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Witnessing a Transformation

January 17, 2018 | By Tim Pratt

Marianne Lanuti stands with Joey Lanuti (SF14) after his senior oral examination.

Marianne Lanuti, of Henderson, Nevada, is an attorney who represents children with physical and intellectual disabilities in administrative hearings and federal court. Her son, Joey Lanuti (SF14), attends Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. He is on a prestigious criminal law journal and has an internship beginning this month at the Department of Justice. Here, Marianne shares her perspective as the parent of a St. John’s graduate.

What did you know about St. John’s before Joey decided to attend, and how did you feel about that decision?

I knew more about St John’s College than many prior to Joey’s application and acceptance. I knew a man who graduated from the program when I was a university student. His description of his education seemed so different from my educational experience. Furthermore, my childhood friend’s oldest son was accepted and was a student at St John’s when Joey applied. It was uncanny that both of our eldest sons had an interest in the college because we never discussed the school. I recalled that the campus was remote, secure, quiet, and self-contained. It was an ideal environment for learning.

After Joey headed off to college, did you two talk about what he was studying? What were those conversations like?

I was encouraged to participate in Parent’s Weekend conducted in October. Fortunately, I attended that year and all subsequent years. As the other parents, I had my initial concerns. Would this be a “value”? Did this model have merit? I was offered the opportunity to observe the process and I attempted to refrain from judgment although it was difficult at times. I recall observing a class (and) was so overwhelmed by the excitement of the students engaging in the process of learning. The atmosphere was collaborative and meaningful. The excitement of the process of learning and engaging was palpable. My son was expected to know the anatomy (of a cat) prior to class. The tutor pointed to the ovary and did not ask Joey “What is this?” but rather “Why is it shaped round?” I knew then that all the right questions were being asked and my son would learn critical thinking. It was a superior process and much more beneficial.

Did you notice any change in Joey throughout the years he attended St. John’s?

Marianne Lanuti saved the cork from Joey’s senior oral celebration and considers it a prized possession.

I noticed a change at the first Winter Break. The curriculum is demanding and Joey was not coddled, but he was supported. The environment is not competitive, but collaborative. Any student with a desire to complete the Program will be supported by the entire community. The objective is learning and not competition. In addition, I observed growth in Joey as well as the other students when I attended Parent’s Weekend the subsequent year(s) and in May when I was allowed to observe the seminars. The most remarkable change occurred when I was allowed to observe Joey defend his Senior Paper. His paper was impressive to read, as are all the papers, but to witness my son engaging and conversing with his tutors was an experience that I will never forget. Joey was confident, articulate, polite and engaged. I knew at that moment he was prepared to enter the world and would be successful as he would define “success.” St John’s offered my son a community to maximize his learning potential and exposure as well as enriching his life. My box of most valuable possessions includes the cork from the champagne bottle after successfully defending his paper. It was one of my happiest moments.

How do you think St. John’s prepared your son for life post-college life?

As some parents, I had initial concerns that St John’s would not prepare him for any future academic pursuits. For instance, Joey was not required to take exams and “fill in the bubble.” How could he possibly be prepared for the “real world?” We are a test-taking and competitive society! All of those concerns seem so absurd in hindsight. In Joey’s case he excelled at taking the LSAT and is attending Georgetown Law School and doing very well academically. Joey credits St. John’s for this fact.

Do you have any advice for parents whose children are considering attending St. John’s?

I encourage all parents to be open to the Program. Initially, a parent may question the practical value e.g. Will my son/daughter get a job? Is the tuition worth it? What relevance does the Program have today? The model is intensive in duration and quality of staff, and therefore cannot be duplicated inexpensively. When I attended law school, I was informed on the first day that I would not be taught laws. Laws change and vary from jurisdictions. I was informed that it is presumed I know how to read and thus capable of reading a statute. I was informed that law school would teach me how to think as a lawyer. It is a different process. Similarly, St. John’s does not teach a student specifically to be an accountant or engineer or psychologist, but rather critical thinking and thus his/her opportunities have no limitations or boundaries. They are endless. The future of technology and/or employment demand has no relevance. And if this is not sufficient, your son/daughter will be enriched for a lifetime by the experience. And society, in general, is the beneficiary.