October 03, 2006
Pete Hamill, well known novelist, essayist and veteran
journalist whose career has spanned more than 40 years, spoke to an
exuberant crowd of over 3,000 St. John’s University freshman at
Carnesecca Arena on the Queens Campus. Hamill marked the fourth
such speaker to headline the Academic Lecture Series sponsored by
St. John’s University’s Office of the Provost, the Department of
Student Life, the Discover New York and Core Curriculum, Student
Government Inc. and the President’s Multicultural Advisory
His book, Downtown: My Manhattan, was required reading
for the Class of 2010 as part of the University’s core-curriculum
course “Discover New
York.” These freshmen have already been introduced to New York
City as part of their summer orientation and the author’s tome
clearly painted a more vivid picture as only Hamill can. That was
even more apparent with the boisterous ovation he received while
walking to center court at Carnesecca Arena.
Flattered by the cheers of the first-year college students
Hamill laughed, “I feel like (U2 lead singer) Bono.”
But Hamill soon got serious and stressed the importance of a new
generation seated before him.
“The way we live our lives is what it’s all about,” said Hamill.
“Part of learning about New York City and the world around you is
to listen and look at the variety of possibilities before you,” he
It was a message to the student body that hit home with St.
John’s freshman Matthew Knotts, a native of Maryland.
“He (Hamill) was everything I thought he would be and more. I
liked his book. I’m not from New York but I have a great
appreciation for the city through his writing because there were so
many personal things in the book that I could relate
Even an uncooperative microphone couldn’t detour Hamill’s
45-minute lecture that spoke to the importance of family, his
childhood, responsibility and his love of writing which was even
more heightened after visiting the University’s new Institute for
Writing Studies on the Queens Campus in a private tour with St.
John’s Provost Julia A. Upton, RSM, Ph.D., before his lecture.
“I saw your new writing institute this evening and was very
impressed. Writing is very important no matter what field of study
you’re in – so go there, because you’ll be richer person for the
experience,” added Hamill.
And what of his writing and the message he’d like to leave with
those who have read or will read Downtown: My Manhattan.
“The book and my life is a trip through Oz” he noted.
And those in attendance on this fall night at Carnesecca Arena
knew exactly what he had meant after having read and heard from the