Diocesan News

Groundbreaking on New Home For St. John’s Nursing Program

By Michael Rizzo

Father Brian Shanley, O.P. (center) leads St. John’s University representatives and local officials in a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Health Science Center at the school’s Queens campus. The new 70,000-square-foot home for St. John’s University’s nursing program (below in an artist’s rendering) will house classrooms and state-of-the-art simulation labs for the new academic study. (Photo: Michael Rizzo)

JAMAICA ESTATES — St. John’s University held a groundbreaking ceremony  May 12 for a new Health Sciences Center on its Queens campus, to be the home of its recently approved degree program in nursing.

About 200 members of the university’s administration, board of trustees, faculty, and student body, along with city and state officials gathered, on International Nurses Day, in a tent outside St. Vincent Hall which is being demolished to make room for the new center.

The university will begin its academic program in Nursing this fall with the new building expected to be completed by fall 2024.

A recurring theme of the 40-minute program was the Vincentian mission to ask the question, “What must be done?” referring to the religious order’s service to others.

St. John’s University was founded by the Congregation of the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul. Its members are referred to colloquially as the Vincentians.

“We will be blessed to train nurses in this new building to serve those in need,” said St. John’s president Father Brian Shanley, O.P., who also announced that the new building will keep the St. Vincent name.

The university says the new 70,000-square-foot structure will house classrooms and state-of-the-art simulation labs for the new academic program.

Besides receiving private donations for the $106 million construction, the school obtained $1.25 million in federal funding, $5 million in a New York State higher education grant, and $700,000 from the Empire State Development Corporation.

“Nursing has a pastoral aspect to it,” Father Shanley said. “It’s almost a ministry, and as a Catholic university, we can provide a spiritual underpinning to it. In serving the sick, you are serving Christ.” 

Dr. Simon Møller, the school’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, cited a statistic that 1.1 million new nurses will be needed in the near future in the U.S. alone.

He said the pandemic accelerated the university’s efforts to get the building and Nursing program underway. He added that both will integrate the curriculum with the Vincentian and Catholic outlook to educate and inspire students as leaders with compassion. He said the aim is to instill into the hearts and minds of students that every patient matters.

After the conclusion of prepared comments by a variety of speakers, Father Shanley, Dr. Møller, and other dignitaries gathered for the ceremonial toss of dirt to signify the groundbreaking.

Father Shanley was center stage and used a shovel that the university said had been used at every school groundbreaking since the institution’s founding in Brooklyn in 1870.

“It’s all about hands-on learning, hands-on caring, and service to the poor,” Father Shanley said of the new academic program. “For me, this shows St. John’s is faithful to our mission.”

St. John’s University previously offered a Nursing program from 1937 to 1966 and currently offers other healthcare programs, including degrees in Pharmacy and as a Physician Assistant.

The school already has commitments from several hospitals to partner in the training of the new Nursing students.