St. Joseph’s University – previously St. Joseph’s College until last year’s achievement of university status – has been a cultural icon in the Patchogue community for over a century.

            Originally founded by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1916 as an all-girls school in Brooklyn, the college began accepting men in 1969 and opened its Patchogue campus in 1979. The college is known for its hallmark child studies and business majors, as well as its nursing and hospitality programs.

            The Patchogue campus has grown exponentially in size over the years. What started with the main building in O’Connor Hall has grown into the quaint Clare Rose Playhouse in the woods near the Great Patchogue Lake, the comprehensive Callahan Library, the recreational John A. Danzi Athletic Center, and the avant-garde Business and Technology Center.

            Now, in its first major addition to the campus as a university, St. Joseph’s welcomes a futuristic Student Center in place of the former soccer and baseball fields just off the entrance from the south Sunrise Highway Service Road.

            The Student Center now offers recreational space, study lounges, classrooms, a food court, an art gallery, an e-sports gaming room, and even a small church on the second floor. Owing to older infrastructure and rooms too cramped for club meetings and extracurricular activities, the need for a proper building for student activities has been adequately addressed.

            The ribbon cutting was attended by a large crowd of faculty, members of the student body, stakeholders, and elected officials.

            Father Francis Pizzarelli, Director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson and lecturer at St. Joseph’s University, issued a blessing and prayer over the new facility before speeches were given.

            Madison Frascogna, a junior majoring in math adolescent education and minoring in computer science, is serving her second year as Student Government Association (SGA) President after founding a chapter of Circle K International on campus. Circle K International is a collegiate service program that promotes service, leadership, and fellowship. Frascogna spoke on behalf of the student body at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

            “I truly value all of my experiences on campus and strive to create an environment where all students want to be involved,” said Frascogna. “This year, the SGA Board has been working hard to grow campus involvement by hosting more large-scale on-campus events. We have been very successful and are excited to transfer that energy into our new space. Student government oversees about forty clubs and organizations that are eager and passionate to take full advantage of all of these opportunities [presented by the new Student Center]. However, the Student Center is not only full of opportunities for our student leaders; it’s truly a space for everyone.”

            Frascogna mentioned that students were informally polled on their most anticipated feature(s) of the new building. While Frascogna said that such features are difficult to pinpoint as most anticipated or important, she added that the building represents “positive life and growth of the campus community as a whole.”

            Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri took the podium after Frascogna and described the university’s unique effect on the Village of Patchogue.

            “It’s the asset we have that makes us different from a lot of other places,” said Ponteri. “When we look at what we’ve done with the Village over the years, we always look at our assets. This university makes us a better place, a place where people want to come and create memories.”

            Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook), who serves as the Ranking Member of the Education Committee of the State Assembly, graduated as a certified math teacher from St. Joseph’s College.

“When I was a student here, I took so much pride in our community,” said Smith. “We’re so excited for the future students who will get to enjoy this beautiful place. The measure of a higher institution of education is consistent praise, and that is achieved by building these types of structures to give back to the students to encourage them to stay here, spend time between classes, build the community, and foster relationships.”

Smith then introduced the next speaker, his former professor of state and local government at St. Joseph’s, County Executive Steve Bellone (D-West Babylon).

“This was a college when we broke ground on this building, now it’s a university,” said Bellone. “It speaks to the growth and the dynamism that’s happening here on this campus. I’m proud of any way we associate with this great community.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor and county executive candidate Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) then took the podium with Deputy Supervisor and Councilman Dan Panico (R-Center Moriches), Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), and Sam Bifulco, President of the St. Joseph’s Alumni Association.

“We love St. Joe’s, we hire St. Joe’s graduates, they do wonderful things, and I’m happy they’re here,” said Romaine. “The Sisters’ original vision, the current president and Board of Trustees, thank you for your leadership. At the end of the day, everyone who is preparing to enter the work world, we need you here on Long Island and in Suffolk County. We need the intellectual capital that this university will provide.”

Donald Boomgaarden, President of St. Joseph’s University concluded the speeches before the ribbon cutting.

“Our mission is to continue the vision of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Boomgaarden. “We want to show unconditional love and transform people to dream the same dreams that God dreams for them. When we look at this structure, it is the living embodiment of that ideal. Our future generations are going to be transformed by this institution.”

Pileigh Shahinian, 21, an English adolescent education major, communicated to The Messenger her thoughts on the new building.

“This is an amazing day, I’m very excited for the building and to spend my time here,” she said.

The ceremony moved to the main entrance of the building for the formal ribbon cutting. Lunch was served afterwards in the new common area of the Student Center.

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Matt Meduri serves as the Editor in Chief of the Messenger Papers and writer of America the Beautiful and This Week Today columns. As a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Matt has been working in the political journalism field for over 5 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist, enjoys cooking and writing his own recipes, and traveling throughout the United States including Guam.