SJU to honor class of 2011

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About 30,000 people, including 2,800 graduates, are expected to pack the Great Lawn at St. John’s University Sunday during the school’s 141st commencement.

The procession of graduates is scheduled to start at 10 a.m.

Mike Repole, co-founder of Vitaminwater and a 1991 graduate of St. John’s, is scheduled to give the commencement address at the school’s Queens campus and receive an honorary doctor of commercial science degree.

Repole turned his initial investment in Vitaminwater with a partner into a $4.1 billion company by selling it to Coca-Cola.

He now serves as chairman of the board and operating manager of Pirate Brands, the maker of the healthy snack food Pirate’s Booty, and chairman and majority owner of Energy Kitchen, a chain of fast-food health restaurants throughout the city.

Repole also owns a horse, Uncle Mo, that was among the favorites to win last week’s Kentucky Derby, but had to pull out due to a stomach ailment.

St. John’s will also be honoring its legendary Hall of Fame basketball coach, Lou Carnesecca, who will be recognized for his 50-year service to the university by receiving the St. Vincent de Paul Medal.

CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo is scheduled to speak to St. John’s graduates at the school’s Staten Island campus, which is holding its graduation Saturday.

“We are honored to have alumnus and highly successful business entrepreneur Mike Repole and equally esteemed broadcast journalist and business expert Maria Bartiromo speak to our graduates this year,” said the Rev. Donald Harrington, president of St. John’s. “Both individuals are self-made success stories and their words of wisdom coupled with the academic accomplishments of our graduates will make for a special celebration this commencement weekend.”

Harrington also praised Carnesecca as a St. John’s icon.

“Lou is St. John’s,” the president said. “We celebrate his 50 years of service to the university, love for St. John’s and passion for the game globally, which has transformed him into an international icon.”

Harrington said Carnesecca has “touched the lives of so many and [fits] perfectly with our Vincentian mission and service to the community at home and around the world.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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