tom to have a connection to St. Jean’s!
I am not known for having a very good memory among my sisters. Ann remembers endless details from our childhood and Candace remembers every day, date, year of every consequential event in our lives. Truth be told, I have no recollection of the transoms here in the auditorium. Don’t think I ever noticed. But what I do hold dear are the memories of my four years at St. Jean’s…the friends, the laughs, the activities, the events, the aforementioned faculty. St. Jean’s made Ann, Candace, Maureen and me the women we have become: wise, caring, loving, faith-filled.
I am happy to have had a small part in restoring the windows to their original beauty. May they be shared by generations of students to come…GO JEANITES!!!
Sr. Maria Cassano, CND, on behalf of Frances Camisa in memory of her sister Maria Angela Camisa '56
Anne Cooper, in memory of her and her husband’s parents Eduardo & Patsy Martin and John & Kay Cooper
Susan Vlamis ’62, in memory of her parents Anne and Steve Vlamis, and her brother Anthony Vlamis E '60
We’re coming to the finish line. Best place to reflect. Think big, write tight, speak succinctly, and create scholarships. This is what St. Jeans helped nurture in me with my parents. On that note, allow me to say that the seeds of one’s education start when we are very young, and grow through a filter of life’s impressions and experiences and teachers.
I am proud to say that I am a child of immigrants. My mother from a Czechoslovakian village and my father from a Greek island in the Aegean. In fact, my parents met here in New York while working at a nearby restaurant called the Lyric. My mother Anne became a great fan of St. Jean Baptiste Church and the St. Anne Shrine. Hence, I was destined to attend St. Jean Baptiste grammar school and then the high school as did my brother Anthony.
In retrospect, the teachers were motivating angels. My first grade teacher, Sr. Rose Daley, who is still alive today at 100 years old brought us from printing to cursive writing in the first grade where I attempted to run away for the first two weeks of school. But then Sr. Rose, with her infinite patience, helped me acclimate to first grade. With an art teacher, Mother St. Gertrude, who brought us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; our music teacher Mother St. Catherine Anne; and my English teacher Mother St. Helen of Notre Dame, I was ultimately led to a career in photojournalism with the Associated Press.
In a blink of an eye a quarter of a century flies by. And here we are celebrating the 93rd anniversary. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been nurtured by the nuns of the Congregation of Notre Dame and Blessed Sacrament Fathers at a tender age, growing up with a diverse education on the upper east side of Manhattan. How lucky can a girl get?The nuns were strict but motivating and created a disciplined path for us even though I rebelled a bit against the strict regime. Can you believe that tuition was $15.00 a month? But if you sang in the choir it was only $5.00. Hence, I sang in the choir.
As I stand here, I imagine my speech and theatre teachers giving me the confidence to act in plays and use my voice to the fullest versus daydreaming in the back of the classroom and causing mischief. The memories are fond and lifelong. They motivated the creation of the Anne and Steve Vlamis Scholarship for the Arts in 2008. It is all about giving back – a tradition nurtured thru through my parents and my teachers which is why I stand here today to encourage you consider doing the same. (How many designer clothes can you wear?) Create an environment for children to grow into their creative best amidst motivating teachers and in spite of their hardships. With that go and leave behind a legacy to benefit humanity.
When people ask me how I am, I say great. I am grateful to still be here on earth and mobile…giving back to motivate others’ talents. And trying to motivate young people less fortunate than myself. Seriously. We leave tonight thinking big, creating dreams and funding scholarships for future lives. It’s the best high.
Be well and be safe and grateful. God bless us all. And thank you, God and my parents, for sending me and my brother to SJB School, an indelible impression on my life in channeling my imagination. Alleluia.