Saint John's Magazine Summer/Fall 2022

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Connection, Alaskan Heritage Bosnian Alumni Making Global Impact Vande Hei Looks Ahead With New Perspective INSIDE


Legacy of Bosnian SJU Students Turns Into ‘Something More’ P. 6

Nearly two decades ago, Dusan Kosic ’07 and Damir Tokic ’06 were among the 44 students from war-torn Bosnia & Herzegovina who received an unprecedented educational opportunity at CSB and SJU. Now, Kosic, Tokic and others are making a profound impact around the world.

After Record Space Journey, Vande Hei Looks to the Future P. 16

Saint John’s graduate Mark Vande Hei ’89 orbited Earth 5,680 times while spending an unprecedented 355 consecutive days in space, bringing his lifetime total to a record 523. Now, the most prolific astronaut in history is contemplating his purpose and considering what’s next.

Alaskans Make an Impact on Collegeville, and Vice-Versa P. 22

Wiseman ’23 and Nevin


to Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s, where like other

that reminded them

Vincent ’22 saw an exceptional opportunity when
Alaskans they found educational advantages and connections to Benedictine values
of their home. 22 Departments My Perspective 2 Transforming Lives 3 In Sight 20 Johnnie Sports 28 View from Collegeville 30 Class Notes 35 Inspiring Lives 39


is the alumni magazine of Saint John’s University. It is published twice a year, in the spring and fall, by the SJU Office of Institutional Advancement.


Dave DeLand



Lori Gnahn


Kevin Allenspach

Brian Bruess

Rob Culligan ’82

Dana Drazenovich

Jeremiah Eisenschenk ’05

Ryan Klinkner ’04

Frank Rajkowski

John Ross Rick Speckmann ’72


Kimm Anderson Paul Beniek

Images courtesy of NASA Thomas O’Laughlin ’13


Peggy Landwehr Roske ’77


† Lee A. Hanley ’58


Ruth Athmann

Saint John’s University P.O. Box 7222 Collegeville, MN 56321


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University 6 16

A Welcome Introduction to Strong Integration

Greetings from Collegeville! Carol and I feel blessed to be here, and grateful for so many of you who have reached out the past months offering warm, signature Benedictine welcomes.

What is the legacy of Saint John’s University? What does the future hold for SJU? If the passion and deep affinity expressed during the Alumni Reunion weekends are any indication, we are in for a robust, bountiful future.

Since my appointment as the first joint president of the College of St. Benedict and Saint John’s, I have been flooded with insight. Our legacy is known in and through the stories of you, our beloved alumni. The indelible imprint SJU has had on your character, your families, your communities, your vocations and your leadership journeys is powerful and distinct.

You have a moral compass and a vision for a better world. How you think, engage your communities and lead with faith and integrity are the living manifestations of SJU’s legacy. You are the foundation of our past, present

and future – and what a rock-solid foundation it is.

Among the many thoughtful questions Saint John’s alumni have asked these past few months, the most frequent are about Strong Integration: specifically, what that means for both Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s.

Many of you have been following closely the work of the monastics, the common boards and the leadership teams of both institutions over the past few years. Naturally, there is considerable curiosity – and some trepidation – about Strong Integration.

What I’ve learned is this: Our monastic sponsors have called us to this tremendous opportunity. They have called us toward a new and innovative chapter of collaboration. They are confident – and so am I – that as we journey thoughtfully and wisely together, we will co-create something that will ensure the flourishing of CSB and SJU far into the future, as well as become a model of innovation in higher education.

During my first months of getting to know the community, many people expressed familiarity with the concept of Strong Integration, but few could define precisely what it is or for what reasons we now pursue this approach. Some have asserted it will allow us to be nimble and adaptive as we confront the many national headwinds facing higher education. Some expressed expectation that a more sustainable financial future will be an essential outcome.

However, the higher-order goal of Strong Integration is to enhance our already exceptional reputation of producing principled, well-educated graduates. The primary reason for Strong Integration is all about students and our ability to offer an increasingly more sophisticated, high-impact educational experience for every single one of them, now and forever.

Saint John’s has a long history of educating men of character, honor and achievement. Alums’ affinity and deep sense of love for SJU are impressive. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such a deep commitment and manifest adoration for an institution.

The message we heard as we’ve engaged with so many alumni and friends this summer was crystal clear: Whatever becomes of the strategic move toward Strong Integration, the strength, power, value and distinctive nature of Saint John’s must not only be protected, they must be amplified and extended.

Be assured that doing so is precisely what Carol and I have signed up for and commit to. We look forward to hearing from you, learning your vision and engaging your contagious Johnnie passion and spirit as we enter this bold new chapter at SJU.

As #58 Rule of Benedict requires, we must “stand firm in one’s promises.”

My promise to you is that, together with your guidance, we will further strengthen SJU and pursue its most vibrant future.


This is the story of a quintessential Johnnie experience: a lifelong bond and friendship.

It’s the story of two small-town teammates and buddies whose paths merged into an inseparable and invaluable connection – for themselves and for so many others.

But it’s also much more than that. This is about creating an opportunity for others and leaving a legacy. It’s about giving back and paying it forward, and about building a heritage at Saint John’s University that will last far into the future.

It’s about the life of 1963 SJU graduate Rich Chalmers.

Rich was a truly unique person who during his life made singular contributions in a variety of ways, based on traits and a connection that his best friend, John Rogers ’63, succinctly described while delivering Chalmers’ eulogy at his April 2020 funeral:

We need to know that this is a part of being human and that we are not alone. A feature of humanity is that some of the people we share the planet with become a part of us.

For Rogers – his childhood classmate, college teammate and steadfast friend –Rich Chalmers was that guy.

When Rich died during the COVID -19 pandemic, his friends and family established the Rich Chalmers Scholarship Fund – a pandemic panacea for Saint John’s University students with financial need and hardship. It bears the name of an ultimate team player who inspired

Teammates For Life

friends, family and recipients at his alma mater.

“I think he would be humbled and amazed and thrilled,” said Karen Chalmers, Rich’s high school sweetheart and his spouse and partner for 56 years. “His Saint John’s education was pivotal. It was just a wonderful thing in his life.”

“It was just a way of honoring Rich’s memory,” said Rogers, who along with his wife Lois made a significant donation to the Chalmers Scholarship

Funds in the Chalmers Scholarship are being disbursed to worthy Johnnies who never got the chance to meet Rich, but who reap the benefits of his character and values that in turn have inspired countless others.

The roots of all this sprouted in grade school, flourished at Saint John’s and nourished a lifetime Johnnie bond.

Friends For Life

At age 7 Rich and I became best friends, so close that we shared our families with each

It didn’t take long for John Rogers to discover he had found a lifelong bestie.

“Almost right from first grade on,” Rogers said. “Rich and I went to the same little grade school and the same Catholic high school in Marshall, Minnesota. We were co-captains of the football and basketball teams.

“He had a wonderful disposition. People immediately liked him, and he had a great smile right back at them.”

Part of the connection between Chalmers and Rogers was their interest in sports, which eventually also brought them together to Saint John’s. Athletics helped make Chalmers the leader and the inspiration he became.

(Top left) John Rogers (left) and Rich Chalmers became childhood friends in Marshall, Minnesota, where they were co-captains of the football and basketball teams. (Above) Their friendship continued at Saint John’s University and throughout their lives.

We know that the whole point of team sports is to build character. This doesn’t work for all of us, but it did for Rich. Our senior class unanimously elected Rich class president


We elected him because he was the best of us.

Saint John’s Connections

After graduation from Marshall Central Catholic High School, Chalmers and Rogers declined offers from then-St. Thomas College and instead opted for Saint John’s.

As a senior, Chalmers was a two-way starter at linebacker and fullback for the undefeated SJU football team that won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

He served as an assistant coach on the 1963 SJU squad that again went undefeated and won the NAIA Championship, the first of the Johnnies’ four national titles under head coach John Gagliardi.

“Saint John’s and John Gagliardi have played an extremely important part in my life,” said Chalmers in an earlier interview. He went on to successful high school social studies teaching and football coaching stints at Waseca Sacred Heart, Jordan, St. Cloud Cathedral and Red Wing.

“I was fortunate to play football for John Gagliardi and then coach with him. He taught me so much.”

Rich as a coach … knew that it was about character and learning how to do what was best for the team.

“One of the things Rich said often was that every job he ever got was connected in some way to Saint John’s,” Karen Chalmers said. “His office is kind of a shrine to that.”

(Top) Rich Chalmers rarely missed a football game or Reunion at Saint John’s, including (above) his 50th Reunion in 2013 along with son Chris Chalmers ’88 at his 25th Reunion.

(An aside: While Rich attended Saint John’s, Karen attended the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Through the friendship of Rich and John Rogers, she met St. Kate’s student Lois Gross – Rogers’ girlfriend. Rich and Karen Chalmers were married in 1964, as were John and Lois Rogers.)

It was while he was teaching and coaching in Red Wing that Rich Chalmers was recruited by the Red Wing Shoe Co., largely because of the same qualities as a team player that made him such a successful athlete and educator. He was promoted to Vice President of Human Resources six years later.

Red Wing Shoes recognized a true team player when they hired him and promoted him all the way to one of three employees on the company board.

Life was busy, and rewarding. Rich and Karen Chalmers had five kids; John and Lois Rogers had six. These lifelong friends and their families shared as many good times together as they could.

And then Rich’s life took a major turn.

The Best of Us

In 1989 Chalmers was diagnosed with progressive lateral sclerosis, an incurable degenerative disease. He was in a wheelchair from 1995 until his death April 18, 2020.

His demeanor during those last 25 years never changed. He was never cantankerous or self-absorbed, as people with chronic conditions often become. He was still smiling and laughing heartily at jokes.

For many people, their reaction to a disease that slowly robbed their physical and verbal capabilities would have been sadness and bitterness.

For Chalmers, it was almost the opposite.

“He never had any negativity about him,” Rogers said. “He was always a positive guy. He kept his smile, and he loved a good laugh.”

Chalmers still had a life, traveling extensively and enjoying the world despite progressive limitations. His old friend helped make sure of that.

“John and Lois just made our lives so much richer than it would have been,” Karen Chalmers said. “We traveled

– not because he was the smartest of us, but we elected him because he was the best team player we knew.

together, even when Rich was using a scooter and John was hoisting it into the back end of vans.”

For all of us who became a part of Rich and who Rich in turn became a part of … if we believe as I do that we collectively carry everyone who came before us, then we carry all the stupidity, the rapaciousness, the arrogance, the creativity, the curiosity, the gentleness, the kindness of all those who preceded us.

Chalmers never let his circumstances diminish him. He never lost his Saint John’s connection, or his closest friend. And when he died, it was time to pass along the concepts of everything he stood for through the Rich Chalmers Scholarship Fund.

“Rich wouldn’t be surprised, because that’s John,” Karen said. “He’s just very, very generous.”

Rogers’ assessment, unfailingly modest, is more of a reflection of his lifelong friend.

“That was what this is: When you find yourself in position to be able to help, you ought to think hard about it,” said Rogers, who has done exactly that.

We can take comfort knowing that a part of us is made up of the best team player we ever knew – and that Rich, the best of us, is a part of you.

The Rich Chalmers Scholarship

“I am truly humbled and grateful for being a recipient of the Rich Chalmers Scholarship. I would like to thank those who so generously made this scholarship possible.

“This scholarship has not only fueled me to be the best version of myself but has allowed me to pursue my journey toward becoming a certified public accountant.

One day I wish to return the favor by donating my time, knowledge and money to Saint John’s University.

“This will no doubt give others the same opportunities that you afforded me.”

Trayias Bowe ’22, Nassau, Bahamas

Trayias Bowe feels blessed. He is one of more than 100 Johnnies who have benefited thus far from the Rich Chalmers Scholarship Fund.

Established in May 2020 by John and Lois Rogers to honor their lifelong friend, the purpose of the Rich Chalmers Scholarship Fund is to provide scholarships to students facing financial need and hardship due to the pandemic. When Chalmers passed away in April 2020, memorial gifts from family and friends were added to the scholarship fund.

The first scholarships were awarded in the fall of 2020 as students returned to campus after finishing the previous semester learning remotely. “It was a rough time for students,” commented John Rogers, “and students and their families really needed help.”

The first year 96 Saint John’s students were awarded nearly $275,000, with

scholarships ranging from $500 to $8,000.

“I love the way it’s being used,” said Karen Chalmers, whose late husband Rich Chalmers ’63 is the namesake for the scholarship. “Rather than big grants to a handful, it’s spread out among so many people.”

Recipients will continue to receive the scholarship over four years or until they graduate. The second year about 60 students received nearly $200,000, and the remaining funds will be awarded over the next few years or until those students graduate and the scholarship fund is depleted.

“Coming to SJU was the best decision of my life,” said Bowe, who graduated in May and has accepted an accounting position at EY Bahamas after interning with the company the past three years.

“I grew mentally, physically and spiritually over the years.”


Nešto Više

‘Something More’


Bosnian Students Make Global Impact

In the early 2000s, an influx of exceptional students from war-torn Bosnia & Herzegovina arrived at Saint John’s and Saint Benedict to take advantage of a generous and unprecedented educational opportunity.

Two decades later, they are living lives of purpose and principled achievement in their homeland and in various countries around the world. Two extraordinary examples are Dusan Kosic ’07 and Damir Tokic ’06, who are making an indelible mark.


They began arriving …

at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict at the turn of this century, transported from a war-torn Eastern European country to pastoral Central Minnesota thanks to an SJU alumnus and his wife who provided an opportunity that seemed too good to be true.

“The story sounds utterly unreal to most people, and I am a living example of how life writes the most unexpected stories for us,” said Dusan Kosic ’07, whose unlikely path to international business success came through Collegeville from his roots in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

“All the students that came to CSB and SJU felt like they won the lottery,” added Dan Whalen ’70, the entrepreneur whose involvement and contributions helped make the

trajectory to personal and professional prosperity possible for dozens of students in the program.

“This was their one chance. This was their golden ticket, and they were going to make the best use of it.”

A total of 44 students from Bosnia & Herzegovina arrived at Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s from 1999-2010, and 42 of them graduated. They left as rewarded and rewarding, inspired and inspiring, ready to reach out to their roots and make positive contributions throughout the world.

Years later, after a Saint John’s and Saint Benedict experience they’ll never forget, they’re inspired to pay that experience forward.

“Saint John’s has been a transformative factor in my life and career,” Kosic said. “I’ve evolved from an international student who barely spoke any English into an individual who felt very comfortable exploring all the options CSB and SJU had to offer. Dan is a man who changed not only me but also the lives of many people around me more than once.”

“It was life-changing for so many of us,” said Whalen, SJU’s interim president in 2008-09 and a current member of

the Saint John’s and Saint Benedict Boards of Trustees. “This is the best investment I ever made. It’s been very, very satisfying.”

Kosic and dozens of other students from Bosnia & Herzegovina were beneficiaries of a program that was an amazing success. But they also enriched classmates and instructors at CSB and SJU and launched so many other successes in the ensuing decades.

“I feel damn lucky to have fallen into this set of experiences with these folks,” Whalen said. “And I’m so very proud of each of them – the distance that they traveled and their development is astounding.”

The last of the Bosnia & Herzegovina program students graduated from CSB and SJU in 2011. Since then, their personal and professional success stories have abounded in a variety of fields, around the world.

Dusan Kosic ’07Damir Tokic ’06

Global Entrepreneur

Dusan Kosic ’07 Leads International Digital Product Development and Software Engineering Company

One of the most remarkable alumni success stories is that of Dusan Kosic, an international business phenomenon.

A year after graduating from Saint John’s, Kosic co-founded the HTEC Group – a software engineering and digital product development company founded in Belgrade, Serbia and now headquartered in San Francisco, California.

HTEC creates deeply immersive digital experiences that enable powerful interactions between businesses and people, delivering tech excellence every step of the way and providing core technology development for a number of Fortune 50 companies. HTEC employs over 2,000 people and is one of the fastest-growing softward engineering companies in Europe.

In January 2022, HTEC secured $140 million from the investment firm Brighton Park Capital in an equity deal to accelerate its global expansion. HTEC is set to champion the market in providing the best digital product solutions for its partners, with plans to double its operations in the next 12 months.

“Exceptionally hard work during the last decade and razor-sharp focus during the last three years have proven that we are one step closer toward our vision of evolving HTEC Group into a truly leading platform for development of our people,” said Kosic, the company’s co-founder and president. HTEC is one

of the fastest-growing digital services companies in Europe, posting 100 percent annual growth.

H“What they’re doing is absolutely amazing. It’s pretty spectacular,” said Whalen, also an investor and advisor


with Kosic and HTEC. “Dusan is an extraordinary leader. He’s practical, sensible, strategic, wise beyond his years.”

He’s also appreciative. “These things just don’t happen: Getting a scholarship sponsor, business investor, lifelong mentor and mostly importantly a friend (Whalen) who is there to provide support whenever needed without expecting anything in return,” said Kosic, who recently moved from Belgrade to San Francisco with his wife Maja and their children Mila (8), Stefan (5) and Marko (2).

Other graduates from the program include teachers, web designers, consultants, engineers, journalists, bankers – really, almost everything imaginable from a group that could only dream of such opportunities when they arrived in Minnesota and at CSB and SJU.

“It was about changing their lives. And they did that for me,” said Chris Fesler, the program administrator of the Whalen Family Trust for more than 30 years. She oversaw the participants and countless details for the program and is referred to as the “unsung hero in all of this” by Whalen.

In April 1992, the government of the Yugoslav republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina declared its independence from crumbling Yugoslavia. Over the next several years, religious and ethnic war between three major ethnic groups broke out, devastating the country and leaving it with as many as 100,000 casualties and many more refugees.

“Their parents’ generation had grown up in Yugoslavia, under Tito’s

programs in Eastern Europe through an international non-governmental organization in 1999. That involvement included Nešto Više, a Bosnian youth organization that means “Something More,” and then Peace Trails, a leadership adventure program in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Subsequently, that turned into the CSB and SJU scholarship program for top students living in difficult situations in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

“To get them out of that was really a great feeling,” said Fesler, who became the program coordinator.

Escaping the Chaos

Bosnia & Herzegovina included three major ethnic groups, each almost exclusively associated with a relevant religion: Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Roman Catholics. While after World War II the Tito regime actively discouraged religion and promoted unification under Yugoslav ethnicity, strong religious and ethnic foundations still remain.

rule,” said Sarah Pruett, a CSB/SJU English language instructor who was instrumental in facilitating the Bosnia & Herzegovina program.

“The lid was on all those sectarian divisions. And then all these simmering, right-wing, very sectarian people burst onto the scene in the early ’90s and war broke out.”

After the war, the Whalen Family Foundation got involved in charitable

‘We tend to choose depth over breadth,” Whalen said. “Rather than partial financial support for each of many students, we arrange for 100 percent scholarship support for fewer students.

“Each student gets to study abroad for a semester. Each gets two free trips home per year. Each student gets a small monthly stipend to supplement workstudy earnings. Each student graduates debt-free.”

Candidates for the CSB and SJU scholarships all grew up in Bosnia &

Among the connections that Dusan Kosic (left) built during his years at Saint John’s University was with friend and spiritual advisor Fr. Don Talafous ’48, who helped dozens of students in the Bosnia & Herzegovina program.
‘Last night, I did something I thought I’d never do – I slept in the same room with my enemy.’ ”

Herzegovina, but beyond that there was diversity. There was a 50/50 split between men and women, and at least 30 percent were from each of the three major religious groups. Some came from metropolitan areas, others from smaller towns.

“That was really the point – to get people from different backgrounds together, and for them to discover their similarities and to live with people that were once thought to be enemies,” said Whalen, putting himself in the shoes of the incoming students.

“What I discovered was we were so much the same: ‘I didn’t start the conflict, and he didn’t start the conflict. Political people started the conflict, and we all suffered from it.’ One of the young men said, ‘Last night, I did something I thought I’d never do – I slept in the same room with my enemy.’ ”

At Saint John’s and Saint Benedict, they no longer were enemies. Students in

the program thrived, regardless of their background.

“We were kind of winging it,” Fesler said. “We didn’t know how it was going to work, and it was so successful. I don’t think Dan ever paused. He was all-in because it was so highly successful.

“He never questioned it. It was always worth it.”

Spreading the Impact

In 2003-04 there were 13 CSB and SJU students from Bosnia & Herzegovina, which was the biggest contingent so far. One of them was Kosic, who grew up in Mrkonjic Grad, Bosnia.

“When I first met Dusan, he didn’t

speak a lick of English. All he did was smile and nod,” Fesler recalled.

“And now, where he’s at and what he’s accomplished, it is nothing short of amazing.”

The commonality for all the students became Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s –and their exceptional results.

“Just about every year, at least one of the students graduated with the secondhighest academic honors. Nobody graduated with the highest honors only because they didn’t speak English very well when they first came,” Whalen said.

“They just worked really, really hard. They took full advantage and continue

Kosic has been instrumental in transforming the HTEC Group – founded in Belgrade, Serbia and now headquartered in San Francisco – into one of the fastest-growing digital service companies in Europe.
“The level of compassion, understanding and willingness to go the extra mile to ensure we are set for success was exceptional.”

to take full advantage of what Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s did for them.”

And in turn, they were grateful – then and now.

“They still are,” Whalen said. “Dusan has served on the board of Saint John’s and Saint Benedict. They’ve both been generous in their capacity as donors, and they’ve been great representatives of themselves and their countries.”

Said Kosic: “As a boy growing up in a small city who was very close to his family and had quite deep scars from a recent war tragedy, I could have easily fallen into the trap of anxiety and fear of the unknown if it weren’t for Dan’s ability to demonstrate his full presence in this process and provide me and others with the feeling of security and peace that things will be OK.

“As a result, ever since I graduated in 2007, I have proudly been wearing a Johnnie hat and will be for the rest of my life.”

The impact of the students from Bosnia & Herzegovina on CSB and SJU faculty, advisors, staff and other students was just as immediate and refreshing.

“One of the amazing and wonderful things about the Bosnian students is they were really ready to move on with their lives,” Pruett said. “They had a lot of ideas, and they were very interactive and very verbal in the classroom – just a jolt of energy.

“It maybe doesn’t sound right when teaching a bunch of war refugees, but they were so much fun to interact with,” Pruett said. “They were so involved. It was a great decade.”

The feeling was mutual.

“Our English professor, Sarah Pruett, was so much more than a lecturer,” Kosic said. “To all international students, she was almost like a parent –advising us, helping us with our papers

and our English, and introducing us to relevant professors and staff, all while being a fantastic teacher and making sure that we rapidly sharpen our language skills to excel in our fields of interest.

“The same goes for Addy Spitzer and Lisa Scott, leading international student programs and the international student advisory office, respectively. Having them on campus often made us feel accepted and equal to our American college friends.

“The level of compassion, understanding and willingness to go the extra mile to ensure we are set for success was exceptional.”

A Life Lottery

Even now, 15 years after graduation, Kosic has undiminished praise and appreciation for his Collegeville experience.

“I cannot help but admire the level of compassion and understanding from the entire CSB and SJU community toward the international students,” Kosic said. “They all went the extra mile to comfort and support me and all others in the absence of our dear

ones, and I just feel that this is the main thing I will treasure for the rest of my life in regard to our alma mater.

“It’s just a kind of life lottery that we all need to work on and be responsible for replicating and expanding toward many in need of such support.”

The next step in that rich heritage is powerful but simple: Pay it forward.

“Our criteria moved from who will benefit the most to going to Collegeville and Saint Joseph, to who will give the most back while they were there,”

Whalen said. “They got a lot, and they gave back a lot, and they continue to give back.”

Said Kosic: “People like them are the main reason why I would gladly support my kids to become Johnnies and Bennies when the time comes.

“What struck me the most was that when I asked Dan how I was going to repay the scholarship, he just said, ‘Well, you could promise me that you will do what is in your power to support someone else in your life when the time comes …

“ ‘And if that happens to be related to SJU, even better.’ ”

Kosic celebrated last New Year in Belgrade with his wife Maja and their children (from left) Stefan (5), Mila (8) and Marko (2).

Global Diplomat

Damir Tokic ’06 Carries His Saint John’s Experience and Inspiration While Saving Lives Through Service Around the World

Damir Tokic has witnessed far too much of war, which is a big part of why the 2006 Saint John’s University graduate is such a passionate believer in the power of diplomacy.

He credits his time at SJU with helping him realize how best to fulfill the call he heard to public service.

“I can remember lying in a bunk bed very close to the ceiling in Tommy 101 and thanking God he had brought me to where I was,” said Tokic, who is now a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. State Department but grew up amid the chaos and destruction that


even as he’s found himself in some of the most harrowing locations on the globe – including Kabul, Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 helping evacuate more than 122,000 Americans and Afghan nationals as quickly as possible as the U.S. ended its two-decade military presence in the country and the Taliban regained power.

For their efforts under dangerous conditions at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, he and several of his colleagues received the State Department’s Award for Heroism. Tokic and others also received the State Department’s Meritorious Honor

that matter, but that phrase stuck with me, and I did my best to apply it in those chaotic days.”

Memories of War

Tokic was able to bring an empathy to his task in Kabul, driven in part by the memories of his own experience as a child living through the factionalism and armed conflict that surrounded the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

“My dad was a Bosnian Muslim who went to Belgrade to attend military academy,” Tokic said. “That is where he met my mom, who grew up in Serbia but was of mixed Croatian, Serbian and Jewish heritage. My dad’s first post was in Croatia, which is where I was born and where I lived until I was 10.

“When the war started, we went to stay with relatives in Serbia while my father joined the Bosnian army. He was trapped on the other side and we didn’t see him until the war was over.

accompanied the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the Bosnian War that followed from 1992-95.

“Everyone at Saint John’s was so nice and so interested in your story. I met so many people there who pushed me further and urged me to pursue all the avenues I was interested in.”

Tokic said the lessons he learned at SJU have stuck with him in the years since,

Award for their work at the Consular Section of the Embassy itself in the weeks preceding the evacuation.

“One of the most important things that comes to mind from SJU that I attempted to apply at the airport gates in Kabul was a phrase from the Rule of Saint Benedict: ‘Let everyone that comes be received as Christ,’ ” Tokic said.

“I am not Catholic, or very religious for

“I became a refugee when I was 10,” he continued. “We went from living in Croatia – taking ski trips in the winter and spending summers on the Croatian coast – to living in Belgrade in my grandparents’ two-bedroom apartment with four other people already living there.

“My mom was a fighter, and she did a great job shielding us from everything and preserving family unity with us living in Serbia and our dad fighting for Bosnia. But it was a tough time.”

“The aid we received made a huge difference and I wanted to pay that forward – to be in places where I could help other people experiencing rough patches in their lives.”

A Time to Heal

Yet even in the worst of mankind’s brutality, Tokic saw glimpses of humanity’s better angels.

“We absolutely depended on humanitarian aid to get us through,” he recalled. “The United Nations embargo on Serbia meant fuel shortages and bread lines. We’d spend hours a day trying to get bread with our ration cards. The aid we received made a huge difference, and I wanted to pay that forward – to be in places where I could help other people experiencing rough patches in their lives.”

That desire led the teenager to connect with Peace Trails, a reconciliation program sponsored by the nongovernmental organization Nešto Više which translated into English means “Something More.” The program brought together young people from different factions of former Yugoslavia in an effort to promote healing.

“This was still pretty soon after the war,” Tokic said. “We were split into groups of people of different ethnicities and sent out into the wilderness to fend

for ourselves. We’d all known someone who’d been killed or wounded, and the wounds of war were fresh in all our minds. But here we were in the wilderness of Minnesota and Canada, and we had to depend on one another.”

Tokic made an immediate impact.

“I was very impressed with Damir right away,” said Dan Whalen ’70, whose financial support was instrumental in Peace Trails and CSB and SJU’s Bosnia & Herzegovina scholarship program.

“He was extraordinarily bright, and he was very passionate about the things he did. Anything he did, he seemed to do it with great skill and competence. He was very much a leader – empathetic and compassionate.”

Finding His Foundation

Those traits were enhanced during Tokic’s time at SJU.

“Without my time at Saint John’s, my critical thinking skills wouldn’t be nearly as strong,” he said. “I could do my own research. In Bosnia, classes were mainly lectures and there was rarely any discussion. You had to

memorize books, and if you didn’t do that correctly, you were penalized. So coming here and realizing I could actually disagree with a faculty member about something and debate it was really new to me and refreshing.”

Honing such skills increased his desire to pursue a career in public service, which is why following his graduation from SJU he continued his education at the Harvard Kennedy School, the public policy school of Harvard University. There, he earned his master’s degree before returning to the Balkans in 2008 to spend several years working for a number of international organizations – including the United Nations – focusing on human rights.

He eventually returned to the U.S. to marry his wife Ashely, whom he met in graduate school. He then went to work on democracy building in Asia for the International Republican Institute and as a contractor analyzing security issues in the Balkans for the Department of Defense. After becoming a U.S. citizen, he decided to take the Foreign Service Officer Test and passed.

Damir Tokic received the State Department Award for Heroism and other honors for his efforts under dangerous conditions while evacuating 122,000 Americans and Afghan nationals through Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan during the summer of 2021.

“My first diplomatic assignment was in the Philippines where I worked for two years as consular officer adjudicating U.S. visa applications and assisting American citizens in need,” he said.

Called to Kabul

Other assignments followed over the years, but none as harrowing as the time he spent in Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. He arrived in Kabul in July for what was originally scheduled to be a year-long tour adjudicating Special Immigrant Visas for local nationals who had supported U.S. government efforts in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

The assignment quickly was truncated by events on the ground as the decision to end the U.S. military presence –which dated back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks –

was followed quickly by the Taliban consolidating control.

“When I arrived in Kabul, the greatest focus was given to processing Special Immigrant Visas for the Afghans who have assisted our efforts there,” he said.

“As we saw the situation deteriorating, the vast majority of the mission worked seven days a week, each of us working 80 hours a week, to enable qualified Afghans to emigrate to the United States.

“As we evacuated to (Hamid Karzai International Airport) my role shifted.

Alongside other consular colleagues and the core embassy team, we worked hand-in-hand with our military colleagues to evacuate American citizens, eligible Afghan nationals and other foreigners.

“In any situation of upheaval or emergency anywhere, consular officers are usually the last ones to leave, as priority No. 1 for the U.S. Department of State is to protect and assist U.S. citizens overseas.”

Over 122,000 people would be evacuated under extremely dangerous

Tokic poses in front of the Pakistan Monument in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he is currently stationed. Tokic says his time at SJU helped him hone the skills he now puts to use in his work with the U.S. State Department.
“As I was strapping on my body armor and my helmet before heading to the gate, I prayed to not die on that very day.”

conditions. Never was that danger more apparent than in the early evening of Aug. 26, 2021 when a bombing at the airport gate killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghans.

The extremist group Islamic StateKhorasan claimed responsibilty for the attack. An account in the Washington Post stated it was carried out by a lone operative wearing a suicide vest containing an estimated 20-25 pounds of explosives.

“U.S. officials said the bomber slipped into the crowd near where the Americans were conducting hand searches,” the newspaper reported.

Tokic said when he was inside the U.S. Embassy bubble, he felt safe. “We were all, however, greatly concerned about the well-being of our amazing local colleagues who would go home at the end of the workday.”

When he was shifted to the airport, the situation became far more tenuous.

“When we were at the gates of the airport processing people, we were exposed and vulnerable,” he said. “At some points, you would find yourself standing a few feet away from the armed Taliban. However, there was work to be done. The human tragedy unfolding in front of your eyes, and the intensity of the situation, makes you focus on your work and pushes all fear aside.

“Being surrounded by our amazing military counterparts and Diplomatic Security personnel also helped us manage the situation. In retrospect, I guess I felt safer than I should have. A few days before the explosion that killed 13 service members, I was in front of Abbey gate with the Marines.

“I will always owe a huge debt for their sacrifices,” Tokic said. “They died so that I could come home to my family. They will be honored and remembered as long as I am alive.”

Tokic’s wife Ashely – also an American diplomat – and their daughter Naomi (4) are stationed in Wellington, New Zealand, where Tokic will join them later this year.

Perhaps the most trying moment for Tokic personally came on his daughter Naomi’s third birthday. While his family celebrated back home in the U.S., he was at the airport gates helping identify and process individuals who qualified for evacuation.

“That morning, I got up before the crack of dawn,” he said. “As I was strapping on my body armor and my helmet before heading to the north gate, I prayed to not die on that very day.

“I did not want to ruin her birthday forever. I tried filming myself singing happy birthday to her but could not really keep it together, so I gave up.”

Ties to SJU

Remain Strong

Tokic eventually made it home safely and is already well into his next assignment – a year-long posting to Islamabad, Pakistan. Ashely, who is

also an American diplomat, and his daughter are now in Wellington, New Zealand on her next assignment. Tokic is scheduled to join them there later this year.

But when he is back in the U.S., he tries to make time to return to Saint John’s.

“I’ve been invited to speak to students at alumni gatherings in Washington, D.C. and that’s great, but I always love being back on campus,” he said. “Saint John’s always feels like home even if you haven’t been there in years. I remember walking into the book store on one trip back and the lady told me I looked familiar. It turned out she was working there when I was a student and she remembered me.

“It’s just such a tight-knit community and I’m grateful to be part of it.”


SJU Grad Vande Hei Considers What’s Next After Record-Breaking Space Journey

Imagine living and working in quarters the size of a six-bedroom house for 355 consecutive days. And you can’t go outside, because that first step is a doozy.

The International Space Station is 250 miles above Earth, something Saint John’s University graduate Mark Vande Hei ’89 never touched between April 9, 2021 and March 30, 2022.

He orbited 5,680 times at more than 17,500 mph, and just about every day began with meditation while looking out from a quiet spot in the observation

cupola before the other astronauts were awake. This was how he reached one new frontier while contemplating another.

Vande Hei set a U.S. record for longest continuous space flight and, combined with his first mission four years earlier, spent 523 of 1,600 days off the planet before he touched down in Kazakhstan at the epicenter of global tensions ignited by the war in Ukraine.

Long before then, he promised his wife, Julie, he would never blast off again. Mark turns 56 on Nov. 10 and, despite no immediate plans to leave NASA – for

which he has worked since 2006 – it was time to determine his next challenge.

For someone who craves backpacking and watersports, perhaps it’s no surprise he’s spent as much time as possible outdoors since his return. He and Julie embarked on a six-week trip during the summer. It included living in a tent on a ferry as it traveled the intercoastal waterway to Alaska, where they stopped to hike the glaciers around Juneau, and whitewater rafting in Montana with a group of friends from his days at Saint John’s. And this fall, Mark’s enrolled in a month-


long intensive program in Wyoming to become a wilderness emergency medical technician.

Likely no one in American history has had a more serious case of cabin fever.

“It’s an indoor job,” Vande Hei said of life on the International Space Station. “You don’t get to go outside without lots and lots of preparation. That was the biggest challenge for me. But I realized that if I spent a lot of time worrying about

“He had this attitude that he was going to climb that mountain. Whatever it was, he was going to do it.”

Vande Hei has good company. One of his peers went on to become a professor of medical physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Subsequent SJU and College of Saint Benedict grads have followed not only his path to NASA but also work in support of the space station. Aric Katterhagen ’96 became a lead operations engineer, coordinating the use

of free-flying robots. Chris Roberts ’05 is a cold stowage project engineer, and Nicole Kessler ’08 for four years was a flight controller based in Houston before eventually returning to Minnesota and a position as a research planning analyst with Xcel Energy.

But there’s something about Vande Hei that was special for Dean Langley, who has taught physics at CSB and SJU since 1987. His first class included Vande Hei, then a junior.

“I think whether Mark became an astronaut or not, I still would’ve remembered him as a hard-working, bright fellow,” Langley said. “I was

the future and thinking ‘My goodness, I’m having a rough day and I have nine months to go,’ focusing on the lack, what you haven’t achieved yet, can make it really challenging.”

Resilience Formed at Collegeville

Without a past that included Saint John’s, where Vande Hei came to study physics in the fall of 1985, he wouldn’t have overcome astronomical odds to be an astronaut, serving as a test subject for long-term space exposure.

Arriving as a graduate of BenildeSt. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, he helped pay for his education with an ROTC scholarship. He captained the Saint John’s Fighting Saints Battalion Ranger Challenge Team, prelude to myriad commendations he would earn in the Army.

“He said ‘Yes’ to basically any challenge that was presented to him – and he completed them,” recalled Thomas Kirkman, professor emeritus of physics and one of Vande Hei’s instructors. “He was at the top of his class in ROTC, so I think we always expected he would have a really good military career.

Mark Vande Hei engaged Saint Benedict in an astronomic discussion during a visit to Saint John’s University in 2019.
“He was just a kid from the Cities, like so many that we have, but now I look at our students and wonder ‘Who’s going to be the next one?”

impressed that he continued at a high level in physics. It’s remarkable that he could do all the physical things he needed to be successful in the Army, but he also put in a lot of time studying and to reach the level he did.”

Vande Hei served as a combat engineer, earned his master’s in applied physics at Stanford, taught at West Point and eventually rose to be a colonel. Three years after he became a capsule communicator at Mission Control in Houston, he was among nine candidates who beat out 99.7 percent of their competition to form the 2009 astronaut class.

“He was just a kid from the Cities, like so many that we have, but now I look at our students and wonder ‘Who’s going to be the next one?’” Kirkman said. “I assume there are Mark Vande Heis in this year’s freshman class, just like he was in the room behind me 35 years ago.”

Launch Base at SJU

Whether in low orbit or on the ground, Vande Hei can close his eyes and see the forests and lakes surrounding Saint John’s. He remembers the winters, when snow and wind provided frigid conditions for drills – or even running between classes. Succeeding there, he said, sparked a confidence that led to his later achievements.

“It’s a community where you know people are going to try to do the right thing – not just for themselves but for the greater group,” Vande Hei said. “It’s a very strong foundation.

“I definitely value the liberal arts education I got. I think Saint John’s really helped me with feeling comfortable that there’s more than one way to look at things. Being able to do that is very valuable, and I can respect that in other people.”

That respect goes both ways in those who know him best. Marty O’Brien ’89 migrated from Benilde to Saint John’s

with Vande Hei, and their dorm rooms were across the hall from each other.

“He was a little more serious than some of us,” said O’Brien, whose roommate, Mike Hoffman, was another Benilde graduate who attended Vande Hei’s first launch in 2017. “We were all impressed by Mark for a long time, and that was before he became an astronaut. In spite of all the accomplishments, he’s always been like the nicest guy in the world. That’s a little hyperbole, but not much.”

About five years after he left SJU, Mark and Julie met in Colorado Springs. He was stationed nearby, and she’d sworn she would never date anyone in the military.

“Fate has a way of playing with you,” Julie said. “We were both rock climbers and we sat next to each other at a party. I walked over to him and said ‘Hey, let’s go ski.’ That was history. We were really compatible and got along well.”

They married in 1995 and had twins Lauren and Gabe, who are now 24. She’s an EMT in Sequim, Washington; he’s a cyber security software engineer in Arlington, Virginia. Military life made Mark’s extended absences common, something that prepared Julie – if not others – for his record trip in space. But perhaps nothing would have readied her for the anxiety of early 2022.

Thrust Into Global Spotlight

With Mark’s return scheduled for late March, traveling in the same Soyuz capsule with Russian crew members Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, apprehension snowballed through January and February as to whether international politics would jeopardize Vande Hei’s safety. Russia threatened to invade Ukraine before actually doing

so on Feb. 24, and it didn’t take long before Julie, Lauren and Gabe were buried in an avalanche of speculation.

Retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, whose record for longest space flight was broken by Vande Hei, got into a Twitter fight with Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin. On March 10, Rogozin posted a video that suggested Vande Hei would be abandoned in space as retaliation for U.S. sanctions.

Mark, whose days were choreographed to not waste a single moment while working on experiments or maintaining

the ISS, was somewhat shielded from the disturbance as it related to him –though he and the cosmonauts were well aware of the conflict unfolding in Eastern Europe.

“Russian broadcasts have a very different perspective on the events in Ukraine, but they’re just as convincing as the news we receive,” said Mark, who spent months in Russia preparing for both flights and understands what his cohorts see and hear. “I really think what we’re running into is that there are lots of facts available, and people can go ahead and report them, but you can tell very different stories by which facts you choose to report. Then there are times when things aren’t facts. They’re just wrong, and that was when I would ask pointed questions. Conversations kind of ended quickly.

“The biggest emotional takeaway for me from that situation was how affected we are by our information sources. That’s not unique to international relations. It’s something that effects every one of us as citizens.”

Friends, acquaintances, media and even strangers began to ask Julie questions for which she had no answer. She and

He spent time in orbit contemplating his purpose and what is next.

“People were coming at me out of a place of love, and I appreciated that, but I had news agencies and people I didn’t know very well and neighbors – lots of people trying to understand whether Mark was safe and what’s the plan?” Julie said. “I think NASA was trying to figure it out, too. I felt like I was an island, and Mark had such a different perspective that he felt everything was fine.”

It was, and it wasn’t. He had access to email, but often only for a cursory glance at the subject line. He was oblivious to social media and actually laughed the first time she told him about the video and the hypothesizing that he was in danger.

Eventually, he realized Julie’s emotional state, became a good listener and legitimized her concerns – which he said were the hardest part of the situation for him.

Julie, meanwhile, felt increasing stress until a “high-level source at NASA who works with Russia” contacted her. He explained plans A, B and C for how to

check-ins via text. Thereafter, she felt confident but not relaxed until after a 20-person team extricated her husband from Kazakhstan to Germany and ultimately home.

New Perspective

Vande Hei and Dubrov were together all 355 days on their latest space flight. Shkaplerov and another Russian, Oleg Novitsky, flew with Vande Hei for almost six months each. He said nothing has changed as far as his respect for and friendship with them since he returned.

“My hope is this longstanding, very successful collaboration continues to be a way for us to come back to good relations between us and the Russians – regardless of what’s going on,” Mark said.

Julie said Mark is a very “othercentered” person, and she appreciated how he always gave her a say in their plans.

“He’d say, ‘What do you think, Jules?’ … but many times we’ve held a

significant event – marriages or sending his kids off to college,” she said. “It’s tiresome, and this time he was up there for a year, and it was a sacrifice our family agreed to make. But on the other hand, one of the things I said to him is that I think that’s enough. Life is calling us to do some other things.”

He spent time in orbit contemplating his purpose and what is next. He feels a strong pull to protect the natural environment and doubtless will use public speaking engagements to deliver that message.

“I think a lot of astronauts who have looked at the planet from outside the atmosphere feel the same way,” he said. “The Earth is massive. It’s tremendously large, but there’s a very finite layer that we live in and that’s just on the surface … I would love to dedicate time to raise awareness of that and pay more attention to the things we do and how they affect the environment. We need to live in a more sustainable way, and maybe a less comfortable way. But then we’re going to leave more for subsequent generations.”

Vande Hei taking time for reflection in the observation deck.

Nicol Bridge Links Campus to Seton Townhomes

The new Saint John’s bridge to Flynntown, completed summer of 2022, has been named after benefactors Tom and Elizabeth Nicol.

Nicol Bridge provides students with convenient access to the new Seton Townhomes, which also were completed this summer, and additionally underscores the ongoing generosity of Tom and Elizabeth.

Tom Nicol, a 1991 Saint John’s graduate, is a member of the Common Boards of Trustees at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Previously, he served as a student trustee in 199091, an Alumni Association representative to the SJU Board of Trustees from 2010-15 and member of the SJU board from 20152021.


CSB and SJU’s Impact Leaves Footprint on Alaskans – And Vice-Versa

It’s a long way from Chefornak, Alaska, to Collegeville, Minnesota, geographically and culturally.

But Moses Wiseman ’23 said a common bond connects the small Alaskan village and the new home he has found at Saint John’s University.

“I love Alaska very much,” said Wiseman, who grew up in a village of 418 people located in the Yukon Delta near the Bering Sea. “A lot of that comes from the Native culture I grew up in.

“Native values can differ from culture to culture, but we as Native people try to care for each other. We might see

people who are different from us, but we still care for them and try to make sure they feel like they belong. And I think that connects really strongly to the Benedictine values we have here at Saint John’s.”

“The whole ‘Minnesota Nice’ thing, and that real sense of community you find at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s, is such a wonderful thing.” Wiseman is far from the only Alaskan student to have found a second home at CSB and SJU. Over the past 10 years, a total of 38 students from the state known as “The Last Frontier” have enrolled at the two schools –

including four who, like Wiseman, identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

That includes a high of seven students in the incoming first-year class in 2017 and six each in the first-year classes of 2014, 2018 and 2019. Numbers have been down the past three years as COVID-19 kept CSB and SJU admissions representatives from traveling to Alaska.

The grand total ranks Alaska 12th in total students enrolled at CSB and SJU during that timespan – behind Minnesota (7,210), Wisconsin (265), California (239), Texas (195), Illinois


Moses Wiseman stands along the shoreline of the Bering Sea. He is one of 38 Alaskans who have attended Saint John’s and Saint Benedict over the past 10 years.

(120), Colorado (93), Iowa (72), North Dakota (70), Nebraska (62), South Dakota (61) and Florida (42).

“Coming to Minnesota and attending Saint John’s provided me with an educational opportunity that wasn’t available in Alaska,” said Nevin Vincent ’22, who grew up 42 miles northeast of Anchorage in Palmer, Alaska and graduated from Saint John’s in May with majors in political science and history.

Vincent just completed his fourth summer fighting wildfires with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Forestry Division.

Tom Voller-Berdan ’88, the senior associate director of admission at CSB and SJU, was in charge of recruiting Alaska for several years. He worked with both Wiseman and Vincent as they made their college choices. Voller-Berdan credited Cal Mosley, the former CSB and SJU vice president

for admission and financial aid, with making Alaska a recruiting priority.

“We had students from Alaska before that, but he really laid a lot of the groundwork,” Voller-Berdan said. “He had a cousin who lived in Anchorage and he had a passion for the place. He loved it there.”

Voller-Berdan said the fact that Alaska has only a few four-year colleges means many high school students there are open to looking elsewhere – and Saint

“I’ve been able to better myself as a person,” he said.
“I’ve always known I have the power to make change and I love that about myself.”

John’s and Saint Benedict catch their eyes.

“There is a circuit of Alaska college fairs, and in my years traveling there, we were the one school that wasn’t like the others,” he said. “Except for the big college fair in Anchorage, which usually had about 150 colleges represented, the others were around 35.

“Just about all those schools were located in the Pacific Northwest. As a school from the Midwest, we really stood out being there.”

Although Alaska is the biggest state in the nation in terms of geography, Voller-Berdan said it is small enough in terms of population that positive wordof-mouth can get around.

“It’s really about making the right connections,” he said. “Once a few kids come and have a good experience it helps build a bridge to others.”

The village Wiseman is from, Chefornak, is not connected to any major roadways. It is primarily accessible by plane, boat or, in the winter months, snowmobile. Just getting used to the different vehicles he sees each day at SJU has taken some time.

“Growing up in my village, the only time I’d see cars was when we had to go to the hospital for appointments (about a 45-minute trip by bush plane). I’d see cars in movies, and I’d think ‘Oh my gosh, I want one like that!’ When you’re a child you dream. So to come here and see so many different cars on campus has been crazy,” he said.

“Our diet is also very different from the Western diet,” Wiseman said. “We mainly live off the land. Seal is one

of our many dishes. Fish, moose and birds. And plants. We forage a lot. That’s really different too.”

“We mainly speak our Native language there,” he continued. “The only place we ever spoke English was at school. The teachers that we had at our school mainly came from the Midwest. Most of them would end up leaving after two years due to the loan forgiveness thing. So, I had some exposure to people from this part of the country.”

Wiseman said Saint John’s first crossed his radar thanks to his cousin, Regina Therchik, with whom he attended boarding school as a freshman at Mt. Edgecumbe in Sitka.

Therchik graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in 2020.

“I first learned about Saint John’s my freshman year and I was very intrigued by how it looked,” Wiseman said. “They had a men’s volleyball club and volleyball is something that has really helped me over the years. I also liked the nursing program here, too. The

Wiseman said being at Saint John’s has helped him develop his voice. In addition to playing for the men’s volleyball club team, he also helped create CSB and SJU’s Indigenous Student Association – allowing him to work on issues he is passionate about.

“When I first came here, I wasn’t as vocal as I am now,” he said. “But I’ve always known what my voice is. I’ve always known I have the power to make change and I love that about myself.”

After graduating next May, Wiseman would like to enroll in an accelerated nursing program. After that, he could see himself returning to the Y-K Delta to help serve his people.

Wiseman’s hometown of Chefornak, Alaska (pop. 418) is accessible only by plane, boat or – in the winter – snowmobile.

“Growing up in my village, the only time I’d see cars was when we had to go to the hospital for appointments.”

Nevin Vincent served as a student captain in the Saint John’s Fire Department and for the past four summers has worked fighting wildfires with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Forestry Division.

influence of my cousin coming here has helped me a ton.

“I’d ask her if she liked it and she did.”

“I'm immensely thankful for the scholarships because they meant I could continue my studies without such major financial constraints,” he said. “My summertime is limited to only a few

important when Vincent has been out in the field working to contain raging forest fires.

“There are moments when it can get kind of scary,” he said. “But it’s

Wiseman said he would not have been able to make Saint John’s work if not for the scholarship he received. He’s the eighth of 11 siblings. His father helps build houses and his mother is a Head Start teacher in their village.

“Coming from a family whose socioeconomic status is poverty to lowincome, I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity and been granted these scholarships,” Wiseman said. “That was really the biggest factor in my decision to come here.”

Vincent said scholarships also played a huge role in his decision to enroll at SJU.

months of work as a wildland firefighter in Alaska. What I make immediately goes toward sustaining my studies here at SJU. My parents have continued to support me throughout the process, drawing from their retirement to assist with finishing my studies.

“Receiving those scholarships alleviated some of my financial pressures moving forward.”

Having that peace of mind has been

gratifying because you know what you’re doing is having a significant impact on the course of the fire. You’re protecting people, lives and property.”

Vincent also had the chance to work as a student captain in the Saint John’s Fire Department, providing him with a very different set of undertakings.

“That’s been a good experience because the calls on campus are a lot more residential in nature,” he said. “There

“I’m immensely thankful for the scholarships because they meant I could continue my studies without such major financial constraints.”

are a lot of smoke alarms from people who burned something cooking, and there are medical calls. But we still have to be prepared for fires.

“My sophomore year in the fall of 2019, someone threw a grill away in the dumpster by the baseball field and it caught fire. It started smoldering and eventually the whole dumpster caught fire.”

bother me because it reminded me of the weather at home.

“I was amazed by the campus, though –the Arboretum, the Bell Banner of the Abbey Church, the Abbey itself. I love history and there was so much of it to be found here,” Vincent said.

“The climate is really similar to Alaska,” Wiseman added. “That’s one of the reasons I really liked it here.

Minnesota winters can sometimes seem harsh to those coming from out of state. They don’t seem like that big a deal to Wiseman and Vincent after growing up in Alaska.

In fact, they said for them, weather was one of the selling points. Voller-Berdan offered to fly Vincent to Collegeville for a visit after the two met at a college fair.

“It was in mid-February and it was really cold and it was snowing pretty hard,” Vincent said. “But that didn’t

“The staff and administration have also done their best to make me feel involved. It wasn’t always the easiest adjustment coming from where I come from. There was a lot I had to get used to. So I really appreciated them going out of their way to help.”

Vincent said. “I found my passion for history and political science. I’ve always had a passion to serve the community around me. But that’s something that’s really stressed here.

“More than anything, though, if I hadn’t come here I’d have missed out on being part of this community. I’ve made so many friends here and I’ve cultivated a network of support. Those are lifelong things.”

“I really feel like the Saint John’s community has helped guide me as I’ve figured out exactly who I am,” Wiseman said. “I’ve discovered passions here – things that I want to fight for, the different people and marginalized groups I want to advocate for.

Vincent and Wiseman wouldn’t trade their Saint John’s experiences for anything.

“I discovered a lot about myself here,”

“I’m sure I would have been able to develop some of that someplace else. But being at Saint John’s provided me with some really strong roots to grow from.”



Saint John’s baseball finished second in the MIAC with a 15-5 record (24-17 overall) and made its 12th consecutive appearance in the MIAC Tournament in 2022. SJU’s program record for home runs (39) lasted only one season as the Johnnies hit 51 this spring. Catcher Ethan Roe ’22 was named to the American Baseball Coaches’ Association (ABCA)/Rawlings AllRegion 9 first team and’s third team. He earned second-team honors on both lists in 2021 and ended his SJU career as the program’s all-time leader in home runs with 25, as well as third in both RBI (104) and doubles (33), fourth in total bases (248) and 10th in runs scored (95). SJU also led the conference with six All-MIAC honorees: Roe, center fielder Jordan Amundson ’24, pitcher Nathan Brandecker ’22, first baseman Max Nyrop ’23, right fielder Soren Roe ’23 and pitcher Casey Trapp ’23. Trapp set an SJU single-season record with 73 strikeouts this spring. Head coach Jerry Haugen ’76 earned his 900th and 901st career wins April 13 in the Johnnies’ doubleheader sweep of Hamline. He completed his 45th season at the helm with a 912-688-5 career record. SJU earned an ABCA Team Academic Excellence Award, which is given to teams with a 3.0 grad point average. The 55 Johnnies combined for a 3.44 GPA in 2021-22.

in-the-Hills, Florida, and finished 26th out of 43 teams. Four Johnnies – Thomas Gutzmer ’23, Nate Loxtercamp ’24, Glavine Schugel ’24 and Blake Schuler – were named to the Division III PING All-Region 6 team. The Johnnies have had 55 All-Region honorees in the last 23 seasons. SJU received Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) All-Academic team recognition for the 14th straight season. Individually, Gutzmer, Loxtercamp, Schugel, Cameron Lemke ’23 and Max Thelen ’24 earned GCAA All-America Scholar honors.


The Johnnie tennis team finished fourth in the MIAC with a 6-3 record (10-7 overall) to earn its eighth MIAC Playoff appearance in the past 10 seasons and 15th overall in 2022. Wil McDowell ’23 earned All-MIAC honors in both singles and doubles competition for the second consecutive season, while Peyton Fischer ’23 also received the accolade in both. Hunter Fischer ’23 and Ryan Will ’25 were All-MIAC in doubles play. Jack Bowe was named the MIAC Steve Wilkinson Coach of the Year for the third time in his career (2003, 2019) and second time in the past three seasons.


Saint John’s tied for 26th at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Geneva, Ohio, thanks to All-America performances from in the javelin (fourth place) and Maguire Petersen ’22 in the decathlon (fifth place). Hague earned the honor thanks to a personal-best distance of 65.06 meters on his second attempt. The mark was the second-best throw in program history. Hague became the third Johnnie to earn All-America honors in the event and first since Tom Engwall ’03 in 2003 (fourth), who is the program’s record-holder at 67.80 meters.

Petersen also qualified for the high jump, where he tied for 19th, and was joined by two other individuals and a relay at nationals. Kevin Arthur ’23 finished fifth in the 100-meter dash’s second heat with a time of 10.68 seconds to take 13th overall. He missed qualifying for the final by .06 of a second (10.62). Shawn Schindler ’22 took 12th in the pole vault and the 4x100-meter relay (Jack Young ’22, Arthur, Brady Ryan

) finished 14th and missed qualifying for the final by 0.62 of a second due to trouble on the second handoff. SJU won its 13th outdoor team title, and first since 2011, May 13-14 in Winona.


J-Club Hall of Honor Adds to its Distinguished Roster

Catching up on around 150 years of athletic achievement hasn’t been easy. But as the Saint John’s University J-Club Hall of Honor prepares to welcome its third full class this fall, J-Club president Tom Freeman ’08 feels good about the progress that has been made.

“I think it speaks to the humbleness that is Saint John’s, but I was shocked when we started this that we didn’t already have a Hall of Honor here,” Freeman said. “It was really important to us to find a way to honor all the

great athletes who have been at Saint John’s over the years.

“To see it flourish the way it has in such a short time has been amazing.”

The Hall of Honor started in 2018 when legendary longtime head coaches John Gagliardi and Jim Smith were honored as the first two inductees in separate ceremonies. The first full class was inducted in the fall of 2019 and then after a one-year pause brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the second full class was inducted last year.

A physical space for the Hall opened last fall inside the main entrance to Warner Palaestra. It includes a touchscreen kiosk featuring videos and biographical information on all the past inductees, as well as videos of past induction ceremonies.

This year’s class of 10 individuals and one team will be inducted at a dinner

and ceremony Oct. 1 in Guild Hall following the Johnnies’ Homecoming football game against Concordia at 1 p.m. that afternoon at Clemens Stadium.

The program will start with a social at 4:30 p.m. The dinner and program will begin at 5:15 p.m.

Tickets for the event are $75 per person before Sept. 25 and $100 afterward. That includes dinner and beverages. They can be purchased through the J-Club link at gojohnnies. com, or in the SJU Alumni section on the main CSB and SJU website. All proceeds go to the J-Club to be used for its support of Saint John’s athletics.

Feature stories and videos on each of this year’s inductees have been running throughout the month of September at

This year’s class of inductees is as follows:

Minga Batsukh ’11 Wrestling

Troy Bigalke ’01 Basketball Fred Cremer ’67 Football Matt Erredge ’99 Hockey Jon Habben ’79

Swimming and diving David Lamm ’68

Track and field Mike Lilly ’78 Soccer

Cyril Paul ’59 Track and field Tim Schmitz ’78 Football

1976 Saint John’s football team Br. Mark Kelly, OSB

J-Club Distinguished Service Award

“We’ve done a great job so far, but we know there are so many other Johnnies still in line to be honored,” Freeman said.

“That’s part of what makes it so exciting to still be on the front end of this. There is so much talent left to celebrate.”

“There are so many other Johnnies still in line to be honored.”



Thirty years ago, while leading a group of teenagers on a backpacking trip in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in New York, I had an experience that shapes my understanding to this day.

After summiting Mt. Marcy, the tallest peak in the region, our sherpa handed us each a small, tattered slip of paper with this quote:

I heard and I forgot. I saw and I remembered. I EXPERIENCED AND I UNDERSTOOD.

The truth of this has proven itself to me time and time again, but never so often as since I began my work as executive director of the Heritage Program of The Saint John’s Bible in the 10th year of its existence.

How often do we HEAR scripture, only to forget it? We often SEE the words on a page and remember them for a time. But The Saint John’s Bible is an EXPERIENCE of scripture that leads to new understanding.

Right here on the Saint John’s University campus is this once-in-500 years masterpiece of sacred word and art – the first hand-written, hand-

The Saint John’s Bible: 10 Years of Blessings

illuminated Bible of monumental size since the invention of the printing press. It stands to this day as a truly unique experience of the Bible.

Its partner project, the Heritage Edition, is the only full-scale fine art edition of The Saint John’s Bible. A limited number (299) of these sevenvolume, museum-quality sets were made available and about half of those have been acquired by institutions and individuals.

I’m keenly aware of three specific understandings that can be gained through an experience of The Saint John’s Bible :

Margin – Ancient Techniques For Anxious Times

Every aspect of the planning, preparation, production and final presentation of The Saint John’s Bible invites what The Most Rev. Rowan Williams calls “the lost skill of patient

and prayerful reading.” In a world that seems to spin faster every day, and with calendars that have less and less unscheduled time, we all could use new experiences and understanding of margin in our lives.

Unity – For Such A Time As This

The Saint John’s Bible was such a massive undertaking that it required a “grand collaboration” of hundreds of people and dozens of organizations working together. The sacred word and art of The Saint John’s Bible draw people together across every line that might otherwise divide us.

Grace – To Err Is Human

Throughout the 1,150 pages of handwritten script, there are only nine mistakes. In each case, the error was handled with grace and a touch of humor. Readers of The Saint John’s Bible will be assured that to err is human and what we do with our mistakes shapes our understanding of the grace God extends to all of us.

It would not be a stretch to say that a gift of the Heritage Edition creates a legacy that will last 1,000 years. A recent wave of individual families acquiring a Heritage Edition to keep and enjoy in their own homes and then eventually donate it to a beloved church or university as a charitable, in-kind gift represents a double blessing.

To learn more about the Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible , call Ross at 320-363-3209, visit the web site , or stop by the Office/Studio in Quad 147.


Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Village Townhomes

This fall marks big changes to the residential student experience at Saint John’s University with the completion of the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Village Townhomes in the Flynntown section of campus. The project consists of two apartment buildings near the shoreline of Stumpf Lake, housing juniors and seniors and totaling just over 45,300 square feet.

All of the apartments are air-conditioned. Most house six students and include a living room, small kitchen area and two bedrooms on the first floor, with four bedrooms on the second. In each building, there is a community laundry and shared study room for group activity.

In addition to the six-person apartments, there are select one-person apartments compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act that allow for students who experience food allergies or other medical or emotional needs to live alongside their friends.

Doors to the buildings open toward the McKeown Center, a community space built in 2009 where students can meet, study and host events.

The entire project is connected to the main campus by the newly constructed Nicol Bridge, a 270-foot pedestrian bridge spanning Stumpf Lake west of the County Road 159 bridge.


Zumwinkle’s Contributions Honored With Basten Award

A desire to identify and fund “transformative changes benefitting mankind.”

That’s the mission of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, established in 2004 by the founder and former chairman of Best Buy Inc.

It’s a desire that perfectly matches the ideals of Mike Zumwinkle ’86, a former football standout at Saint John’s who in 2013 left his position at Cargill to take over as a senior program officer at the Schulze Foundation.

“I’ve been able to come in contact with so many different people from all walks of life who have such truly inspiring stories,” said Zumwinkle of his work. “People who have sacrificed so much to help others. It really continues to inspire my faith in humanity.”

It is for his efforts at the foundation and elsewhere that Zumwinkle has been named this year’s recipient of the Bob Basten Excallence in Leadership Award,

which is bestowed annually upon a former Johnnie football player who has exhibited outstanding leadership traits, has been involved in his community and with his alma mater, has carried a sense of fair play beyond the football field and has demonstrated an overall commitment to excellence.

The award is named in honor of Basten ’82, who went to training camp with the Minnesota Vikings before embarking on a successful career as a business executive. He died in 2012 after a decade-long battle with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

“Mike embodies traits that would make (Basten) proud – a sense of fairness and commitment to excellence,” wrote Stuart Harvey ’83, a former teammate of Zumwinkle’s who nominated him for the awar4d. “He also shares Bob’s trait of humility, always acknowledging and appreciating the efforts of others.

“I remember Mike as a tough, hardnosed running back with a very determined and competitive spirit and a natural leader among his peers.”

“All of the things that Bob himself stood for – honor, dignity, selflessness and the ability to see greatness in others – can be found in Mike Zumwinkle,” SJU coach Gary Fasching ’81 added.

At the Schulze Foundation, Zumwinkle works to provide financial assistance and support to organizations operating in the areas of social and human services, education and health and medicine.

Zumwinkle, whose 2,327 rushing yards rank seventh in program history, said he is humbled to have been selected as the award winner.

“I’ve been honored to be part of the football community at SJU,” he said.

After enduring the hardships and limitations brought on by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saint John’s University’s Class of 2022 was rewarded for its perseverance May 8 with SJU’s first traditional setting graduation inside Saint John’s Abbey and University Church since 2019.

A total of 350 graduates from Saint John’s and 23 from the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary celebrated their success. The most popular majors in this year’s graduation class at SJU were global business leadership (64), accounting (46), economics (32), computer science (28), biology and communication (23 each).


Honors Continue for Bresnahans, Kura Book

kura storehouses in Japan.

The central portion of the book is an essay by Bresnahan comprehensively documenting the collaborative process that went into making the Kura sculpture. It discusses the philosophy of eco-mutualism, a theme central to Bresnahan’s work. In addition, Bresnahan wrote opening and closing text for the book and the captions that accompany the more than 250 photographs.

The awards keep piling up for Kura: Prophetic Messenger – the book produced in conjunction with the sculpture that became the first permanent installation in the Jon Hassler Sculpture Garden on the grounds of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville.

The book, which chronicles the collaborative effort of Saint John’s Unversity Artist-In-Residence Richard Bresnahan ’76 that produced the sculpture, recently was named best Fine Arts book in the 16th annual National Indie Excellence Awards.

First published in October 2021, the book also was named the winner of the 2022 Nautilus Book Award in the photography and art division, an international competition. Past winners include the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra, Desmond Tutu, Judy Collins, Barry Lopez and Louise Erdrich.

Five major pieces weighing a combined 14,000 pounds make up the foundation of the sculpture, which features a 4,800-pound base of granite. This slab was removed from Alcuin Library when it was connected to the adjacent Dietrich Reinhart Learning Commons. Many of the materials were repurposed

from other iconic structures on the Saint John’s campus.

The word kura comes from the Japanese term for storehouse. It was historically used to protect food supplies for future use. At the center of the round, stainless steel Kura suspended at the sculpture’s center is a handmade scroll of the Rule of St. Benedict assembled by local artist Mary Bruno with a reclaimed redwood scroll and display stand crafted by local artisan Jeff Thompson.

It was installed in the summer of 2020 and was dedicated and blessed in October 2021.

The book was published to coincide with that dedication. It is unique in structure, and like the sculpture itself a collaboration across the CSB and SJU community and beyond.

It starts with a preface by Steven Lemke ’08, associate director at The Saint John’s Pottery, an instructor in the art department and environmental artistin-residence at SJU, on the significance of Bresnahan’s work within liberal arts higher education. Dr. Matthew Welch, the deputy director of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, contributed an essay on the history and function of traditional

His wife, Colette Bresnahan CSB ’83, composed biographies of the “three sisters” seeds (corn, beans and squash) that are sealed and preserved inside the sculpture. Her section describes how these seeds have been cultivated, named and used across cultures.

Significantly, Richard and Colette’s daughter Margaret Bresnahan oversaw the book's production and served as managing editor. She structured the book around the four seasons: summer, fall, winter and spring. She also edited the book’s text and wrote biographies of the 178 artists associated with the Kura sculpture.

The book was designed by Paul Nylander of Illustrada. Paul Wegner ’93 served as photo editor. It was also named a finalist for the 2022 Minnesota Book Awards, which were announced in April.


What is the ROI for a Johnnie Alumnus?

We tend to think of return on investment (ROI) as a financial metric. Shareholders invest to reap dividends. Broaden the application of ROI and we could include the return benefit to Saint John’s graduates who, along with their families, invest significantly during their four-year academic experience.

The ROI dividend: 98% of graduates are situated in their first career within a year of graduating. Additionally, they have the ROI of lifelong friendships and spiritual prosperity nurtured from their life immersed in a Benedictine valuecentric community. That’s a significant jump-start into a fulfilling future, but just the beginning of the enduring benefits for an alumnus.

There is both a “giving” and “receiving” component to maximize the ROI. For more than 150 years, alumni have been giving back in the form of financial support. This past fiscal year, more than $3.1 million was contributed to the Student Fund, and even more support was provided to other scholarship and campus improvement initiatives. Add to that alumni participation in recruiting future Johnnies and Bennies, mentoring and career networking with our students. Johnnies are profound “givers” of financial support, time and talent.

What is the “receiving” factor for alumni in the ROI formula? Each year the 43-member Alumni Association Board commits to deliver substantive programs and communications that are relevant throughout all life stages. The “receiving” benefit extends to when an alumnus dies in the form of recognition, family support and remembrance.

Two immutable Benedictine values platform our mission statement:

Community – To become who we are by our relationship to others (interpretation of RB 33) Stewardship – To appreciate and care lovingly for all the goods of his place (interpretation of RB 31)

As Alumni Association past president David Moe ’94 explains, “The key is maintaining relevancy to our ever-expanding alumni population throughout the world. We must respond to alumni wants and needs with timely and life-enhancing programs that factor in diversity and inclusiveness of age, geography, culture and ethnicity.”

Nine committees on the Alumni Association board channel “reach” through four market segments: individuals, classes, chapters and clubs. Simply stated, you must go to where alumni are, what they require in their current life and how they connect with SJU. The nine committees focus on programs that deliver the “giving” and “receiving” elements of alumni ROI.

Benedictine Way – Provides activities that enrich spiritual fulfillment through application of Benedictine values (Day of Services events, Benedictine cohorts, spiritual retreats).

Student Experience – Provides the

opportunity to engage with our SJU students throughout the year and support them in their development. Student Recruitment – Initiates opportunity to connect with neighbors, family, associates and high schools to orient and promote the CSB and SJU story. Nearly two-thirds of the Class of 2024 came to SJU through a connection with an alumnus. Alumni Engagement – Benefits alumni through gatherings like golf outings, art and culture events, the Johnnie Standup and professional development events. Resource Development – Mobilizes class representatives, chapters and individual alumni of all generations to support the Student Fund providing scholarship support.

Chapters – Organize, connect and support alumni in geographic areas with local programs and activities.

Classes – Continuous communications and class specific events (i.e., five-year Reunions) that enable classmates to remain connected.

Clubs – Gatherings of professional skill groups and personal interests (i.e., attorneys, accountants, outdoor activities, athletics).

Individuals – Recognition of alums who contribute to a variety of programs. To increase your ROI experience, please check us out here:

Five members of the Saint John’s University Class of 1972 have gone on to serve as president and chair of the SJU Alumni Association Board of Directors. They are (from left) Thom Farnham (1982-83), Bob Foster (1993-94), Bernie Tuohy (200708), Tom Hokr (2009-10) and Rick Speckmann (2021-23).

He immersed his youth into baseball and the Minnesota Twins, graduated from Saint John’s University and devoted most of his adult life to challenging professional careers in exotic locations around Europe. And then Johnny Mee ’79 discovered his real calling – writing international mystery books.

“Life’s too short not to do what you want to do,” Mee said from his new home back in St. Paul, Minnesota. “It was always in the back of my mind.”

Mee’s latest inspiration is The Government Mule, his ninth book since he switched full-time occupations in 2014 and his first since writing eight books in his Billy Mack series.

Mee is one of a group of SJU graduates who have published new books within the past year, and all of them have taken at least some measure of inspiration from Collegeville.

“Saint John’s is one of those places that promoted creativity when I was there,” said Mee, whose professional resume –banker, investment manager, restaurant owner, defense industry analyst and

Mee’s SJU Inspiration? You Can Book It

band manager – has also provided a fountain of inspiration.

That inspiration initially came from his father. Tom Mee was hired as the Twins’ media relations director before the team even began playing in 1961. His son Johnny was immediately hooked.

“It was a lot of fun because you were hanging around baseball players, and 99 percent of them were good guys,” said Mee, whose first job was hustling Twins programs and scorecards at Metropolitan Stadium when he was 12 years old.

Tom Mee served as the Twins’ media relations director from 1961-91 and as official scorer from 1991-2007 before being elected to the Twins Hall of Fame. He died at 88 in 2016.

His son, meanwhile, in 1975 followed his father’s advice to attend a university he had never seen.

“My dad really kept pushing Saint John’s – he loved the school,” said Johnny, who earned a government degree at SJU and was deeply influenced by art professor Bela Petheo. “He kept saying all of his friends who went to Saint John’s were lifelong friends, which I found out was true.”

Mee’s adventures took off from there – travels around Europe, an MBA at the University of Notre Dame School of Business, and a variety of challenging positions in cities including Vienna, London, Barcelona, Rome, Zurich, Dublin, Salzburg and Havana.

Those experiences became locations in the Billy Mack international

mystery thrillers, which also blended in an element of baseball. Their series summary:

Billy Mack, a former baseball star, is now buying and fixing companies around the world that require his unique skills honed from his days as an all-star third baseman and baseball’s best clutch hitter. Trouble follows him and the companies he fixes. Billy never runs from a fight, never compromises his morals or his ethics even after realizing evil plays by a different set of rules. He uses his skills, gut feel and his drive to changes those rules.

When his back is against the wall, he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. Before evil knows it, it is playing by Billy’s rules.

“I finally pulled the trigger and published my first book on Amazon in 2014,” Mee said. “You’ve got to dust yourself off and keep going.”

Next came The Government Mule, which is based on Mee’s experiences living in Eastern Europe:

When a man doesn’t give a damn if he lives or dies, he’s at his most dangerous. The Government Mule is the story of George Mihelich, a man driven to the edge of hell, where surrendering to death is the preferred way out – for most people …

“It’s a one-off book,” Mee said. “I wanted to write something about what it’s like to live in a totalitarian world.”

The next book? Among others, Mee is considering The Last Baseball Man – the story about former Twins owner Calvin Griffith, with whom Mee’s father worked closely over the final 15 years (1969-84) of Griffith’s ownership.


More Johnnies Authors Recently Published

Chuck Dowdle ’52 completed Twin Lights, a book written about his premature twin sons Michael and Mark who were born at 5½ months gestation on Aug. 9, 1953 and died an hour apart the following day. When Dowdle was 83, he began pondering the question of what life might have looked like if his sons had survived. He finished writing Twin Lights at the age of 93.

R.J. Hinkemeyer ’71 recently published Sins of Stone: A Maryland Mystery, the third book in the series.

It tells the story of an investigative reporter who stumbles across a missing person’s case while covering cultural tensions in a small Maryland town.

Buck Dopp ’72 released his second novel, Second Wind, last November. Dopp’s book is his second in the Caleb Sinclair series in the Military Romance/ Crime genre and is dedicated to U.S. military veterans.

Gary Goodman ’74 released his book

The Last Bookseller Dec. 7. Goodman’s book describes his sometimes desperate, sometimes hilarious career as a used and rare book dealer in Minnesota. The Last Bookseller offers an ultimately poignant account of the used and rare book business during its final Golden Age. Goodman’s four sons all went to Saint John’s University, and a daughter attended the College of Saint Benedict.

Dr. Wayne Liebhard ’79 released his new book Walking The Tightrope – Trusting Your Life To Telemedicine, which examines the moral and ethical duty of physicians to provide patients with care that is both safe and appropriate despite any outside pressures they may face in the new age of telemedicine. He has been a Minnesota family physician for 20 years and has been writing regularly for over 30 years.

John Rosengren ’86 published his 10th book, Classic Baseball: Timeless Tales, Immortal Moments. The book is a collection of Rosengren’s baseball articles that originally appeared in Sports Illustrated, New Yorker, VICE Sports and elsewhere. Published by Rowman & Littlefield, it includes stories about baseball’s legends along with lesser-knowns with extraordinary stories of their own.



2011 Laura (Sienko ’11) to Grady Sloan, Oct. ’21

2012 Carlin (Stiles) to Nick Mayhew, Jan. ’22

2014 Katie (Spoden ’14) to Austin Eighan, May ’22

2014 Chelsea (Komarek ’14) to Stuart Fogarty, May ’22

2017 Samantha (Rutten ’17) to Michael Beckmann, April ’22

Gabby (Weber ’17) to Jake Christensen, Dec. ’21 Madelyn (Haug ’17) to Taylor Manning, July ’21

Gina (Santella ’17) to Jacob Woolfrey, June ’22

2018 Chloe to Corey Ross, Sept. ’21

Andrea (Loftus ’18) to Tom Stanton, June ’22

2019 Kennedy (Peitz ’19) to Bradey Kamish, July ’22

Madeline (Krumel ’19) to Luke Olley, July ’22

2021 Kelsey to Jordan Sales, July ’22

2022 Mariah (Bruner ’22) to Cole Mathison, June ’22


1994 Lady Vanesa Badillo Murillo & Timothy Lendro, boy, Gabriel, Apr. ’22

1998 Alissa & Nels Hinderlie, girl, Liv, July ’22

1999 Serena Nelson & Jake Bastien, girl, Remington, Nov. ’21

2001 Ashley & Beau LaBore, girl, Brooke, Mar. ’22

2005 Natalie & Matt Pahl, boy, Evander, Aug. ’21

2007 Emily (Simone ’09) & Jay Harrison, girl, Josephine, Dec. ’20

Katie (Meyer ’08) & Tony Rawlings, girl, Claire, Jan. ’22

2008 Nicole (Johnson ’08) & Aaron Blackmore, boy, Jackson, Mar. ’22

Kim (Murphy ’08) & Erik Ellingboe, girl, Kylie, Feb. ’22

2009 Megan (Koenig ’10) & Ryan Schroeder, boy, Gavin, Aug. ’21

Catherine (Desalvo ’09) & Trent Miller, girl, Mackenzie, Mar. ’22

Jessica (Anderson ’09) & Zachary Shaheen, girl, Naomi, Jan. ’22

2010 Tamara & Bobby Chapman, girl, Taylor, Mar. ’22

Sara (Kokkila-Schumacher ’11) & Evan Kokkila-Schumacher, twin boys, Owen and Nolan, Sept. ’21

Julie (Walter ’09) & Jeff Bohlman, boy, Leo, May ’21

Alison (Maguire ’12) & Nick Matthees, boy, Owen, Feb. ’022 Molly & Ryan Minnehan, boy, Charlie, Feb. ’22

2011 Stephanie (Battista ’12) & Benedict Cahill, girl, Charlie, July ’22 Maura & Chris Battista, boy, George, June ’22

Emily (Miller ’10) & Nathan Orr, boy, Archer, Apr. ’22

2012 Ashley & Derik Gertken, girl, Ripley, May ’22

2012 Shannon (Stadelman ’12) & Tyler Effertz, girl, Emaline, Apr. ’22

2013 Sarah (Kruger ’13) & Andrew Hilger, girl, Josephine, June ’22 Alivia (Tison ’13) & Collin Motschke, girl, Matilda, June ’22 Meghan (Simmet ’13) & Dan Hermes, girl, Lucy, Nov. ’21

Alison (Schadow ’13) & Jack Brandes, girl, Linden, Mar. ’22 Delaney (Lundeen ’11) & Joseph Long, boy, Jackson, Sept. ’21 Carolyn (Chock ’13) & Tommy O’Laughlin, boy, Keegan, Feb. ’22 Cara & Tyler Schmitz, girl, Sophie, Feb. ’22

2014 Amanda (Dvorak ’14) & Alex Nicholas, girl, Florence, Feb. ’22 Magdalen (Morris ’14) & Dylan Graves, girl, Eleanor, June ’22 Alul (Yesak ’14) & Joseph Nelson, boy, Aksum, Jan. ’22

Alyssa (Gustafson ’16) & Mike Nemmo, girl, Rhea, Dec. ’21 Danielle (Vanderhyde ’15) & Thomas Lambert, girl, Genevieve, Dec. ’21

2015 Sophia (Korman ’15) & Joe Wocken, boy, Willy, July ’22 Alissa (Lager ’15) & Trevor Plasky, boy, Louis, May ’22 Lauren (Patton ’16) & Zach Eich, girl, Amelia, Apr. ’22

Abby (Jarnot ’14) & Dylan Gertken, boy, Weston, July ’22

2016 Ashely (Winden ’16) & Jack Hansen, boy, Oliver, July ’22

2017 Taryn & Ryan Bugler, boy, Andrew, July ’21

2018 Jean (Thurow-Mountin ’19) & Andrew Mountin, girl, Isobel, Apr. ’22


1947 Rev. Leander Dosch, OSCSO, Jan. ’22

1948 Allan Schmid, brother of deceased, Conrad ’52 and Terry ’62, Dec. ’21

1949 Lois Gelbmann, spouse of deceased, Fred, mother of Paul ’82, July ’22

1950 Arthur Bialka, June ’22

Valerius “Larry” Gasperlin, father of Bruce ’78 and Thomas ’81, brother of Julian ’53 and deceased brother, Jerry ’61, Apr. ’22

Leo Huntington, Mar. ’22

1951 Raymond Muskat, father of Thomas ’91, Feb. ’22

Rev. William Sherman, brother of Rev. Edward ’52, May ’22

1952 Marjorie Heinz, spouse of deceased, John, June ’22

Rev. Richard Leisen, brother of Donald ’61 and deceased brother Rev. Leo ’50, May ’22

Bill Mosso, Mar. ’22

Bob Schaefer, Mar ’22

Ray Thomes, father of Greg ’78, June ’22

Charlie Wenner, father of Carl ’79, Mathew ’80, Patrick ’84 and James ’93, May ’22

1953 Rev. Martin Cullen, brother of deceased, John ’44, Mar. ’22

Jim Fischer, father of Mike ’80, Rosanne, SOT/Sem ’07 and deceased brother, Donald ’50, June ’22

1954 Bernie Beaudry, father of Steve ’94, Mar. ’22

Charlie Cammack, Apr. ’22

LaVern Hoelscher, Nov. ’21

Rose Loechler, spouse of James, Aug. ’21

1955 Gerald Altman, June ’22

Shirley Gebhardt, spouse of deceased, John ’55, May ’22

Donald Montgomery, May ’22


1956 George Berkner, Apr. ’22

Mike O’Fallon, brother of John ’59 and David ’65, Feb. ’22

1957 Gerald Hendricks, father of Bruce ’79, June ’22

Jack Maus, father of Matthew ’06, brother of deceased, Donald ’58, July ’22

Robert Miller, July ’22

Dennis Mueller, Mar. ’22

Edward Roos, father of Tom ’95, brother of Ken ’50, July ’22

1958 Bob Hilgers, brother of Tom ’65, May ’22

1958 David Johnson, July ’22

John McHale, July ’22

James Van Gaal, Feb. ’22

Pierre Willette, brother of Tom ’59 and deceased brothers, Paul ’51 and Mike ’52, May ’22

1959 Rev. Dennis Evenson, June ’22

Rev. Brennan Maiers, OSB, July ’22

1960 Jim Chirhart, Apr. ’22

Richard Hanson, brother of William ’63 and deceased brother, Joseph ’74, Apr. ’22

Jerry Hudrlik, Apr. ’22

James Ryan, brother of deceased John ’62 and Michael ’57, son of deceased, Joseph ’31, Dec. ’21

1961 Bill Berens, brother of deceased, Tom ’50 and Anthony ’51, Apr. ’22

Jim Brady, June ’22

Rose Kennelly, spouse of Dan, Jan. ’22 Dr. James Nordlund, brother of Tom ’75, July ’22

Joel Princeton, June ’22 Donald Severson, Dec. ’21

1962 Bob Hetzel, Feb. ’22

John Siebenand, Mar. ’22 Wayne Belisle, father of deceased, Tim ’90, July ’22

1963 Kathleen Goulet, spouse of deceased, Daniel, mother of Dean ’89, Apr. ’22 Deacon Frank Schmainda, May ’22

1964 Hon. Rick Ahles, brother of Jim ’76, Mark ’76 and deceased Peter ’60, May ’22

David Ettel, brother of deceased, Michael ’57, May ’22

Bob Weber, father of David ’01 and brother of Joe ’69, Mar. ’22

1965 Dan Anderson, father of Mark, ’88 and Ryan ’00, brother of deceased, Jerry ’54, Apr. ’22

1965 John Morris, Apr. ’22

1966 Bob Sexton, brother of deceased, Jim ’55, June ’22

1967 Cherry Friendshuh, spouse of deceased, Keith and mother of Todd ’91, Feb. ’22 Dean Sakry, brother of Mark ’78 and twin brother, Dennis ’63, Oct. ’21

Lorna Smith, spouse of Larry ’67, mother of Brian ’96, sister of Buzz Benson ’76, July ’22

1968 Timothy Hamm, Mar. ’22

Bruce Meyer, brother of Tim ’77 and Kurt ’83, July ’22

Mike Setzer, May ’ 22

1969 Steve Dorgan, brother of Tom ’69, Bill ’72, John ’77 and Joe ’78, June ’22

Paul Hickner, Apr. ’22

John Nolan, brother of Peter ’68, Jim ’73 and Tom ’76, Apr. ’22

Terence Sullivan, brother of Patrick ’75, Mike ’65, Joseph ’60 and deceased brother, Eugene ’63, June ’22

1970 Guy Beck, father of Matt ’10 and brother Kim ’78, April ’22

Dan Hollenhorst, Feb. ’22

1971 Peter Kennedy, Dec. ’21

1972 Paul Dwyer, son of deceased, John ’50, brother of Peter ’73, Jim ’75, Tom ’77, deceased brothers, John ’72 and Patrick ’79, May ’22

James Huberty, July ’22

Joyce Redman, (SOT/Sem) Feb. ’21

Mark Rossini, brother of Jim ’58, father of deceased, Nick ’08, brother of deceased, John ’66, July ’22

1973 Linda Goergen, spouse of Dale, May ’ 22 Tony Pecha, Mar ’22

1974 Delores Kujawski, mother of David ’74, June ’22

1976 S. Susan Jenny, SC (SOT/Sem), May ’22

Rev. Daniel Keys, brother of Jim ’70, Mar. ’22

1977 Joyce Jensen, spouse of Tom ’77, Mar. ’21

Bob Leonard, Apr. ’22

1978 Ann Marie Van Lith, spouse of Rick ’78, Sept. ’21

1979 Kathleen Carey, SOT/Sem, July ’22 Gordon Gandy, Apr. ’22

1981 Rev. J. Michael Byron, brother of Joseph ’92, May ’22 Tom Thurmond, Apr. ’22

1982 Kevin “Casey” Eichler, Mar. ’22

1984 Dan Bowler, May ’22

1985 Amy Mathews, spouse of Dan ’85, Mar. ’22

Brett Valeri, Mar. ’21

1986 Mary Bausman-Watkins, spouse of Peter ’86, May ’22

Tim Tomkins, brother of Patrick ’83, June ’22

1987 David Coudron, July ’22

S. Lorraine Kraft, SOT/Sem, July ’22

Claire Serdiuk-Anderson, spouse of Kurt Anderson ’87, Apr. ’21

1990 Molly Flannagan, spouse of James Chihak ’90, Apr. ’22

1990 Douglas Kruse, July ’22

1991 Michael Conroy, brother of Robert ’82, June ’22

1992 Dr. Tony West, Mar. ’22

1993 Aberlardo “Abe” Malicsi, father of Allen ’93, Apr. ’22

Shane Uglem, Jan. ’22

1995 Rod Engleson, father of Paul ’95, Aug. ’21

1996 Sean McElmury, May ’20

1997 Dan Haske, brother of Perry ’95, July ’22

2003 Linda Ritchie, spouse of Deacon Bill, SOT/ Sem ’03, July ’22

2004 Anthony Hoffman, Aug. ’22

2005 Sydelle McCabe, SOT/Sem, Apr. ’22

2006 Weston Walker, Aug. ’21

2013 Dr. Sean Murphy, son of deceased, Dr. Stephen ’72, Apr. ’22

To subscribe to the Saint John’s E-Newsletter, contact Adam Herbst at or Jean Dempsey at in the Alumni Relations Office.


From the Ground Up: An Invitation for Self-Care for Physicians and Health Care Professionals

I have deep roots in the Benedictine tradition at Saint John’s University. I took my first steps in Guild Hall, graduated from Saint John’s Prep School and University, and later married my wife Ashley at the Abbey Church.

My understanding of the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of the human condition grew from these formative years at Saint John’s and inspired me to become a physician and leader. I’m grateful to work for a health care organization, Essentia Health, that shares Benedictine values of respect, justice, joy and stewardship, which are fundamental to the care of others and to oneself.

As we navigate the epidemic of burnout and moral injury, particularly among physicians and health care professionals, let us remember and prioritize a few key principles of self-care:

Self-compassion – This is the best antidote to shame and its notorious sidekick, perfectionism. Brené Brown teaches us “your level of belonging can never be greater than your level of selfacceptance because believing that you're enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic, vulnerable and imperfect.”

I challenge you to write down the most shameful narratives you tell yourself, “take off the armor” and toss this in the trash. It is all junk. Love your imperfect self, remember you are good enough and embrace the fully lived spectrum of human experience.

Boundaries – Clarify what is expected while living with integrity. Consider the exercise of journaling on a person or occupational responsibilities that is deserving of more boundaries. Follow up

on these to implement necessary changes.

Gratitude – The best medicine for hedonic adaptation, isolation and depression. Let us consider living each day as if it were our first, with deep wonder and curiosity, as well as our last, with relentless gratitude.

Create a “gratitude wall” in your department workspace. Mix in random acts of kindness (“pay it forward” at a local coffee shop, clean the neighbor’s yard, etc.). The impact on happiness is much greater and longer-lasting for those who give than receive.

Curiosity Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor and psychologist who wrote one of my favorite books titled Man’s Search For Meaning, famously wrote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Think of a person you constantly find yourself judging. What is driving your judgment? What would it mean for you, in that space if you assumed they are trying their best? Choose wonder over

judgment, choose to ask over telling. This will lead you through portals into expanded states of empathy – feeling with someone instead of for someone.

Meaningful relationships – Loneliness is one of the greatest predictors of mortality. Human connection is one of our most essential needs.

Prioritize intentional time with those with whom you can share mutual listening and joy, especially outside in nature. Time is our most precious non-renewable asset. Spend it wisely.

For the physician and healthcare professional community to transition from a state of surviving to thriving, it is imperative that we stand on solid ground upon the self-care principles while also advocating for compassionate and sustainable healthcare systems.

Do you have a friend or relative who works as a health care professional? Take a minute to text or email someone whom you are grateful for and haven’t connected with lately. Tell them how much they mean to you, then remind yourself that you are enough.


Hooley Making a Humanitarian Impact

Ted Hooley has taken on the daunting task of overseeing the construction and operation of a modern, locally staffed health clinic in a remote and rural area of the Central African Republic.

A young boy receives vaccines for measles and yellow fever at the locally staffed health clinic founded by SJU grad Ted Hooley and run by the humanitarian nonprofit Senitizo in a remote and rural area of the Central African Republic.

that has not had access to modern medicine. Getting it open was made more complicated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit in March 2020 just weeks after Hooley had made one of his return trips to the U.S. That prevented him from returning to the Central African Republic for several months.

where he saw a need for a new and smaller-scale approach to humanitarian care.

The Stillwater native and 2010 Saint John’s University graduate is president and CEO of Senitizo, the humanitarian nonprofit he founded in 2017. The clinic marks the first project the organization has undertaken.

In spite of a global pandemic and a period of civil unrest, he and his team managed to build, staff and open it near Bouchia, a village of around 5,000 people located 70 miles southwest of the capital city of Bangui.

“People ask me why I wanted to start off a new entity like this,” said Hooley, who majored in economics and Hispanic studies at SJU. “It’s really about finding a job that gives you more energy than you put into it.

“What I really like is being out in the community and seeing the impact firsthand. I can walk around the village and talk to people. That helps recharge my batteries.”

The clinic is located in a region

The clinic employs a full-time staff of seven – a doctor, a pharmacist and nurses, all from the Central African Republic. It began providing care in May 2021 and ramped up to full operations last December.

“We’re learning as we go,” said Hooley, who resides in Bangui but gets down to the clinic twice a month. “We’re finding new ways to engage with people. We really wanted to go first to an area that had been totally untouched and totally neglected.”

Finding His Calling

After graduating from SJU, Hooley completed a series of international internships before going to Georgetown for a master’s in global human development.

He then worked in Liberia, first with an emphasis in health finance, then assisting with the nation’s response to the Ebola crisis through a job with the International Medical Corps. That also brought him to neighboring Sierra Leone and eventually drew his attention toward the Central African Republic,

Senitizo, which translates to “the health of the people” in Sango, the official language of the Central African Republic, has an all-volunteer board based in the U.S. Board members give of their time to make the operation work and Hooley returns twice a year to raise needed funds.

So far, donations all have been private. However, Hooley hopes a recent visit by the former U.S. Ambassador to the Central African Republic, Lucy Tamlyn, might have laid the groundwork for future cooperation from the U.S. government.

Hooley said the clinic is already seeing around 50 people per day, mostly women and children, who come from a radius of around 40 miles in either direction across a region with little access to motorized vehicles.

He hopes to one day open a second clinic in another area of the country. For now, though, the focus is on getting this one established and able to exist on its own.

“One thing that’s really important to us is being able to show people we’re in this for the long haul,” he said. “We want people to know we’re serious about working with them to make the health care system in the country sustainable over the long term.”


‘It Just Feels Good to Give Back’

Jerry Peltier has a simple rule he follows when choosing the causes to which he extends his financial generosity.

“There has to be a reason why you pick a place or type of place,” said the former horticulture instructor and greenhouse owner in Brainerd, “something in your background or theirs that matches up and makes you want to invest there and not someplace else – a connection you feel.”

While he did not attend Saint John’s University, Peltier and his wife Ruth, who died in 2013, formed a connection with the school, the Abbey and the surroundings in Collegeville.

“Saint John’s is a special place,” said Peltier, who turns 87 in October. “I find it very peaceful and Ruth did too. We always looked forward to coming here.”

Peltier and his wife, who served as the mayor of Nisswa, Minnesota for several years in the 1990s, first began coming to SJU in the late 1970s – originally providing plants from their greenhouse.

“We were members of a parish in Nisswa and Fr. Paul Schweitz (the founder of the Saint John’s Arboretum) would come up there in the summertime,” recalls Peltier, who now resides in Ames, Iowa. “We then started coming to the Christmas program every year because the Arboretum would hold its annual meeting beforehand. We’d try to get down every year on our anniversary, and Ruth’s ashes are interred there.”

That special connection is why Saint John’s was among the first places in which he and Ruth chose to enter into a charitable gift annuity contract when they began to invest in them in 2004.

Peltier holds 12 charitable annuities in all, benefitting causes like Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago, his own alma mater Iowa State University and several Native American groups. The great thing about charitable gift annuities is that they pay Jerry guaranteed return every year, regardless of how the market performs. The balance will pass to Saint John’s and other causes when he dies.

“The bigger thing is that it just feels good to give back,” Peltier said. “You get back tenfold of what you give through the feeling that you’ve done something good with your money.

“It’s so satisfying to feel that you’ve done something worthwhile.”

For more information on ways to LEAVE YOUR LEGACY through Charitable Gift Annuities, or other similar giving tools, please contact the Planned Giving team at 320-363-2116 or visit 41
CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT P.O. Box 7222 Collegeville, MN 56321 DETNIRP W I T H VEGETABLE BASEDINK S • SCOVWOL This fall, campus is alive and engaged and everyone’s back. So let’s celebrate with Homecoming, Saturday, Oct. 1 , featuring Johnnie football versus Concordia. Lots to do. Lots to explore. Lots to recall. Come see it all! Visit for details. NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. POSTAGE PAID POS

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