INSIDE THIS ISSUE WINTER/SPRING 2021
A special issue in honor of Black History Month
SAINT JOHN’S MAGAZINE
Examining Black History at Saint John’s In honor of Black History Month, SJU takes a comprehensive look at the achievements, milestones and cultural contributions of African American Johnnies:
P. 10 An historical Saint John’s timeline covering the 1920s through 1970s P. 16 SJU/CSB History Professor Ken Jones’s examination of the Black student
EDITOR Dave DeLand firstname.lastname@example.org 320-363-3013
experience in Collegeville half a century ago
P. 30 Profiles highlighting 12 notable Black Saint John’s alums from the past
CONTRIBUTORS Jessie Bazan SOT/Sem ’17 Rob Culligan ’82 Dana Drazenovich Timothy Ghess ’77 Ken Jones Mike Killeen Ryan Klinkner ’04 Andrew McGee ’19 Frank Rajkowski Tom Stock
P. 42 Alums Lift Their Voices to Honor Axel Theimer A 63-year career at Saint John’s University is coming to an end this spring for the beloved SJU/CSB music and choir director, but the legacy and impact of his contributions to his students will resonate in perpetuity.
P. 50 A Faith-Based Quest for Social Justice
His lifelong passion for helping the poor and underprivileged across the United States and around the globe has led Eric LeCompte ’99 to the helm of Jubilee USA, where his advocacy with world economic leaders is making a profound impact.
Departments My Perspective View from Collegeville In Sight Service to the Church Transforming Lives Johnnie Sports Alumni Achievement Awards Class Notes Inspiring Lives
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.
2 3 28 48 54 58 59 62 68
Libby Auger Michael Becker ’01 Denise Gagner Brace Hemmelgarn ’12 Thomas O’Laughlin ’13 Cory Ryan SJU photo archives Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images News
UNIVERSITY ARCHIVIST Peggy Landwehr Roske CSB ’77
EDITOR EMERITUS † Lee A. Hanley ’58
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SJU’s Black History Underscores Importance of Listening, Understanding By Dr. Eugene McAllister, Interim President
us in the manner with which we are most comfortable. This is an exercise in power that hurts and deprives all, including – and perhaps especially – the powerful. We miss so much in life, so much of the beauty of the world when we only engage with the familiar through the familiar. Sometimes it is hard to listen, especially if you have the power not to listen. The Benedictine values of listening and offering hospitality are linked (as are so many of the Benedictine values). Listening is the practice; offering hospitality is the motive. Why should we make the effort to listen to someone who is less educated, or from a different ethnic or religious background, or who sees the world very differently? Saint Benedict offers the reason: “Let all … be received as Christ.”
In his thoughtful article – Wrestling with History: The Black Student Experiece 50 Years Ago– Professor Ken Jones invites us to reflect on the significance and meaning of the Black students’ occupation of the Saint John’s University President’s office in 1970. At the risk of appearing Pollyannish or being a home-teamer, I suggest two Benedictine values that offer great insight into our own history, and indeed the current state of the nation. These particular values are to listen and to offer hospitality. As a college president of nearly 15 years, the conversation leading up to the occupation of the President’s office is just too familiar. Not because I have been involved in similar discussions, but because the terms of the conversation, in particular the key feature of the “Proposition” – a request for $10,000 to “promote the culture and unity among peoples of African descent” – are very familiar. The Black students were seeking to be known, to be understood, to have the dominant culture at Saint
John’s acknowledge their dignity and the integrity of their experiences. Somehow, somewhere along the way, this moral demand was turned into a demand for funding. Perhaps this was prompted by college administrators saying “tell us what you want!” Perhaps it was the expected thing, the normal thing to do. Knowing how colleges think about things, I suspect the administrators were a little bit relieved by the “Proposition” – not by the amount, but because the content of the conversation was familiar, digestible, a negotiation about amounts. The administrators had an easier answer to a deeply perplexing challenge. And the answer was: We can’t afford that. An opportunity was lost. The lesson is a universal one, and it applies to institutions and people. Too often, we expect the person with a request to ask in a particular way, a way we most easily understand. We will listen but first they must speak to
When we first hear that quote from Saint Benedict, we might visualize a medieval traveler wearing a hooded cloak using a staff to knock on the door of a monastery. Our world is infinitely more complex, and the idea of hospitality must be ever so elastic. The practice of hospitality begins with questions: What do you need, and how can I help? Hospitality is an invitation to reveal. It depends on trust, grace and generosity. It affirms and makes it all better. National discussions about racial equality have relied on a variety of words and concepts: anti-racism, systematic racism and critical race theory, to name a few. Hospitality and listening should be added to the discussions. Those concepts might not speak to everyone, but they will speak to many. And they offer motive and means, a way forward to our goal of seeing and affirming the dignity of each person.
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Denis McDonough ’92 Adds New Title to His Long Legacy of Public Service In December, it was announced that President Joe Biden had nominated the Saint John’s University alumnus and Stillwater, Minnesota native to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs in his administration. “When I received the call from President-elect Biden, I assured him that I will represent the voices of all veterans at every level, on every issue, every day,” McDonough tweeted following the announcement of his appointment. “Those who have served this nation, their caregivers and survivors should expect nothing less.”
The 1991 SJU squad advanced to the NCAA Division III national playoff semifinals.
It marks a return to the corridors of government for McDonough, who served as White House Chief of Staff for former President Barack Obama from 2013-17 – during which time Biden was Vice President.
McDonough began his association with Obama in 2007 – when the future president was still a U.S. Senator from Illinois – as his Chief Foreign Policy Adviser. When Obama was elected to his first presidential term in 2008, McDonough joined his administration as the National Security Council’s head of Strategic Communication. He also served as National Security Council Chief of Staff.
Prior to his 2013 selection to the highest non-elected position in the White House, McDonough served as Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Chief of Staff to the National Security Council and as head of the National Security Council Strategic Communication division. Before his work in the Obama Administration, he served in leadership and policy positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, as professional staff member on the International Relations Committee and in the U.S. Senate for then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and then-Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. The Stillwater High School graduate, who was raised in a family of 11 children, arrived at SJU in the fall of 1988. He graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in History and Spanish and was a student commencement speaker. He also played safety for legendary football coach John Gagliardi and helped the Johnnies win MIAC championships in 1989 and 1991. He had 12 career interceptions and recorded 171 tackles and 25 passes defended in 38 career games played.
He completed his graduate work at Georgetown University, and he was a 2012 recipient of an Alumni Achievement Award from SJU.
On Oct. 20, 2010, Obama announced McDonough would become Deputy National Security Adviser. It was in this position that he was part of one of the most iconic photos of the Obama Administration — when Obama’s security team watched from the White House Situation Room on May 2, 2011, as U.S. Navy SEALs conducted an operation to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. When Obama was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2013 for his second term, he appointed McDonough as Chief of Staff – a position McDonough held until Jan. 20, 2017. After his service in the Obama Administration, McDonough returned to the SJU campus for his first public appearance since leaving the White House in March 2017, as commencement speaker in May 2018 and to present the 12th annual Eugene J. McCarthy lecture in October of that year. He was named to the NCAA’s Board of Governors the following year.
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CSB/SJU Launching Graduate-Level Nursing Programs The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University began accepting applications in November for a new graduate program in Nursing, with the first cohort of students beginning the program in fall 2021. “This is a program that has been under consideration for a number of years,” said Professor Carrie Hoover who, along with Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Peterson, is co-chairing the new CSB/SJU graduate Nursing program. “In 2019 we worked with the Hanover Group to conduct a thorough feasibility study. We concluded that there is a solid market for a program like this. Our alums have been asking for this for a number of years.” All three of the graduate tracks will be offered in a hybrid format. The Doctor of Nursing Practice programs can be completed in three years when attending full-time.
Program options • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) – Family Nurse Practitioner track • Doctor of Nursing Practice – Leadership track • Master of Science in Nursing Education Program highlights • Guaranteed clinical placements • Electives for specialty practice areas • Eligibility to become certified as a Nurse Educator and/or Nurse Executive • One-to-one mentorship for DNP project • Graduate assistant teaching scholarships available (limited quantity) • Discounted tuition available for CentraCare and VA employees • Part-time options may be available You can learn more about these new programs at csbsju.edu/graduate-nursing-programs
New Global Health Minor Starts in Fall 2022 “The momentum for (a) Global Health minor has been apparent in recent years, as students have expressed growing interest in exploring global health challenges,” said Ellen Block, associate professor of sociology at Saint John’s/Saint Ben’s. “Even before COVID-19, global health has been on our students’ radar – from Ebola to the Zika virus to health disparities in our own communities, these are issues that impact everyone and that students care deeply about.”
The new minor will likely begin in fall semester 2022, but classes are being offered for the 20-22 credit minor in spring semester 2021.
Now, thanks to a $143,563 grant from the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program through the U.S. Department of Education, SJU and CSB will soon be offering an interdisciplinary minor in Global Health that takes a liberal arts approach to the study of health within a global context.
The courses and training provided by the minor will help students analyze some of the most pressing problems that shape our world, preparing students for exciting careers in health care, public policy, international service and more. This timely program particularly complements majors in the sciences.
“The Global Health minor, which builds on significant expertise among faculty across disciplines at SJU and CSB, will finally be able to give students some academic foundation in this important area of interest,” said Block, who will serve as the grant’s director.
Community Engagement Days Offer Content, Connections One of the quirks of this school year’s block schedule is that there is a Friday left open at the end of each block in order for faculty to wrap up grading and prepare for the next block. Of course, the safest course of action is for all students to spend those Fridays on campus, safely within their usual bubbles. To make staying on campus as attractive as possible, the Student Activities office developed Community Engagement Days. Each of these Fridays is packed with outdoor activities, panel discussions, programs, presentations and performances. The highlight of each is a signature event featuring prominent speakers on timely topics. It’s a dedicated space for the important learning that happens beyond the classroom at Saint John’s and Saint Benedict. Spring semester event dates were set for Feb. 19 and March 19. You can find links to recordings of the fall’s three signature events at csbsju.edu/community-engagement-days
Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Sept. 25)
Ibram X. Kendi (Oct. 23)
Eboo Patel (Nov. 20)
Jamieson delivered the 14th annual Eugene J. McCarthy Lecture. She is the Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania and director of the university’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. (She’s also an alumna of Saint Benedict’s High School) Jamieson delivered her lecture on Russian Hackers, Trolls and #DemocracyRIP.
Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers: How to Be an Antiracist, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (co-authored with Jason Reynolds), and Antiracist Baby as well as Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
Patel is the founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, a non-profit organization that is working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm in America. He is the author of four books and dozens of articles, has spoken on more than 150 campuses and served on President Barack Obama’s inaugural Faith Council. In November he spoke on building communities where sources of difference become sources of strength – where shared humanity and communal aspirations compel dialogue, not division.
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Update on Enhanced Collaboration In 2020, the Joint Strategic Visioning Committee of the Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s Boards of Trustees announced a commitment to a single leader and a common board for the two colleges. Work toward that goal continues. Since 2018, the two boards have been working toward stronger integration of governance and leadership structures to simplify processes and decision making across the two institutions. The move to a single president and a common board is a complex undertaking with far-reaching implications. Our accrediting body, the Higher Learning Commission, considers the move to a common board and a single president a “change of control,” which triggers a review of a number of legal and regulatory matters. “We are confident that we will find the legal and regulatory way forward, and all parties are committed to the end goal, but we need a little more time and work,” said Board Chairs Dan McKeown (SJU) and Barb Brandes (CSB) in a joint statement. For this 2020-21 academic year, Interim Presidents Eugene McAllister (SJU) and Laurie Hamen (CSB) have common aligned goals, according to McKeown and Brandes. A priority is implementing key actions toward stronger integration of Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s, including consolidation of essential functions at SJU and CSB and holding Leadership Team meetings jointly.
Fr. Don Reflects on 95th Birthday Fr. Don Talafous ’48 never imagined turning 95. He certainly never imagined doing so in times like these. But the Saint John’s University Alumni Chaplain Emeritus, whose popular Daily Reflections (saintjohnsabbey.org/reflection/) continue to offer hope and encouragement to readers across the globe, said it is the connection he feels to the SJU/CSB community that keeps him young at heart – even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to make in-person visits difficult. “I never really imagined coming to this age,” said Talafous, who was born in Duluth Jan. 4, 1926. “And especially when still quarantined after over 10 months. “But all this can be not simply tolerable but stimulating and even pleasant because of contact with so many of you alumni/alumnae. You are considerably younger than 95 and intent on living, full of life, despite the horrors of COVID-19.”
“I owe you so much and am so happy for your friendship. God be with us all.” Even in these socially distanced times, SJU Executive Director of University Relations Adam Herbst ’99 said Fr. Don remains as important as ever to so many people – across generations, vocations and locations. “Fr. Don’s connection with alumni and friends has been unparalleled in the history of Saint John’s,” Herbst said. “I am amazed by his ability to stay in touch with so many, and by how he continues to inspire people through his Daily Reflections. “He is selfless in the way he cares for others, especially people facing difficulties in life. I am so fortunate to be one of many who consider him a friend and mentor.”
Benedictine Volunteer Corps Selects Cohort for 2021-22
Mystery Writer’s 1968 Note Uncovered
These are indeed challenging times. But that only serves to underscore how truly vital the mission of the Benedictine Volunteer Corps really is.
A renovation project last summer at the Peter Engel Science Center on the Saint John’s University campus unlocked a voice from the past – and members of the SJU/CSB biology department would like know to whom it belonged to.
And it’s certainly one of the reasons why Tyler Johnson ’21, Simeon Farquharson ’21 and the 18 other members of the BVC’s 2021-22 cohort were so eager to sign on for the challenge. “To see things where they are right now, especially with all the pain and suffering the (ongoing COVID-19 global) pandemic has brought on, really made me feel like it was more important than ever to volunteer and get involved,” said Johnson, a senior Mathematics Major who maintains a GPA of 3.97.
“The third floor of the building underwent renovations, and as I was moving back in, one of the electricians was finishing some work,” said Stephen Saupe, Professor and Herbarium Curator at SJU/CSB.
“The pandemic did play a role in my decision to do this,” added Farquharson, a senior Accounting major who, as a sophomore, received SJU’s Man of Extraordinary Service Award. “It makes it more challenging in some ways. But, at the same time, it makes what we’re going to be doing even more important too.” The BVC is a service opportunity offered to recent graduates of SJU. Since its founding in 2003, the BVC has sent over 250 volunteers to Benedictine monasteries around the world. Here is a list of this year’s volunteers and where they will be posted: • Sam Black (Cuernavaca, Mexico) • Simeon Farquharson (Esquipulas, Guatemala) • Ryan Gallagher (Montserrat, Spain) • Thomas Gillach (Tororo, Uganda) • Mitch Hansen (Montserrat, Spain) • Blake Hoeschen (Esquipulas, Guatemala) • Tyler Johnson (Newark, New Jersey) • Johnny Krawczyk (Newark, New Jersey) • Max LaBine (Bogota, Columbia) • Logan Lintvedt (Tororo, Uganda) • Will Matuska (Hanga, Tanzania) • Rob McManus (Newark, New Jersey) • Patrick Mullon (Imiliwaha, Tanzania) • Austin O’Keefe (Rome, Italy) • Joe Pieschel (India and Sri Lanka) • Michael Pineda (Bogota, Columbia) • Jack Scheck (Tabgha, Israel) • Gregory Stubbs (Newark, New Jersey) • Colin Yokanovic (Tabgha, Israel) • Joseph Smith Zavier (Tabgha, Israel)
“Some of the ceiling panels were still removed and he had his head up there. I asked him if he found anything interesting. He said no, but they had found something tucked behind the outlet in the office next to mine.” That something was a note written by a student studying for finals in December 1968 and left behind for posterity. “This is a note written on December 12, 1968 A.D. by a student working on the entomological work in this room which is labelled as ‘radio isotope,’ ” the note reads. “The occasion for writing is a time of frustration right before the final examination. Merry X’mas and Happy New Year for the discoverer of this note.” If you were the writer, or you know who was, drop Saupe an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give him a call at (320) 363-2782.
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McNeely Center Names Entrepreneurs of the Year The Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship is an interdisciplinary center focused on “inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit” throughout the campus community through curricular, extracurricular and community events for students of all majors and class years. Since 2011, the McNeely Center has presented Johnnie and Bennie alums with its Entrepreneur of the Year awards. The 2020 awards were presented in November (albeit without the traditional ceremony and celebration).
SJU Entrepreneur of the Year: Dennis Carlson ’86 Chairman and CEO WeDriveU
CSB Entrepreneur of the Year: Jennifer Dugan Roth ’91 CEO and Co-founder GrowthMode Marketing
CSB/SJU Social Entrepreneur of the Year: Angela Untiedt Jerabek ’90 Founder and Executive Director BARR Center®
Since founding the company in 1988, Carlson has led WeDriveU’s growth as the leader in shuttle transportation solutions. His vision for transforming transportation has been featured by the Financial Times, Fox Business News, The New York Times and The Mercury News. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired the company’s early growth as the leader in professional chauffeurs who drive executives in the executives’ personal cars, and he continues to advance WeDriveU’s vision to address clients’ evolving mobility challenges with workplace and campus commuting solutions for companies, universities and hospitals.
During her 20-plus year career, Roth has cultivated a passion for and expertise in B2B marketing that she channels into meaningful marketing strategies that help her clients achieve real growth. GrowthMode has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as a fastest growing company in 2020 – ranked in the top 25 percent. GrowthMode has also been recognized by Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal as a 2020 Twin Cities Largest Agency, as a 2020 Best Web Developer in St. Paul and is a WBENC-certified enterprise.
Jerabek began her career in education as a licensed K-12 teacher and a secondary school counselor in Minneapolis. She used her passion to help students succeed by becoming the founder of BARR Center, which is a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that builds strong school communities. BARR Center supports student success by improving school culture, school climate and educator effectiveness, and has served more than 100,000 students in more than 180 schools. As the Executive Director and founder of BARR Center, Jerabek provides thought leadership and operational oversight of the organization and the national network of BARR educators.
Putnam Elected to Minnesota Senate Aric Putnam isn’t interested in being labeled as a politician. “I want to make the world a little better, and politics is how I’m doing that right now,” he said. Now, Putnam has a forum to do just that. In November, the Communication Professor at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict defeated incumbent State Sen. Jerry Relph to represent District 14 in the Minnesota State Legislature for four years. Putnam’s first day in the Senate chamber was Jan. 5, when the 92nd session of the Minnesota Legislature was convened. Deciding to run for office was much like becoming a professor, said Putnam, who is on sabbatical spring semester. “It’s a space where I think I can do good, and I will keep doing it as long as I feel that way,” he said. “Then I’ll do something else. “As George Washington said in his farewell address, politics isn’t a career. I think the job is to do good, inspire others to want to do good, and then get out of the way and support them when they do it,” Putnam said. Putnam has been assigned to two high-profile committees – Higher Education Finance and Policy and Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy – in addition to the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee. Putnam represents a district that encompasses parts of three counties – Stearns, Benton and Sherburne. It includes both the city of St. Cloud and rural, largely farming areas in Benton and Sherburne counties. He’ll see one familiar face at the State Capitol in St. Paul: Rep. Dan Wolgamott, who won re-election in House District 14B in November and is a 2013 graduate of SJU, was named an assistant majority leader in the Minnesota House. He was elected to the position by his DFL peers in mid-December.
Study Abroad Numbers Remain Strong at SJU/CSB Study abroad continues to be a signature program for students at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict. SJU and CSB are ranked among the top 10 baccalaureate schools nationally for both mid-length study abroad and the total number of students who studied abroad, according to Open Doors 2020, the annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The 2020 report, which was released Nov. 16, found: • SJU and CSB are ranked No. 6 among baccalaureate schools with 320 students who studied abroad in mid-length study abroad programs during 2018-19, according to the most recent data measured by the IIE. The IIE defines mid-length study abroad programs as lasting one semester or one or two quarters. • SJU and CSB are ranked No. 9 among baccalaureate schools with 494 students who studied abroad during the 2018-19 school year. That was an increase of 51 students from the 2017-18 report. The 2020 Open Doors report found that 347,099 Americans studied abroad for academic credit from their colleges and universities in 2018-19. That represented an increase of 1.6 percent over 2017-18. The leading destinations for U.S. students were (in order) the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.
A Look Back
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Black History at Saint John’s University
Black History Month is an annual celebration of the culture and achievements of African Americans in the United States. Celebrated each year since 1976 during the month of February, it is a way of appropriately honoring and remembering important people and events and an opportunity to recognize their central role in this country’s history. As we observe Black History Month, there could be no better time to explore this history at Saint John’s University. What is the Black and African American history of Saint John’s? Who were the first Black students to arrive in Collegeville? What are some of the seminal events and activities that have occurred over the decades?
the late Fr. Vincent Tegeder, OSB, a Saint John’s monk, History Professor and archivist. • Next, we take an in-depth look at an historic event in SJU history – the takeover of the Saint John’s President’s Office by Black students in November 1970. Distinguished SJU/CSB History Professor Ken Jones provides a detailed look at the event: what happened, why it happened, what we learned from it then and what we can learn from it now. This is an unvarnished look at a troubling chapter in Saint John’s history. We caution readers that this isn’t an easy read. It’s a gut punch, and this was not Saint John’s finest moment. But it’s a part of our history that we must own and grapple with, particularly if we are to move beyond division and avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
Who were the people that faced problems, promoted progress and pursued educational justice? What is the lived experience of SJU’s Black and African American students? In this issue, we recount this history in three ways: • First, a timeline of some of the pioneering Black students at Saint John’s from the 1920s through the 1970s. Their experiences chronicle the earliest phases of integration and assimilation in Collegeville. Much of this history is drawn from research done in 1973 by Timothy Ghess ’77 for his research paper History of the Black Student at Saint John’s. At the time, Ghess was a student of
• Finally, we are pleased to profile 12 African American Johnnie alumni from the past three decades. These vignettes highlight their Saint John’s experiences and celebrate their extraordinary personal and professional accomplishments. They are exceptional Johnnies, and their personal narratives make us proud.
Image from a 1969 Saint John’s Magazine feature titled Understanding Black Protest
Excerpts from A History of the Black Student At Saint John’s by Timothy W. Ghess ’77 “There was a time when a Black man was more or less denied a higher – or for that fact, lower – form of education.” “Literally decades have to be passed before any evidence can be found of a Black student on this campus.” “Saint John’s University is obviously a Catholic institution, and the Catholic institutions were (among) the first of the white colleges to open their doors to the Black man for an education in this country.”
Negro sharecroppers in the South. He related the position of the sharecropper and explained their deplorable situation. He compared the present situation of the Negro sharecropper as perhaps being worse than that of the Negro slave before emancipation.” Left: Etienne Dupuch; Right: Walter Jones
1920s–1930s 1927 The first two Black students at Saint John’s were Etienne Dupuch from The Bahamas and Walter Jones from Washington, D.C. Dupuch, who left in 1928, and Jones, who left in 1929, are pictured together in the 1928 Sagatagan as members of the Alexian Literary Society. “I came across instances of blackface being used in play productions, in the 1930 Sagatagan. One there is particularly egregious, saying ‘As Sam, the colored servant, Dolor Lauer softened his accent and shambled about the stage in a manner that won favor with the audience.’ ” – Ghess. 1933 Eugene Dupuch ’34, Etienne’s brother, leaves a lasting SJU legacy by writing the Johnnie Fight Song. He composed it in his dorm room and broke it out at the Johnnies’ Homecoming football game.
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“To Eugene Dupuch has been awarded the prize of a ten-dollar bill for the best ‘Johnnie Fight Song’ … and at its premiere on the Homecoming Day of October 14 it was played by the Saint John’s Student Band. It was hailed with great applause.” – The Record, Oct. 19, 1933
1937 Famed Black opera singer Marian Anderson performs in nearby St. Cloud. According to The Record, she was made to come in the back doors of the auditorium and stay in second-rate hotels. 1939 Allan Augustine Archibald ’42 (New York City) and Herbert Vincent McKnight ’42 (Washington, D.C.) arrive on campus.
Dupuch was editor of The “Archibald and McKnight were Record in 1934. He went on the first Blacks to graduate out Allan Augustine to a distinguished career in Archibald of Saint John’s. It’s quite obvious The Bahamas as a lawyer that Saint John’s did them a (the Dupuch Law School is world of good in the academic named after him), as Associate Editor field. Both of them were active in the of the Nassau Tribune, as a statesman, school organizations and sports programs.” musician and advocate for equal rights – Ghess and improved racial relations. Archibald went on to a career as a 1937 Black artist Robert social welfare attorney in the Bronx, Belton performs at Saint New York, while McKnight became a John’s, singing spirituals and medical doctor and college professor in speaking on the “social and Washington, D.C. economic status of his race.” According to an article in The Record:
“Mr. Belton spoke for a few minutes on the problems of the
“The decades of the ’40s and ’50s … were the nativity years for the Black student
SOT ’53 arrives. He later took the name Fr. Bernadine Patterson. 1945 William Brooks ’49 arrives. He graduates with an English degree, then goes on to earn a law degree and becomes a major in the U.S. Air Force.
Herbert Vincent McKnight
at Saint John’s. It was also the hardest of times for a Black man in this country.”
Dave’ by his comrades at school, so it’s obvious he was well received.” – Ghess
“Altogether there were 24 Blacks (at Saint John’s during the 1940s). Out of those 24, 17 graduated, 7 were Bahamian, the rest American, and 6 are now in the religious order.”
1941 Edward (Fr. Prosper) Meyer becomes the first Black Benedictine in the Saint John’s Monastery. He is followed by Fr. Harvey Shepherd. Fr. Prosper was transferred to The Bahamas in 1947, and Fr. Harvey was transferred to Kentucky in 1949. 1941 Philip Woodby ’45 arrives from Philadelphia. “In a tribute to him under his graduation picture it states: ‘To find a student at Saint John’s with more consistently high marks would indeed be difficult … as a feature writer for The Record he was known for his ornate style. He is preparing to join the Benedictine order.’ ” – Ghess
Fr. Bartholomew Sayles, OSB
“Evidently, it wasn’t right for every Black student because a lot of Blacks up here during that period only stayed a year or two and left … the majority of the Black students that were on campus were studying for the priesthood.” – Ghess 1940 David Rodgers ’46 (SJP ’42) arrives at Saint John’s Prep from Chicago and goes on to graduate from Saint John’s University. “David Rodgers graduated in 1946 as a Chemistry major. He was called ‘Popular
1942 Charles R. Thompson ’48 arrives, leaves, then returns in 1947 and graduates in 1948. 1943 Fr. Bartholomew Sayles SOT ’46, OSB arrives to the novitiate after graduating from Xavier University in New Orleans. He becomes Saint John’s first Black faculty member, teaching music starting in 1947. His 2006 obituary states he took pride “in being the third African American to be accepted into the Saint John’s community when few other Catholic seminaries would accept Black students.” 1945 Jonathan Patterson ’49,
1945 Richard Francis ’49 arrives from New York. He graduates with a Chemistry degree and becomes a biochemist back in New York. “A definite trend can be seen developing at Saint John’s in the 1950s: Black Bahamian dominance in population over American Blacks. Out of 13 Blacks on campus in this decade 8 were from the Bahamas.” – Ghess 1946 Fr. Aidan McCall ’50, SOT ’54, OSB arrives at Saint John’s. He takes his final vows as a Benedictine monk in 1948 and goes on to become Saint John’s second Black faculty member, teaching in the classics department starting in 1957. He also served as SJU’s Dean of Students from 1968-73. (His title was changed to Vice President of Student Affairs in 1971.) 1950 Joseph Adderley ’53, Charles Coakley ’53, SOT ’47, Adison Byrd and Russell Bartee are all freshmen at the start of a new decade. Adderley graduated in 1953 and became an administration staffer for a hospital in St. Paul. Coakley graduated the same year and became a priest in The Bahamas. Byrd and Bartee did not graduate. Also here were Leviticus ‘Lou’ Adderley, who graduated in ’55, Richard Juba ’52, Andrew Curry ’57, SOT ’60, Timothy McCartney ’57, William Ware ’58 and Cyril Paul ’59. 1950 “Maurice Britts graduated in ’50 and became an English professor at the University of Minnesota and a renowned author. He wrote a very interesting book coincidentally titled Blacks on White College Campuses.” – Ghess
1967 Norwood Banks ’71 becomes the first African American elected to the Saint John’s Student Council. 1968 Black SJU students establish an official campus club – the Organization of Afro-American Students (OAAS).
(Left to right) OAAS members Ron Morris, Rich Moore and Lewis Nixon
1960s “Whereas the Saint John’s campus was a tolerable place for those Black students of the ’40s and ’50s, the new Black student looked about him and saw definite disadvantages of his rights and obvious injustices.” “In the decade of the 1960s there were exactly 50 Black students on the Saint John’s campus. Of that 50, 21 were from The Bahamas, 10 from Illinois, 5 from Missouri, 3 from Africa, 2 from Washington D.C., 1 from Pennsylvania and 1 from Texas.” “What would make a Black man come all the way up to the boondocks where the Black race is in a definite minority, and in a time when the Black man was trying to rediscover his heritage? He would have to abandon his social as well as cultural life.” – Ghess 1961 Wendell Edgecombe ’61, SOT ’65 earns his undergraduate degree. 1961 Preston Moss ’61, SOT ’65 earns his undergraduate degree. He goes on to become a priest in The Bahamas. 1962 Sylvestor Guillory ’62 graduates. 1963 Mathew Ahmann ’52, founding director of the National Catholic Council for Interracial Justice, becomes an unsung hero of the Civil Rights Movement.
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1965 Fr. Godfrey Diekmann, OSB travels to Selma, Alabama and marches to Montgomery in protest of the denial of Black voting rights. “We have marched for a specific reason: We marched to procure Negro voting rights. Since the march drew national attention to the fact that Negroes are being denied their rights, we felt that the march served a very useful purpose.” – Fr. Godfrey Diekmann
1968 A “Black Weekend” is held to promote solidarity among the Black students at Saint John’s and other Black college students in Minnesota. It becomes an annual event. 1969 The first Black-related course becomes part of the curriculum at Saint John’s – Afro-American History, taught by a visiting professor from Trinidad. He becomes the third Black faculty member at Saint John’s University, following Sayles and McCall. 1969 The OAAS asks for physical space for a Black Cultural Center. Having a center would create a Black experience on campus.
but it is a tragic thing that it took such measures as take-overs and riots before the white man would stand up and recognize the Black man as equal.” – Ghess 1971 The Organization of AfroAmerican Students (OAAS) changes its name to the Black Student Union (BSU). This was done so that every member of the Black race could be a member. Dr. Norman James
“The Black Student Union was truly at its zenith in the early ’70s with 75 members. It was then that they began to chart
the first to seek her party’s nomination for President (1972). 1973 Gospel singers Marion Williams and Arthur Thompson (of the famed Dixie Hummingbirds gospel group) perform on campus. 1973 Intercultural Week on campus includes African art and speaker Joanna Featherstone. 1973 Comedian, writer and social activist Dick Gregory speaks on campus and returns in 1977 for another speaking engagement. Other Black
1970 A rally for political activist, academic and author Angela Davis is held in front of the Saint John’s Abbey Church. “Homer Brown was the President of OAAS at that time and he reported that while about 25 Black students were there, at no time were there ever more than 7 white students. That was a clear example of the apathy that existed. “As one Black student so aptly put it, they wanted to ‘promote Blackness not as a color but as an idea, an uplifting force. I think we’ve done enough to try and understand the white point of view these past 200 years. I think it’s their turn now.’ ” – Ghess 1970 Politician, diplomat and activist Andrew Young delivers the Saint John’s Commencement address. He is the first person of color to do so in Saint John’s history. 1970 “Approximately 20 Black students occupied the President’s Office on Nov. 18. The event took only a couple of hours and no violence occurred. This move proved to be the most important event that ever presented itself to a Black man on this campus. Our time as Black people is limited since we are fighting for our survival.” “Obviously, the event did open some eyes,
specific courses, the first being to assist the University in the hiring of Black faculty members.” – Ghess 1973 Dr. Norman James becomes the first Black lay person to teach at Saint John’s. He serves as an Asssistant Professor of Psychology and consultant to the SJU president for minority affairs. James taught a Blackrelated course and was also appointed moderator of the Black Student Union. “I think it is necessary for Black kids to learn some kind of self-identity that does not include input from white people. There are times when you only want to be with certain groups of people.” – Dr. Norman James 1973 Rep. Shirley Chisholm speaks on campus. She was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress (1968) and
campus speakers that year include Oliver LaGrone, Undine Moore and Dr. Margaret Burroughs. 1973 The Paul Taylor Dance Company from New York does a twoweek residency and performance at Saint John’s. 1974 Angela Davis speaks at the Auditorium at Saint John’s. She makes another visit to Saint John’s in 2000. 1978 Georgia Senator and civil rights activist Julian Bond speaks on campus. Thirty years later, he returns to Saint John’s in 2008 to deliver the McCarthy Lecture.
80s 90s 00s 10s
A future issue of Saint John’s Magazine will present the remainder of SJU’s Black History timeline.
2020 marked the 50th anniversary the occupation of the President’s Office at Saint John’s University by a group of Black students. Prior to the occupation, the Organization of African American Students (OAAS) had created a manifesto “A Proposition Concerning Black Survival.” To emphasize the urgency, the authors directed their missive to the Presidents rather than “channels” because “our time, as Black people, is limited since we are fighting for our survival.” When the Administration did not meet the demands in the Proposition by the deadline of Nov. 16, approximately 20 Black students occupied Fr. Colman Barry’s office. Fr. Colman was out of town and the University had already planned its response: Sensitive files had been removed and lawyers alerted to the possible need for a county court injunction ordering the students to leave. The injunction was delivered at SJU by sheriff’s deputies, who gave the students 30 minutes to leave the office or face arrest on contempt of court charges. Some of the students decided to leave, but nine remained. They were arrested, charged and jailed overnight.
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Many historical events like this one are presented to us as though they “just happened.” We record the date and move on, as though the occurrence was bound to occur that moment, and the causes are obvious and fully understood. That perspective obscures reality by smoothing over the myriad decisions made by multiple actors with complicated motives. It also misses a lot of the joy of history. I love the complexity or messiness of the story, and trying to figure out the puzzle. I believe that history is more engaging, and more relevant to our lives, if instead of inevitability and simple answers, we think about events as being contingent and the causes complicated and intertwined. My goal in this essay, then, is to invite you into an examination of why President Colman’s office was occupied on that day in November 1970. Your task is to sort through the evidence, weigh the various pieces and decide what matters most.
A PERIOD OF UNREST If a standard U.S. history textbook were to mention the occupation, it would be glossed over with a line or two about the late 1960s and early 1970s being a period of student unrest, typically focused on opposition to the war in Vietnam. That is certainly true, but it misses the sense that small groups of students made decisions
that determined where, when, how and if they would create a visible manifestation of their concerns. Let me remind you of a few things shaping the atmosphere at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict during the later 1960s. In July 1968, the Boards of the two schools voted to “declare the desirability of a merger to take place within the next 30 months,” a decision that suggested that the immutable division into single-sex institutions was not sacrosanct.
It was, in short, a time of turmoil when students, including white students from the upper Midwest, were no longer coloring within the lines. Student dissatisfaction with the relevance of their education led to a “Time-Out Day” in February 1969 where classes were replaced by discussions about how to make education more meaningful. Imagine that – students challenging the idea that faculty alone determined what and how students should learn. In April, a Firehouse Theater
with History The Black Student Experience at SJU 50 Years Ago
presentation at Saint John’s that included very brief nudity ended up pitting the authority of student organizations against the will of the Abbey. The former prevailed. The sense that students were in charge of the asylum continued in May when the Presidents accepted the concept of the Community Education Project, which was to be co-educational. Not only would male and female students
be sharing some off-campus facilities, but their intellectual questions would shape much of the curriculum. The old order was definitely crumbling. The war in Vietnam did radicalize students at SJU/CSB, but the most significant events on these campuses didn’t occur until the 1969-70 academic year. In October, many boycotted classes as part of a national moratorium against the war. The
By Dr. Ken Jones
following spring, SJU and CSB students joined a march in St. Cloud to protest the Cambodian incursion, with several Johnnies arrested for occupying the Federal building. Finally, the 1970 ROTC Spring Review at SJU had to be cancelled due to fear of protests. It was, in short, a time of turmoil when students, including white students from the upper Midwest, were no longer coloring within the lines.
DEMANDING CHANGE Even before his death in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King’s approach to Civil Rights was losing traction. King recognized that power rested with the dominant society, so he attempted to appeal to the conscience of whites by showing them that the nation was not living up to the “all men are created equal” ideal. While this was a realistic approach for a group that constituted approximately 12 percent of the population, it had the downside of implicitly acknowledging that Blacks were supplicants. Increasingly, especially for younger Blacks, King’s tactics were seen as too deferential, and the results he achieved were more cosmetic than real. In addition, large urban riots in the mid-to-late 1960s undermined King’s leadership by showing that many Blacks publicly rejected his core tenet of non-violence while simultaneously alienating an increasing percentage of whites. As the 1960s wore on, more Blacks – especially younger ones – turned to the Black Power movement that at least rhetorically insisted that oppressed people had to create change rather than asking for those in power to grant it. In the universe of higher education, this frequently led to student occupation of campus buildings to illustrate their demand for change.
it was a popular target because of its symbolic value.
to open up previously closed doors of access and opportunity.”
A RISING TIDE
In The Black Campus Movement, Ibram H. Rogers (now Kendi) asserts that between 1968 and 1972 there were more than 300 institutions where Black students occupied spaces or otherwise broke the law to demand change. These ranged from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) like Howard, Ivy League schools like Cornell, state universities like Minnesota and San Francisco State, and small midwestern colleges like Augustana in Illinois. Not everyone occupied the president’s office, but
The baby boom meant rising numbers of 18-year-olds through the mid-1970s, and the percentage of Black college graduates grew significantly. Some of the new Black college students went to HBCU’s, but the movement of large numbers of Blacks out of the Jim Crow system of the South also greatly increased their access to local public institutions in the North and West. Of course, private colleges could also woo them once the loan and grant provisions of the Higher Education Act of 1965 “provided the financial keys
Black students who came to Central Minnesota found it a daunting experience. There was some overt racism, such as the use of “boy” and “coon.” A white reporter for The Record who interviewed a number of Blacks in 1968 about the campus climate concluded that “overt manifestations of prejudice are at a minimum on campus (but) the thing that digs at many of the Blacks are the innuendos and subtleties” suggesting that they are “inadequate in various ways.”
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Beyond the racial microaggressions, the first Black students simply felt uprooted and tossed into a strange land. One of the most cringeworthy stories comes from Ron Morris ’70, a Black pioneer who enrolled in 1966. Shortly after he arrived in Collegeville, Morris met a white Johnnie who kept trying to look at him from behind. When Morris asked what was going on, the white student said, “I thought you were supposed to have a tail.” Ignorance and overt racism certainly were present, but there was also a chilly climate simply because of the fear of engaging with the “other.” Interviewees point to examples of strong interracial friendships, but in general, people found it easier to hang out with their own group within the white, Bahamian or American Black communities on campus. As a result, people were less likely to work past the initial awkwardness. At the same time, however, when administrators asked if all Blacks wanted to live on the same floor in a dorm, the answer was that “it appeared … (they) do not wish to live separately from white students.” Beyond the racial microaggressions, the first Black students simply felt uprooted and tossed into a strange land. Fred Hill, who came from Chicago in 1969, remembers getting more and more uneasy as he and his mother saw nothing but farmland after they left the Twin Cities. Upon arriving at Saint John’s, the Abbey Church seemed intimidating, and when he didn’t see any Black faces, Hill told his mom not
to turn the car off because they were driving right back to Chicago. His mother responded, “We just drove 10 hours. You are going here!” For someone from Chicago, Collegeville was deathly quiet, sterile and alien. Both the food in the Refectory and the music on the campus radio station were unfamiliar. Conversations about “home” were difficult because the white students from mostly rural areas had nothing but stereotypes about life on the Southside of Chicago, while urban Blacks couldn’t imagine anything positive about living on a farm. For
of disapproval are encountered on both campuses.” One solution was road trips to schools with Black populations from the Twin Cities to Morris, but that didn’t fill the need for home. Lewis Nixon ’71 was so lonely that he estimates that he went back to Chicago 11 times during his first year, catching the Greyhound bus in front of the Abbey Church on Thursday evening and returning in time for his Monday classes. Leonard Smith ’74 summed up his view as follows: “You mellow out as you get older. I don’t hate Saint John’s, but it was a rough experience.”
CREATING A PLACE
someone used to Chicago, the fact that a movie was shown every Saturday night in the campus auditorium didn’t exactly constitute an exciting distraction. And escaping to St. Cloud wasn’t an improvement: Shopping there meant being followed by white clerks who assumed that a young Black man was planning on stealing something. Perhaps the biggest irritant for Black men in the first few years was that they outnumbered the Black women at CSB by more than three to one. Interracial dating occurred but was socially discouraged. Marcus Ahmad ’70 told The Record in 1968 that “white Bennies who go on dates with Black Johnnies are ridiculed by their friends and looks
Despite the microaggressions and sense of isolation in the north woods, most of the Black men who arrived in 1966 and 1967 made an effort to create a place for themselves within the dominant culture. Morris remembers joining whites in an on-campus fraternity, and Nixon took his ROTC obligation to the next level by joining the Pershing Rifles. Morris insisted on integrating the music at parties, telling the organizers that the first hour could be white music, but that he would provide Black sounds for the second hour. Nixon became a DJ on the campus radio station, where he had a regular 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot he called “Soul A-Go-Go.” Thom Woodward ’70, who had more interest in soul music than most whites, once loaned his collection of Stax recordings to Nixon for a dance. By 1967-68, Chicago native Norwood Banks ’71 became the first American Black to be elected to the SJU Student Council.
GETTING ORGANIZED In the fall of 1968, Black students at the two colleges felt comfortable enough to move from “hanging out”
to “getting organized” in the sense of creating an official campus club. To reflect their combination of American Blacks, Bahamians and occasional students from African countries, they initially settled on the name “Organization of Afro-Affiliated Students.” From the beginning the OAAS looked both inward and outward. As Morris remembered, the goal was “more of a social thing – to have something of our own.” The OAAS was open to Black students only because “it is felt that an all-Black organization will be more capable of assisting Black students in overcoming the shock of entering a predominately white community.” At the same time, the OAAS intended to expand their understanding of their heritage and “make the average white student aware of the Black man, his unique problems and culture” by bringing various events to campus. Nixon also convinced Fr. Don LeMay, the SJU Admissions Director, to provide some money so he could go to Chicago and recruit, particularly more Black women.
In other words, they had to abandon their culture for that of their new ‘family.’ In short, the response of Black students at SJU from the fall of 1966 through the spring of 1969 was generally to try to fit in to the majority culture while creating a space for themselves and hoping for more understanding. They didn’t make demands, used the standard student government structure in creating the OAAS and worked with sympathetic white administrators. The situation at SJU and CSB was much like it was at other private colleges that
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had begun to diversify their student bodies. The First Big Question So, what had happened by November 1970 that would help explain a very different outcome? Keep in mind that historians can’t run experiments to test hypotheses, and our evidence is limited to what is available to the writer. As a result, answers are always temporary and generally debatable.
FISH OR CUT BAIT The leaders of the two institutions apparently had not given any thought to the needs of the Black students who began to arrive in the late 1960s. Presidents Fr. Colman Barry of SJU and Dr. Stan Idzerda of CSB were quoted as welcoming them into the Benedictine “family” but that was it. When Fr. Colman talked about Blacks joining the “family” at SJU, he was no doubt thinking about the way the monastery had taken in several American Blacks in the 1930s and 1940s, including Dean of Students
Fr. Aidan McCall, when they weren’t welcome in other Catholic houses. Or, he may have been thinking about the Bahamians and the smaller numbers of American Black students who had attended SJU from the 1920s on. These people were welcome to join the “family,” but they were expected to fit in. In other words, they had to abandon their culture for that of their new “family.” That didn’t work for many of the newcomers in the 1960s. As Fred Hill remembered of Fr. Colman, “That particular president at that time had little if any interest in any accommodation for minority students on campus. It is OK to have a white environment, but you should make some effort at accommodation to make it comfortable for those you invite. Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s did none of that. It was fish or cut bait.” A survey of courses offered when the first American Black students arrived in 1966-67 doesn’t suggest any adjustment in the traditional curriculum. The first course that was explicitly linked
to issues of race was the History department’s “Race and Ethnic Groups in America,” taught in January Term 1968. In the next semester, Sociology offered a course on “Racial and Cultural Minorities.” Black students took the lead in January 1969, offering a course titled “Adventures in Understanding.” Officially sponsored by Fr. Aidan’s office, the course was billed as discussing “various facets of the ‘race question’ with presentations by students, faculty and guest speakers.” In the spring of 1969, the only clearly designated course was History’s “Race in America.” The paucity of offerings, however, did begin to draw a little wider faculty attention by spring 1969. Committees on both campuses discussed the “the lack of offerings in our curriculum in Afro-American culture” and in February 1969, it was suggested that perhaps the English department could pilot a course on Black writers in January 1970. Evidently trying to diversify the faculty beyond Fr. Aidan, the History department hired a priest from Trinidad in the fall of 1969. Over the next two years, he would teach “Afro-American History,” and a January Term class titled “The Black American Search: Stereotype v. Reality.”
Black Advisory Council that quickly concluded they should find a Black counselor to serve as a mentor and sounding board for minority students. They tried to find someone in St. Cloud or Minneapolis who could be on campus a day or two per week, but the search proved very difficult. It would be two years before a hire was made. Would Black students decide that promises and expressions of goodwill were not sufficient?
SEARCHING FOR SPACE While Black students complained about the curriculum and the absence of Black faculty and staff, their most frequently voiced issue was the creation of a Black Cultural Center. The purpose was described as “for the education of whites and the consolidation of Black pride and spirit,” but also to “give us a home-like environment, a place to hang around.” Students in the OAAS evidently started asking for a physical space of their own shortly after the club was created in late 1968, but the push became more insistent in 1969. A key
Fr. Aidan’s response the next day could not have won him many friends in the OAAS. He noted that “we have been discussing possible locations for such a center for some time. In a place such as ours, space is at a premium.” He suggested that there might be some space in the Benet Hall basement, but money to fix and furnish it “would be a very touchy thing.” He did, however, offer to work with the Development office to raise funds, and reminded the students that “most worthwhile projects have begun small.” The discussion continued April 24 at a meeting of the Black Advisory Council where Morris called the Benet site “unacceptable,” and Barney continued to push for Frank House. Fr. Hilary Thimmesh “resurrected his proposal” to remodel the Day Student Lounge. Barney agreed that the lounge would work, but only if it was fully remodeled and if the OAAS received a written statement that this was only a temporary location.
The first recognition that the new members of the “family” might have even broader needs came in February 1969, when a few faculty members called for a discussion of the “academic, personal and social welfare of the Black students at Saint John’s.” They “understand that the administration is exploring this area but feel that any further delay would be inexcusable and devastating regardless of any good intentions held by this institution.” By April, Saint John’s had created a
step came two days after the Cornell University administration ended the occupation of a building there by promising a Black cultural center and Africana Studies major. On April 22, sophomore Jerome Barney and junior Ron Morris wrote to Fr. Aidan, asking for Frank House for a center that “will make a meaningful contribution to the Black and white racial crisis as well as prove a very natural Black perspective. Equally important is that we feel more than justified in asking for said center because we are striving for a complete university experience.” They pointed out that quick action was necessary since housing registration started in six days.
Fr. Aidan McCall
In response to faculty frustration with the vagueness of student demands, Barney agreed to provide drawings and a list of necessary furnishings. Fr. Aidan ended on a placatory note, saying
for use until near the end of the fall semester. And, as predicted, evidently there was some resentment expressed by white students about the creation of a Black space. In mid-December, even before the Center had been officially dedicated, the OAAS felt the need to defend it in a letter in The Record. They explained its importance and challenged white students to join them in “a sincere effort to reduce or eliminate racial friction.” Was the delay and sense of resistance pushing Black students to a more dramatic statement of their existence? Did they feel that they needed to cut through the bureaucratic structure?
GROWING NUMBERS that “Saint John’s does want to do everything within its power to provide for Blacks attending college here an environment congenial to their tastes and needs,” and promised a decision before the end of April. A careful listener would have paid attention to the “within its power” phrase in Fr. Aidan’s response. The Development office sent a message to Fr. Colman April 28 warning that Fr. Aidan and the students had a list of furnishings and equipment that “could easily exceed 5 or 6 thousand dollars.” The message went on to warn that spending this kind of money on a Black center would invite complaints from “other” students. It isn’t clear if Fr. Colman and Fr. Aidan talked, but on the next day the Dean sent a memo to Morris and Barney that could not have been well received. He reminded them that “this is only one” of his many concerns, and that he had told them that any decision would have to come from the Administrative Council and the Board
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because of the “large expenditure” involved. The students must have complained about this at the earlier Black Advisory Council meeting, for Fr. Aidan wrote, “You will recall that when you said you felt that you were speaking to the wrong group that I reminded you of the fact that you had to start with this group.” Fr. Aidan then explained that he would present the proposal for consideration at the next Administrative Council meeting but suggested that the students should scale down the cost of their request, especially since the space would be temporary. The OAAS didn’t get what it wanted in the spring of 1969, but by September the Administrative Council had agreed to remodel the spaces that formally held the student post office and draft counseling center into a Black Cultural Center. No evidence on the Black student response has emerged yet, but excitement might have been tempered by the delay. The space wasn’t ready
The size of the Black population was growing on both campuses. In the early 1960s, Black students constituted no more than 0.5 percent of the student body on either campus, which usually meant a total of four to six students between the two campuses. By 196768, the number had grown to 18 on the two campuses, and then it shot up to 50 Black students by 1969-70. The fall of 1970 set new records in both totals (67) and entering first-year students (27). That year, Blacks constituted 3.1 percent of the student body, while at CSB the number was 2.7 percent. There also were approximately 18 Asian students at SJU and 10 at CSB, as well as a handful of Hispanic and Indigenous students. Taken together, in the fall of 1970 about 4.3 percent of the student body at SJU and 4.0 percent at CSB represented a background that was different from the dominant culture on campus. Is it possible that greater numbers brought not only more visibility, but more status and confidence? And less need to deal with people outside your group?
CAMPUS DIVISIONS As the size of the Black population grew, divisions within it became more significant. Small numbers of Bahamians, trained in Benedictine schools at home, had attended Saint John’s for several decades. In the early 1960s the entire Black presence on both campuses consisted of perhaps a half-dozen Bahamians and someone from an African nation. By the end of the decade, the number of American Blacks would reach 21 at SJU and 11 at CSB. At the same point, there were 14 Bahamians and two Africans at Saint John’s, plus two Bahamian women at CSB. In 1970-71, between the two campuses, there would be 35 American Blacks, 26 Bahamians and six from various African countries.
from St. Louis in 1971, pointed out that the Bahamians had grown up middle class in a Benedictine environment that was very different from the poor, public school and largely Baptist world of the St. Louis people. More importantly, the Bahamians didn’t really have to come to terms with how they fit in the U.S. While American Blacks were struggling to define their place and gain acknowledgement that they belonged, the Bahamians had their own country. Furthermore, they knew they were going back to a significant future in a nation that gained its formal
independence in 1971. As Herman Rudolph Sawyer ’74 explained, “Opportunity in The Bahamas was already there.” The goal was to get the degree and go home to take over their father’s business or run the government: This “was their legacy and they weren’t about to blow it.” Getting arrested, Pamela Woods ’74 remembered, might mean getting sent home. They were, in short, foreign students on an extended study abroad where they could observe but didn’t have a stake in what was going on in the host country. As a result, while a few Bahamians took part in the OAAS efforts to
… In the fall of 1970 about 4.3 percent of the student body at SJU and 4.0 percent at CSB represented a background that was different from the dominant culture on campus. American Black interviewees consistently note that they and the Bahamians tended to hang out socially, either at meals or when they threw parties. As Leonard Smith ’74 noted, “we all did the ‘Funky Bahama’ together.” At the same time, for the most part, there was a real division on how the two groups responded to their situation on campus. Charles Bush, who arrived
create change, most didn’t. As Charles Bush explained, a lot of the American Blacks didn’t know how to react to this because they were used to assuming that people who looked like them would share the same values. Did the American Blacks feel driven to do more out of frustration with the Bahamians?
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES Another important demographic issue might be the background of the Black American students. Of the first seven who enrolled at SJU in the mid-to-late 1960s, six were from Chicago, and four of those were from Hales Franciscan, an elite Catholic boys school for Blacks. The Hales students were not only Catholic, but the school saw mixing with whites as an important part of their curriculum. As a result, Hales students did weekend excursions with white youth groups in Wisconsin. The first student from St. Louis came to Saint John’s in 1968, and by the next fall St. Louis had replaced Chicago as the dominant source of Black American Johnnies. By the fall of 1970, it was totally lop-sided: St. Louis provided eight first-year students, there were two from Chicago and two from other parts of the country. The young men from St. Louis are generally portrayed as having very different backgrounds from most of the Chicago students. Very few of them were Catholic, they all went to public schools, and they typically came from farther down the income ladder than the Hales students. Chet McCoy ’72 recalled that he rarely had cause to interact with whites and didn’t have a white teacher until high school. His first significant interaction was with Denis O’Brien ’69, a recent SJU grad who worked in a Jesuit-run program for low-income students called Sophia House. Almost all of the St. Louis
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The differences between the Chicago and St. Louis groups were also apparent to some faculty members. male students received tutoring and mentoring there, but a few attended the parallel program at North House. It seems pretty clear from several sources that most of the St. Louis students came in with what was described as an “aggressive” or “radical” attitude. Leonard Smith ’74 said that “we were big followers of Malcolm X – ‘by any means necessary.’ ” Chet McCoy mentioned that some of them proudly identified themselves as Communists or Socialists. Even if that was youthful braggadocio, McCoy made it clear that growing up in a manufacturing city – where strong unions were the ticket to a decent income – made the St. Louis men very prepared to stand up for their rights. The differences between the Chicago and St. Louis groups were also apparent to some faculty members. Professor Joe Farry offered the fullest account, explaining that the Chicago guys were “more low-key. Hales taught them that you could make it if you just follow the rules. The Jesuits who worked in places like Sophia often believed that it was necessary to transform the entire system.” The St. Louis perspective would soon permeate the OAAS. Homer Brown was elected president his first year in 1969, and Leroy Smith would follow in 1970, again as a first-year student. Leroy and Russell Larkin soon announced that they preferred to be called by African names, Amiri Damu Imara and Kwahu Shebazz Nkrumah. Leonard
Smith, his classmate and fellow Saint Louis resident, characterized Russell as “really radical, while some people found him crazy.”
left, Fred (Hill) was still there, but I don’t know if he could be a calming influence.” According to Hill, he got outvoted.
Leroy was remembered as a brilliant and charismatic figure who, when invited to give the homily at the Student Mass in October 1970, used a classic Black Baptist approach to deliver a stunning exposition on “The Suffering Servant.” Farry remembers him as not only talented, but someone Fr. Aidan, the Dean of Students, respected. This seems significant since some of the St. Louis students “despised” Fr. Aidan as an “Oreo.”
Although it seems as though there may have been enough difference in background between the St. Louis students and those from Chicago to explain the different situation in 1970, there are other factors that also may help explain the escalation in tactics.
Youthful impatience might have been particularly important in the areas of culturally appropriate courses and hiring Black staff and faculty. They would have heard that these were longstanding requests, but not known about some of the efforts in this direction and assumed that the older students just hadn’t pushed hard enough. There wasn’t any significant increase in courses in the fall of 1970, and the English department course on Black writers wasn’t offered until spring 1971, two full years after it had first been encouraged by a faculty committee. Furthermore, when it did become reality, it would be taught by two white monks. Similarly, the pursuit of a Black staff member to mentor minority students didn’t come to fruition until fall 1971.
One is that the rapid influx of students in 1969 and 1970 shifted the balance among the Black American students. All eight of the American Blacks at CSB were either freshmen or sophomores. At SJU, there were 12 freshmen, eight sophomores, three juniors and only two seniors. Leonard Smith remembers that “the seniors just wanted to graduate, but the freshmen had nothing to lose and everything to gain. They were unhappy at SJU and felt pushed to the limit.”
Another area of frustration, especially among the St. Louis group, was the sense that they hadn’t gotten the financial aid they had expected. Admissions staff member Jim DeChaine ’65 wrote in February 1969 that “Some Black students had expected to receive total support from Saint John’s,” and that someone needs to review their finances. This may have been simply a miscommunication, but it nevertheless added to the sense that whites promised but didn’t deliver.
Given that we are typically more prone to a sense of righteousness and impatience in our early college years, the absence of older leadership may have allowed things to go further than they would have otherwise. Earlier arrivals like Ron Morris and Lewis Nixon agreed that “it was just a matter of time before it happened because they were bubbling when we were there. But we were still in charge. When we
By 1970 the American Black students also seemed more willing to verbalize a sense that the schools were benefiting from their presence. Part of this was the sense that the schools wanted some Black students so they could look liberal and feel like they were doing something good. One American Black was quoted as
indicator of institutional support for Blacks on campus. The demands in the “Proposition” were thus both a way of demanding acknowledgement that they mattered, and at the same time payback for a host of perceived failures by the schools. The authors make it clear that they are not supplicants negotiating for a little larger budget in several ways. They are instead demanding and insisting on charting their own course.
saying that we are “being forced to blend in and diversify a predominantly white student body at our own expense.” More concretely, there were widely repeated rumors that the Federal government required schools to have a 10 percent minority enrollment to get Federal construction loans. Saint Ben’s had built dormitories, and talk of building what would become the Palaestra was buzzing around SJU. Since fundraising for the Palaestra was slow, stories circulated among Black students that the schools owed them because their presence was the key to getting federal loans.
THE PROPOSITION The OAAS manifesto, “A Proposition Concerning Black Survival,” contained two specific demands. The first was that SJU and CSB immediately (by Nov. 16) allocate a total of $10,000 to the OAAS so that it could promote the “culture and unity among people of African descent on the twin campuses socially and politically” during the current 1970-71 school year. The second was that the two schools guarantee that they would continue to fund the OAAS in the future to an amount “decided by the Financial Committee of the Organization of African American Students with the assistance and
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consent of its members.” Saint John’s had already provided a space for a Black Cultural Center. The new funding was intended to pay for furnishings (African relics, pictures, statues, bookcases, tables), equipment (film projector, typewriters, tape recorder) and library materials (books, magazines, newspapers, films, records). The money was also to go to “lectures and speakers, Black entertainers, dances, Black programs, convention representatives” and an “emergency fund.” The authors of the “Proposition” explained that the “financial amount was not something that was fabricated at random but decided through careful planning” of what was needed to enable the OAAS to “for the first time” reach its goal. The aim was to achieve “outstanding effectiveness” in bringing African heritage to “contribute to the Westernized atmosphere of the Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict community.” On the surface, the “Proposition” was about funding for the Organization of African American Students, but it was about much more than money for a student club. The OAAS was something they controlled, and in the absence of other gains became the
First, the “Proposition” rejects the whole bureaucratic process that they had found frustrating. Instead of a request, they ignore channels and demand action by the Presidents. In addition, they presented an ultimatum that had to be addressed in a span of two working days and a weekend.
The ‘Proposition’ ends with the assertion that ‘we cannot survive the way conditions stand now here on the twin campuses.’ Furthermore, the argument isn’t about more, but rather insuring their survival. The “Proposition” ends with the assertion that “we cannot survive the way conditions stand now here on the twin campuses.” The dollar amount in the first demand was by itself assertive: $10,000 is the equivalent of $66,664 in 2020 dollars. To put it another way, it was significantly more than the cost of a faculty member at the time. The “Proposition” asserted that it wasn’t a random amount, but it certainly seems that way. The sense that it was a rebuttal to Fr. Aidan’s insistence
that they explain their needs in detail and trim prices comes across in lines about “it being an insult for us, as Black people, to think that the administrations would expect us to pursuit (sic) this course of dealing with materials and prices precisely … it is downright ludicrous to denote specific prices …” The second demand is even bolder in that it completely eliminates the whole concept of limits by demanding that the institutions essentially write a blank check for the future by making a commitment to provide whatever level of funding the OAAS decided it needed. Shortly after the occupation, J.O. Grantham, an African American business executive, reached out to Fr. Colman to offer his advice in dealing with members of the OAAS. Grantham explained that there are two main themes “running through the Black problem in America today. One is I want to escape the discrimination I have experienced in the past and want the same chance as other people in America. I want to be considered as a person regardless of color, creed
or background.” The other is “I see very little hope of ever escaping my blackness. In fact, the more I accept this point and look at the fact that I am Black, the more I like the idea of being separated from white America. So, I will build my life without ‘Whitey’. I will exploit him wherever I can to improve my own economic and political position.” Grantham concludes: “Every young Black student in America today is torn between these two positions. Among bright young college-age students the latter position seems to be emerging as the most popular.” So, what is your conclusion? What motivates these young people in 1970? Why do they write the “Proposition” and occupy the President’s office? Does the “Proposition” reflect a 1970s version of Black Power that is shorn of the threat of violence but nevertheless wants to be separate from white society? Or is it still somehow following the King vision of hoping for white support to create a world where whites and Blacks live in equality and harmony? Or is it somewhere in between?
“People might ask, ‘If you hate the place, why don’t you leave?’ “I would say to them that if I did that I would have to pack up and leave America, because America is Western culture, and the only way is to stay here and face it,” remarked 18-year-old sophomore Russell J. Larkin.
PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE OCCUPIERS Those arrested in the President’s office on Nov. 16, 1970 were: Homer Brown (Soph., St. Louis) Charles Harvey (FY, St. Louis) Russell Larkin aka Kwahu Shebazz Nkrumah (Soph., St. Louis) Leroy Smith aka Amiri Damu Imara (FY, St. Louis) Michael Rolle (Jr., Bahamas) Madie Anderson (FY, Arkansas) Maeola Brunson aka Maisha Lamumbah Tawfiq (Soph., Arkansas) Elizabeth Harris (FY, Chicago) Shirley Sanders aka Furasha Nkrumah (Soph., Mississippi) Those who were likely to have been in the President’s office, but who chose to leave rather than be arrested: William (Frank) Carroll (FY, St. Louis) Reginald Johnson (FY, St. Louis,) Fred Larry (FY, St. Louis) Fred McDonald (Soph., St. Louis) Carl Martin (FY, St. Louis) Leonard Smith, (FY, St. Louis)
This historical document is the first part of a larger project by Dr. Ken Jones, Professor of History at Saint John’s/Saint Benedict and recipient of the 2020 Sister Mary Grell/Robert Spaeth Teacher of Distinction Award.
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Organization of African American Students, 1970 Photo from SJU Archives
Created in the fall of 1968, the OAAS was an official Saint John’s University/ College of Saint Benedict campus club designed to develop Black unity and promote Black culture in the community. The organization is now called the Black Student Association. Members of the organization pictured in the 1970 edition of The Sagatagan included: First row (from left): Fred Hill ’73 Karen Wilson ’73 Marie Williams Rhonda Moore Maeola Brunson ’73 Second row (from left): Carla Lee Alpheus Finlayson ’70 Ron Morris ’70 Pamela Woods ’74 Rich Moore ’71 Lewis Nixon ’71 Ernie Dial ’72
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “Being exposed to and having relationships and friendships with people of color is only going to benefit everyone.” Maury Glover ’90 His is among the most recognizable faces in the Twin Cities, and he’s one of the very best at what he does. When Maury Glover arrived at Saint John’s University in 1986, however, he was unsure what that would be. “I had no idea,” he said. “I thought maybe I’d be a teacher, maybe a lawyer. I just knew I wanted to do something in the public eye and also help make things better.” Glover has done both over the past 26 years as a reporter for KMSP FOX 9 TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where he has won two Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards and in 2019 was named “Best TV News Person” in City Pages’ Best of the Twin Cities. “I like telling stories about people and telling stories through people,” Glover said. “That’s the part of the job I really love.” The genesis of that career began during his first casual visit to the Saint John’s campus. “It just resonated with me – it felt peaceful,” said Glover, Maury Glover was named the Twin Cities’ “Best TV News Person” in 2019, and his Maury’s Stories are a popular weekly feature on FOX 9 TV.
whose father Gleason Glover was the former Director of the Minneapolis Urban League. “I fell in love with the campus and the people. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s such a beautiful place.” Glover’s presence also enriched Saint John’s, helping to diversify a student body that has become exponentially more diverse since he was there. “The idea of being exposed to and having relationships and friendships with people of color is only going to benefit everyone,” he said. “I thought that’s a really important thing.” So is Glover’s newly expanded role at FOX 9, which in 2019 launched Maury’s Stories – a weekly segment of longer-form storytelling with an uplifting spin. “They’re usually positive stories about things that are going on in the community,” Glover said. “It doesn’t all have to be murders and mayhem. “I think we get enough crime and grime and doom and gloom and politics that it’s nice to take a couple minutes and watch something that reaffirms your faith in humanity. It validates what you do and the stories you like to tell.”
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IN THEIR OWN WORDS “If I can be a conduit for people that are seekers, that are looking to see the world differently than how they’ve come to understand it, then I want to be one of those people.” Lee Lindsey ’91 His family connection with Saint John’s University is currently in its second generation for Lee Lindsey, whose son Jaren ’23 is a sophomore Computer Science major. That’s a point of pride for Lindsey, whose own SJU experience was one of a trail-blazer.
In Minnesota, the Chicago students initially refused to leave the van during a locust swarm on the pig farm driveway. They all faced their fears and misguided perceptions, and bonded. “What was transformative was seeing those students inseparable throughout the year,” Lindsey said. “It was a testament that this type of experiential learning is the way for us to learn about each other.” After graduating from SJU with a Sociology degree, Lindsey got a master’s degree in social work before starting his twodecade career with Farmers Insurance as a Special Claims Representative. He’s also a community leader through his past involvement with the Blaisdell YMCA Community Board of Directors and the Robbinsdale Area Community Education Advisory Council. Lindsey is all about making connections – professionally and personally, for his family and for the world. “If I can be a conduit for people that are seekers, that are looking to see the world differently than how they’ve come to understand it,” Lindsey said, “then I want to be one of those people.”
“Being the first (in my family) ever to graduate from college, it really wasn’t an expectation to attend,” said Lindsey, who thought he would work with his dad’s small business after graduating from Minneapolis North High School. Instead, he forged his own path. Lindsey was a leader on campus – the first elected president of the Coalition for Black Cultural Awareness and an SJU Admissions tour guide for three years. That opportunity included a memorable road trip: Lindsey drove four incoming freshmen from rural Minnesota to Southside Chicago to pick up five students, then returned to Minnesota for a few days on a pig farm. In Chicago, the Minnesota students initially refused to leave the van while a loud basketball game went on across the street. By the time they left, the Minnesota students were playing basketball with the very same people.
Lee Lindsey ’91 (right) and son Jaren ’23.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “The spiritual ethos of Saint John’s had a significant impact on me.” Efrem Smith ’92
The Rev. Efrem Smith is a pastor, an author, a national motivational speaker and a consultant focused on creating faith communities that build bridges and unleash compassion and justice.
Instead, Smith got involved with campus life – as a member of the SJU Student Senate, as a disc jockey on KSJU-FM, and as a partner with Lee Lindsey ’91 in creating the Coalition for Black Cultural Awareness.
He’s also a Johnnie. And there’s a direct correlation.
“My experience at Saint John’s connected me deeply to the arts community and to the faith community of the Twin Cities,” said Smith, who worked in the SJU Admissions department for a year after graduating with his Theater degree before entering the ministry. He was dually ordained in the National Baptist Convention and the Evangelical Covenant Church and received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 2019.
“My time at Saint John’s played a significant role in my developing a passion for racial reconciliation and for multiethnic community development,” said Smith, co-Senior Pastor at Bayside Church Midtown in Sacramento, California – one of the fastest-growing, multi-ethnic churches in the western region – and author of five inspirational books. “The spiritual ethos of Saint John’s had a significant impact on me,” he said. “Br. Dietrich (Reinhart) had a significant influence on me.” All of that has roots in Collegeville for Smith, who arrived at SJU with different plans. “When I came to Saint John’s, I was a Theater major and a Communication minor,” he said. “My goal was to become an actor. I really thought that I was going to be an actor or an anchor on a newscast.”
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Smith and his wife Donecia Norwood-Smith (CSB ’93) also own Influential LLC, a speaking, coaching and consulting company that focuses on racial reconciliation, community development and leadership development. “My focus is so much on how faith communities can be bridges of reconciliation, how faith communities can be vehicles of compassion, mercy and justice,” said Smith, who is on the board of Sacramento ACT (Area Congregations Together). “I’ve worked to not be captured by the factions that end up representing political polarization and divides.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “You can get a really great education there, but Saint John’s also opened up options after the fact.” Matt Winston ’92 When Matt Winston was a Wayzata High School senior, Saint John’s University wasn’t even on his collegiate radar – until he received an unexpected sales pitch. “I got a last-second call from (Hall of Fame football coach) John Gagliardi to check out Saint John’s,” Winston said. “When I got more information about the football program and its history, I thought this seemed to be a good fit. “It turned out to be a great decision.” It also turned out to be a life-changer – in college and beyond. “If you want to go to a place with a lot of camaraderie and brotherhood, Saint John’s is the place,” said Winston, who parlayed his SJU Accounting degree into his Senior Vice President position at Hays Companies, a nationwide insurance and consulting organization. “You can get a really great education there, but Saint John’s also opened up options after the fact.” At Saint John’s, Winston became a two-time, first-team AllMIAC defensive lineman (1990, 1991) and a cornerstone on the 1989 and 1991 teams that reached the NCAA Division III playoff Final Four. Gagliardi’s system stressed precision and accountability. “It’s really on you to be ready. I think that’s a great life lesson – don’t be lazy. Don’t be lax,” said Winston, who also met his future wife – Christine Lesche Winston (CSB ’92) – at SJU. “Know what it’s going to take to perform at the highest level
when you get the chance. That applies to every facet in life.” Winston gives back to the Saint John’s community through his service as Assistant Vice President of the SJU Alumni Connections Committee. Those connections were a big part of his SJU experience. “You just say ‘Hey, I’m a fellow Johnnie’ and it opens doors,” he said. “It isn’t just local – across the country there are Johnnies everywhere.” He’s also part of the changing face of the university. “When I was there, there were only a handful of people of color on campus. It’s nice to see there are a lot more now at Saint John’s,” Winston said. “If we can educate people and get people to understand differences and be respectful, I think that’s going to go a long way.” (Top) Matt Winston with his wife, Christine Lesche Winston (CSB ’92); (Left) Winston with his children (from left) Christopher, Chloe and Camille.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “Between academics and athletics, I developed a level of confidence that I don’t know that I would have developed at other places.” Brett Mushatt ’98 “I’m sure the university strives to increase that diverse population. We do that as an organization here at the police department. I think it’s important.” After graduation, Mushatt served four years as unit director at the St. Cloud Boys and Girls Club before joining the SCPD in 2002. He steadily moved up to a top management position but still helps with the Police Activities League youth program he helped launch in 2013. “Now here I sit – doing things that are nothing related to what I did at Saint John’s,” he said. “But the friendships I developed are so critical in my ability to do the job that I have – my drive, my confidence, all of that plays a big role.” Essentially, that role is all about service. “There’s always that cliché – I’m doing this because I want to help people – but it’s true,” Mushatt said. “I hope the things I’m doing here somehow make a difference in somebody’s life.” Commander Brett Mushatt oversees the Operations Division at the St. Cloud Police Department, which might seem an unlikely career trajectory for someone who graduated from Saint John’s University with a Social Work degree. But it’s largely because of his SJU experience that Mushatt changed paths and is contributing to his community in an entirely different way than the one he originally imagined. “Between academics and athletics out there, I developed a level of confidence that I don’t know that I would have developed at other places,” said Mushatt, who also was a Johnnie football standout – a two-time All-MIAC cornerback and a 1996 Division III All-American. “When I went out to Saint John’s, there was a different feel than every other place that I had been,” he said. “Obviously there was a part of me that went out there to play football, but football was a secondary thing. It was about the campus experience.” Racially, that campus experience was just starting to evolve during Mushatt’s era. “If you found a photo of our football program between ’94 and ’98, I can think of two, maybe three Black players on the team – including me,” Mushatt said.
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Brett Mushatt is devoted to helping kids through the Police Activities League program.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “The environment is conducive to learning critical thinking and developing perseverance.” Darran St. Ange ’15 There wouldn’t seem to be much of a link between baking Johnnie Bread and becoming an attorney. But Darran St. Ange insists that there’s a direct correlation. “I worked at the Refectory (as a student employee), and one of the jobs I did is I baked Johnnie Bread,” said St. Ange, who arrived at Saint John’s University through the ongoing link with St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey along with high school friends Yasin Williams ’15 and Frantz Soiro ’16. “You have to wake up really early in the morning, because the temperature affects the way the bread rises. That helps me now because I get up really early,” St. Ange said. “It’s not the most glamorous job, but one thing I definitely took pride in was service. I provided service to my customers, and that directly translates to being a lawyer. At the end of the day, it’s a service profession.”
St. Ange is putting that experience to use as a first-year associate at Jackson Lewis P.C., a nationwide employment law firm. A legal career wasn’t on his radar when he started at Saint John’s, but through his experiences in Collegeville he figured it out. “The environment is conducive to learning critical thinking and developing perseverance,” said St. Ange, who at SJU was a member of the Cultural Affairs Board and created a group called TIE – Total Inclusion for Everyone. “I also played rugby at Saint John’s, and I think that taught me collegiality. It just further cemented that value – a bunch of guys get together to work toward a goal.” Postgraduate legal internships led to his acceptance at Seton Hall University School of Law, where St. Ange excelled in national moot court competition and was President of the Student Bar Association when he graduated in 2019. After a year as a judicial law clerk in the New Jersey Superior Court, St. Ange is now learning the ropes at Jackson Lewis. “I definitely see myself practicing in employment law for the long run,” he said. “I hope to become one of the best in the field.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “Saint John’s really helped me build upon a lot of my values.” Yasin Williams ’15 my skill sets are,” Williams said. “But my passion for Saint John’s and the underlying social justice component – creating greater access to higher education for students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds – in this new role is what mainly influenced my decision.” His journey began, essentially, as a fish out of water. “It was a bit of a culture shock for me,” said Williams, who arrived in Collegeville after graduating from St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey. “But as time went on, I became a partner in the community and joined the track team and other extracurricular activities like the Student Senate. “When I graduated, I really didn’t know where I was headed, to be honest,” said Williams, who earned a History degree. “But my degree and Saint John’s in general really prepared me to go on different paths.” He was hired as a Consumer Assistance Analyst and promoted to Senior Mediator in the AG’s office before moving to Robins Kaplan in 2018 and then back to SJU. “It’s about being able to create greater access for students to attend Saint John’s – particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds to be able to have that access,” Williams said. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he arrived at Saint John’s University.
“I wanted to do that again and do that for others.”
He still wasn’t exactly sure when he graduated. But Yasin Williams was focused on equity and inclusion, community and helping others. Saint John’s illuminated his path and refined that focus. “It’s always been my focus, something I’ve always been passionate about, from entering Saint John’s to my work today,” he said. “Saint John’s really helped me build upon a lot of my values.” After graduation, Williams held two consumer-centric positions with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office before moving to the Robins Kaplan LLP law firm in Minneapolis, where he served as Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator. He returned to Saint John’s in January to assume his new role in Institutional Advancement as Associate Director of Annual Giving. “I think that speaks to how multifaceted and transferrable
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Yasin Williams flourished at Saint John’s as a member of the track team and the Student Senate.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “We are Johnnies, and we want to make sure it’s inclusive for everyone.” Frantz Soiro ’16
There’s enough on Frantz Soiro’s plate right now to keep a dozen people busy. “I call it controlled chaos,” Soiro said with a laugh. “I consider myself to be an emerging public health professional, really committed to translating research to the community. That speaks to my role now as a Master of Public Health candidate at Morehouse School of Medicine (Atlanta, Georgia). “I’m graduating in May of 2021, and then matriculating into a Doctor of Philosophy degree program in epidemiology.” In addition to finishing his degree, Soiro also is working full-time at Morehouse School of Medicine, where he coordinates four National Institute of Health research studies in the Cancer Equity Institute … managing an international healthcare nonprofit organization called Project Run For that he started in Tanzania, East Africa … and spending time with his wife Mone’Kai Sorio (CSB ’16) and their daughters Maya, 3, and Nia, 6 months. That’s all. And that’s an extension of his trajectory at Saint John’s University, where he arrived as a first-generation college student from St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey and quickly got involved in … well, almost everything.
Frantz Soiro’s busy life revolves around public health and his family – wife Mone’kai (CSB ’16) and daughters Maya and Nia. “I just wanted to be great, to be honest,” Soiro said. “I wanted to dive into all the opportunities that college life provided for me.” In addition to earning a degree in Chemistry with a concentration in chemical biology, Soiro became a campus leader – serving in the Student Senate, giving tours to prospective students as part of the Admissions department, earning a 2016 Man of Extraordinary Service Award and subsequently serving in the Benedictine Volunteer Corps. “I really dived into groups that revolved around inclusiveness,” said Soiro, who after completing his doctorate hopes to contribute to worldwide public health needs by working for the World Health Organization or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He also serves as an ambassador for his alma mater. “We’ve been trying to talk about this, our experience at Saint John’s,” Soiro said. “It’s important. “We do represent Saint John’s. We are Johnnies, and we want to make sure it’s inclusive for everyone.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “Being with the Saint John’s community helped shape who I am today.” Matthew Usher ’16 In 2012, a personal journey that began in Belize and continued in Los Angeles brought Matthew Usher to a state he had never set foot in and to a university he had never seen. Without that experience at Saint John’s University, Usher wouldn’t be where he is now. “Being with the Saint John’s community helped shape who I am today,” said Usher, who parlayed his SJU Global Business Leadership degree into a position as Title Account Coordinator with C.H. Robinson, a worldwide third-party shipping logistics company. “They helped me with my experiences that occurred outside of Saint John’s, which also impacted me.” Usher’s job is a big one. He coordinates unique shipping needs for companies like Target, Best Buy, Panasonic, Amazon, United Airlines, Academy Sports + Outdoors and others, across the U.S. and around the world. His challenge when coming to SJU was also a big one. Usher was born in his mother’s home country before moving to Los Angeles with his parents at age 5. He graduated from Verbum Dei High School, then hopped on a train with a couple buddies and came to Saint John’s sight-unseen. “It was a bit of culture shock,” said Usher, whose freshman year was a struggle. “I wasn’t used to the vast amount of land, the trees and whatnot.” He found his place as a sophomore, assuming leadership positions in SJU’s Black Student Association and Archipelago Association, volunteering for an Alternative Break Experience trip to Guatemala and bonding with coworkers in his student job. “I worked at the Refectory (as Operations Manager), and it felt like a family,” Usher said. “The special-needs staff impacted me a lot. It showed me that anything can be accomplished in life.” Now, after four years at C.H. Robinson, he’s looking for new challenges. “I think I’ll continue climbing up the ladder here when a new opportunity presents itself,” Usher said. ‘I’ll try to look into the aerospace industry and also supply chain logistics at national and international levels.”
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When he isn’t balancing his responsibilities at C.H. Robinson, Matthew Usher likes to return to Belize and visit his niece and nephew.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “I feel like Saint John’s put me in position where I was going to win in the future. They would do anything in their power to help you reach your goals.” Antoine Taylor ’17 Musse ’17, Rashid Locario ’17, Alex Kuehne ’17. I feel like Saint John’s put me in position where I was going to win in the future. They would do anything in their power to help you reach your goals. “I loved the people and I loved the family orientation. It seemed like everybody at Saint John’s had a future.” The Cause International now focuses on apparel sales and fundraisers for Los Angeles-area high school sports teams – 150 of them at 85 schools. The company has donated over $55,000 to charitable causes and has developed a growing profile. “One of our shirts went viral, and we were placed on the Black Entertainment Television Awards,” said Taylor, who along with one of his shirts was featured in an award-winning video with rappers DaBaby and Roddy Ricch. “We don’t want to stop. We could go down as individuals who care about the world and also created a business that’s going to affect people after we leave this place. “That’s my goal. That’s my journey.”
Antoine Taylor founded The Cause International by selling socks out of his dormitory room at Saint John’s University. Five years later, the former SJU football player’s growing apparel company and its charitable contributions are making a difference – at homeless shelters, high schools and hospitals, across the U.S. and around the world. “Last year I was able to go to Kenya and installed a water filtration system for an entire village – 8,000 people who didn’t have running water,” said Taylor, who came to Saint John’s as a football player from Pacoina, California, and left as a budding entrepreneur with a unique business. “Really, it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” he said. “I was able to go to China with my E-Scholars group. That was something that changed how I thought, changed how I maneuvered, changed how I wanted to take this vision that I had and share it with a couple of my buddies at Saint John’s as well. “I owe a lot of success to the awesome community,” Taylor said, “people like Jacob Lucas ’19, John Oliver ’18, Abdifatah
Antoine Taylor and his crew from The Cause International helped install a water filtration system for a Kenyan village in 2019.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “As one of my Communication major teachers once told me, communication is at the center of everything in life.” Evan Clark ’17
The comparisons to another remarkably talented Saint John’s University football wide receiver began shortly after Evan Clark arrived on campus and started hearing those two words: Blake Elliott. “I joke about it all the time – Blake is the reason I will go unremembered at Saint John’s,” Clark said of Elliott ’03, who won the Gagliardi Trophy during SJU’s 2003 national championship season. “The man has every record. He has been a role model for me.” Clark didn’t do so badly himself, earning All-MIAC honors twice while scoring 29 touchdowns at Saint John’s. And they share common career interests as well. Clark is a Program Manager for Elliott’s company Bridges MN, an innovative Twin Cities-based health care organization designed to allow people with disabilities to live successfully in their own homes versus a more institutionaltype setting. Clark oversees two apartment buildings and 10 staff members. “Evan has a very dynamic energy, a natural and authentic and caring personality that makes him primed for success in
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whatever he sets his mind to,” Elliott said. “I can definitely say that I use a lot of things that I learned while getting my Saint John’s Communication degree,” said Clark, who contacted Elliott in 2019 after pro football tryouts with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. “I said, ‘Hey, do you know any good Johnnies that have any job openings?’ ” Clark said. “Blake said he was a good Johnnie that had a job opening.” Clark’s SJU degree is at the heart of his work with Bridges. “As one of my Communication major teachers once told me, communication is at the center of everything in life,” Clark said. “Being able to communicate effectively with (staff and clients) and give them what they need is huge.” Clark hasn’t given up on his pro football dream. But in the meantime, he’s facilitating the dreams of others in his work with Bridges. “When you see somebody having a really good day, and it stems from the work you and your staff have done, that feels good,” Clark said. “I can’t replace it.”
IN THEIR OWN WORDS “I want to be an inspiration through my words, through my accomplishments, and start sharing my story with others.” John Oliver ’18
Since graduating from Saint John’s University, John Oliver has added a few things to his résumé: • A master’s degree in Sports Management from the University of Minnesota • An internship working with the U of M athletic department’s Golden Gopher Fund • A season as a graduate assistant coach for the Gophers men’s basketball team • An internship as a recruiter in the UPS employment office in Chicago • His first recorded song, Okay J.O., produced in Minneapolis and now available on Apple Music and Spotify
John’s helped me to grow up. It’s very hard for me to be uncomfortable in any situation. “I’m not the biggest nature guy, but just being out in the woods at Saint John’s, by the lake – I think about it a lot when I have a lot going on.” Which is most of the time. And Oliver’s first foray into music – “feel-good music, hip-hop rap with a very ‘up’ beat to it” – won’t be his last. “I feel like I’ve always been creative in a lot of things I do. Since I love music so much, why not try and be creative in that?” Oliver said. “I played it for my grandparents – they were dancing.”
That’s all. For now, anyway.
What’s next? Maybe coaching. Maybe motivational speaking.
“It’s my life. I keep trying to find different ways to live it,” said Oliver, who became a Collegeville campus icon because of his drive, his effervescent personality and his determination to play college basketball despite being born without a left hand.
“I’ve taken what I’ve had, and I feel like the sky’s the limit,” Oliver said. “It’s one helluva story. I want to be an inspiration through my words, through my accomplishments, and start sharing my story with others.
That was all part of his triumphant story at Saint John’s, which began as uncharted territory for a kid from Southside Chicago. “When I first got on Saint John’s campus, I was like, ‘Man, this is different.’ I’m a big-city kid,” Oliver said. “Saint
“Saint John’s showed me I could accomplish anything I really put my mind to.” (Upper left) John Oliver spent a season as a graduate assistant coach for the Minnesota Gophers men’s basketball team and is now branching out in new directions.
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for a Legend Alums Lift Their Voices To Honor Theimer’s 63-year SJU Career By Frank Rajkowski It was just a tour stop, one of many Axel Theimer ’71 made as a member of the internationally renowned Vienna Boys Choir. But something about his brief stay on the Saint John’s University campus in early February 1958 made a lasting impression on the 12-year-old Austrian singer.
“He’s been an incredible boon to Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s,” said acclaimed musician John McCutcheon ’74, who sang in choir for Theimer as a student at SJU and has remained close to him over the years. “He’s benefitted the school in so many ways – some that people won’t even recognize until after he’s gone.”
“The legacy Axel leaves at Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s will be everlasting, and that’s a credit to his kindness and patience.” “We were here for two or three nights,” Theimer recalled. “What was great was that the members of the (SJU) Men’s Chorus at the time made their rooms available to us. “My roommate and I stayed in the room of a guy (Norm Virnig ’61) who gave us a Saint John’s sweater, and I cherished that thing. It was gray and red and said Saint John’s University on it. I wore it so often back home, even after it got too small for me, I literally wore it out.” That attachment was a sign of things to come. Theimer returned to Collegeville in the summer of 1969 to follow Gerhardt Track as Choral Director at SJU. He has remained here ever since, building a tradition of choral excellence that spans multiple generations.
But having recently turned 75, the Professor in the SJU/CSB Music department and Director of the SJU/ CSB Chamber Choir and SJU Men’s Chorus has decided it’s time to step away. Theimer announced last fall he plans to retire at the conclusion of the 2020-21 school year, leaving a giant void that Department Chair David Arnott said will be difficult to fill. “He’s the John Gagliardi of the music department here,” said Arnott, referencing the legendary SJU head football coach who retired in 2012 after 60 seasons in Collegeville and more wins than any coach in college football history. “He’s been here longer than all of us. Three tenured members of our department weren’t even born yet when he started teaching here.
Axel Theimer (center) as a member of the Vienna Boys Choir in the 1950s. “But we’re not just losing that vast amount of institutional memory and a truly accomplished teacher. We’re also losing all of the things he does – and has done for decades – that aren’t part of his job description, organizing tours every year, organizing venues and so much more,” Arnott said. “His light is always the last to go off in the (Stephen B. Humphrey Theater building) each night.” Those who have learned from and worked with Theimer over the years echo those sentiments. “The legacy Axel leaves at Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s will be everlasting. And that’s a credit to his kindness and patience, as well as to how quietly
effective he is at getting the best out of people,” said Ty Cox ’12, who has gone on to teach music and to a successful performing career. “I didn’t come into Saint John’s as this serious music major with an understanding of classical theory and all that,” added Joe Mailander ’08, who sang in both the Chamber and Men’s Choruses at SJU and has gone on to a Grammy-winning recording career as one half of the children’s music duo The Okee Dokee Brothers. “I was just a folk musician. But he accepted me for who I was and made a place for me in his choirs. I learned so much from working with him.”
“At the very basic core, he’s a humanist. He cares deeply about people and making a connection with them.” basic core, he’s a humanist. He cares deeply about people and making a connection with them.”
Getting Started Track, who conducted Theimer when he was with the Vienna Boys Choir, got back to Collegeville first. He opened the door for his protege.
“I went into teaching music and he was a vital part of that process,” added Elizabeth Gust (CSB ’07), who taught music in public schools for 11 years and serves as director of the Twin Cities Girls Choir.
“He was my choir director,” Theimer said. “In fact, he was the director of the Boys Choir when we visited SJU. He then took over here, and he was very active when it came to traveling with the Men’s Choir. They came to Vienna several times, and whenever they did, I went to the concerts. So we stayed in touch. When he left, he recommended me here.”
“I knew I could always go to him to ask questions, and he was always available to work with my students in different capacities over the years. At the very
Though his initial job title was Choral Director, Theimer’s role in the early years was really that of a jack-of-alltrades, musically speaking.
“Anything you could possibly be asked to do was in my first contract,” he said with a chuckle. “There was conducting the Men’s Chorus and giving voice lessons, teaching music theory classes and even giving piano lessons. I look back on those days now and it seems totally insane. But there was a real push to build the (music) program and increase numbers. “We all did everything we had to do to make that happen.” Even by contributing in other departments – like athletics. Having played soccer growing up, Theimer was soon asked to take over the head coaching reins of the SJU soccer program that was established in 1967. He stayed on the job for three seasons (1970-72). “When they heard I was from Europe and that I had played soccer, some of the guys on the team came to me and asked if I wanted to coach them,” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not a soccer coach. I don’t know anything about it.’ But I bought a couple of pamphlets and books about coaching soccer so it at least seemed like I knew what I was talking about.” Theimer was more at home in the concert hall, and he made an immediate impression on those who were part of his first choir at Saint John’s. “A lot of us weren’t even aware that Gerhardt had left until we showed up back on campus that fall,” recalled Mark Karnowski ’71, who went on to a long career as a city administrator before his retirement in 2017.
Axel Theimer (right) and the Saint John’s Men’s Choir in 1970.
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“Axel had such an impressive résumé, but you wondered if his style would be
“Axel loved folk music. And eventually he broke himself, me and a Saint Ben’s student off into a trio. When we’d go on tour with the mixed choir – which is what we called it back then – he’d have us get up and play a couple of songs as part of the show. “He did that for other students as well. And I always thought it was great way to allow people to hone their individual skills. In a big mixed choir, if you don’t have the greatest voice and you don’t want to push yourself, you didn’t have to. But if you’re part of a vocal quartet, and you have to hold down the tenor part, it helps you improve and grow.”
Taking It On the Road Axel Theimer in 1974. a departure from what we’d been used to. As it turned out, his style was very similar to Gerhardt’s. “Axel was basically our age or just a little bit older, so I’m sure that must have been a bit difficult for him. But I thought he balanced that really well. He was easy to relate to, but you knew he was in charge.”
Building the Legacy When Theimer arrived at Saint John’s, the Music departments at SJU and CSB were separate entities. That soon began to change as the two departments merged into the one that exists today. As part of that process, some of Theimer’s duties began to change while new opportunities opened up. Chief among them was the formation of a joint choir featuring students at both schools. “We didn’t even have a name for it at first. It was just a baroque choral ensemble and we performed music for Christmas. Eventually, that became the Chamber Choir,” Theimer said.
Those Christmas performances eventually grew into the Christmas at Saint John’s performances that have become a holiday staple in Collegeville. “At first, it was just students getting together around the Christmas tree after the tree lighting ceremony,” he said. “People would bring some instruments and we just started to make music. But as the tree lighting ceremony became bigger and bigger, more people started to show up. Santa would come and we’d open the Founders Room up to handle the overflow. “Eventually, we had the idea to turn it into a concert.” As the choir grew, McCutcheon said Theimer began to create opportunities for students to showcase individual talents. “Most of our rehearsals were over at Saint Ben’s in those days, and there was a pizza place right off the main drag in St. Joe,” McCutcheon said. “Afterward, he and I, and usually a couple of other students, would go over there to eat. We’d talk and get to know each other better.
Touring also became a key part of the choir experience during Theimer’s tenure at SJU and CSB. His choirs toured Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and most of the U.S., making memories those who were part of such trips will never forget. “I just remember how patient he was with all the guys,” Cox said. “He always kept the atmosphere lighthearted. I played a lot of card games with Axel on those bus trips. “We went to so many interesting places, singing in different churches and other venues all over the country. I saw a lot of the U.S. during my four years at Saint John’s thanks to Axel.” Theimer said several tours stand out in his mind. “Our first trip to Europe was through an organization called Friendship Ambassadors,” he said. “It was to Romania, which at the time was run by (Nicolae) Ceaușescu and was one of the most brutal and tightly controlled communist countries in Eastern Europe. I think our students came back with a different understanding of what it was like to live behind the Iron Curtain and how much they should
cherish the freedoms they had in this country. “One of the best U.S. tours came during the last year they had January Term here. We went out to the West Coast and we sang at all the different state capitals along the way. We stopped at several mission churches along the coast and sang there as well. It was a really wonderful trip.”
A Leading Voice In time, Theimer’s influence expanded beyond SJU. He presented master classes, workshops and seminars at state, regional, national and international conventions and conferences. He also conducted all-state choirs, choral festivals and honor choirs in the U.S., Europe and the Far East. In 2001, he was named the American Choral Directors Association of Minnesota’s Choir Director of the Year. Three years later, he was inducted into the Minnesota Music Educators Association Hall of Fame. And in 2011, he received the ACDA-Minnesota lifetime achievement award. Theimer also is the founder and Artistic Director of Kantorei, a Twin Cities-
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based vocal ensemble that started 33 years ago as an SJU/CSB alumni choir and is now one of the premier vocal ensembles in Minnesota; and the Amadeus Chamber Symphony, a chamber orchestra for Central Minnesota musicians. He also is the co-founder and has served as Music Director of the National Catholic Youth Choir, as well as being a member of the faculty and the Executive Director of the VoiceCare Network.
University of North Texas in the 1980s (a job he declined) – but never gave serious thought to leaving. “I started to develop so many connections here,” he said. “Part of it may be that I come from a country where people don’t move around much. And then there was the stability it provided for my family. “But there never really was a reason for me to go someplace else. I felt so comfortable and welcome here, and
“We knew immediately that we wanted to thank Axel for his profound impression on our lives.” “Music for Axel really is a calling,” said Richard Witteman ’89, a musician who has performed with fellow SJU alum George Maurer ’88 since 1984 and plays trumpet in the Amadeus Symphony. “Music captured his soul early on, and he’s made it his mission to bring that positive energy out in others.” Through it all, SJU/CSB has remained Theimer’s home base. He twice interviewed for other jobs – at a school in Wisconsin early on, and at the
I had all the artistic freedom anyone could hope to have.” Those who have known Theimer find it hard to imagine music at SJU without him. “He’s been such a Saint John’s staple over the years,” Mailander said. “He’s meant so much to that music program. It will be strange to see the transition to someone new, but he should be proud of everything he accomplished there.”
In tribute to Theimer, Gust helped organize a virtual performance video featuring 188 SJU and CSB choral alumni. “When the colleges announced Dr. Theimer's retirement, I immediately called a fellow choir alumnus and friend – Kim Kuhl,” Gust said. “We knew immediately that we wanted to thank Axel for his profound impression on our lives. “In most cases, a farewell concert is held for the director and alumni are often invited to come back and sing. Because of the (COVID-19) pandemic, we knew that there would most likely not be a chance to gather alumni together to sing, but we wanted to give his students a way to sing for him again before his departure. “We thought this would be a way for singers to share their voices, even though they may be far apart, and help celebrate the director who taught us so much – and who, for many, continues to be a large part of why they still sing.” Theimer is proud of the tradition he has built. But true to his nature, he’s quick to share credit with the many students
he’s worked with over the years. “People say I had a positive influence in their lives, and I’m always thrilled when I hear that, but truly I just consider myself lucky I had the opportunity to be here this long,” Theimer said. “Music is such a big part of everyone’s life. I’m grateful to have had the chance to help so many people participate in it over the years.” Top left, middle: Christmas concerts at the Basilica. Top right: Theimer with his children at the 2012 ADC Awards – left to right: Natalia Terfa, Axel, Kira Morrissey, Stefan Theimer. Frank Rajkowski is a writer and video producer for SJU Institutional Advancement. He covered Saint John’s athletics for 19 years at the St. Cloud Times and worked as a web reporter for two and half years at KSTP-TV in St. Paul.
Video Tribute to Axel Theimer To see a virtual performance tribute to Axel Theimer featuring around 188 Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s choral alumni, visit www.csbsju.edu For more on the Axel Theimer Endowed Choral/Vocal Music Education Scholarship Fund, view a video on the Advancing Saint John’s website advancingsaintjohns.org
SERVICE TO THE CHURCH
Ministry as a Chris Calderone, SOT/Sem ’13, put out a call for cooks during his first semester at Saint John’s University’s School of Theology. The liturgical music student needed a hand preparing homemade pasta for the school’s weekly community lunch. His classmate – Rebecca (Spanier) Calderone, SOT/Sem ’14 – volunteered. Fourteen pounds of rigatoni, bowtie noodles and linguini later, the two became fast friends — and eventually, partners for life. “A lot of our early relationship focused
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around community life at the SOT/ Sem,” recalled Chris, who began dating Rebecca during their second semester of graduate school. “Our first date was making pasta for folks at the SOT/Sem for the Feast of Saint Joseph.” Rebecca and Chris kept hosting gettogethers and cooking for classmates as their partnership grew. “Hospitality was something the SOT/ Sem instilled deeply into each of us and into our relationship from the very start,” Rebecca said.
The couple married at the Saint John’s Abbey Church in October 2014 surrounded by Collegeville friends and professors. They came back to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day as husband and wife with a classic campus date: a walk to the Stella Maris Chapel and dinner at the Refectory. “We were still paying off graduate school, and Chris had a lot of punches left,” Rebecca said with a laugh. “He brought an electric candle, flower and tablecloth. We definitely got some looks.”
By Jessie Bazan, SOT/Sem ’17
“Community is what people feel is so special about this place.” The Calderones continue to come to campus for walks around the Arboretum — now with their two young kids, Ali and James, in tow. The family lives in St. Cloud, where both Rebecca and Chris serve in spiritual care ministry: Rebecca as Director of Pastoral Care for CentraCare Saint Benedict’s Community and Chris as a chaplain with CentraCare Hospice. Each of their jobs entails accompanying patients in the final stages of their lives: listening to stories, consoling family members and leading prayers. “I’m interested to see what impact our ministry has on our kids,” Rebecca said. “Around the dinner table, we talk about death and dying as if it’s the weather.” Ministry is a family affair for the Calderones. Before the pandemic, Rebecca and Chris enjoyed tag-teaming on Sunday liturgies at the senior center. Rebecca planned the service and preached, while Chris played piano and
sang. Residents loved getting visits from their adorable toddler, Ali, as an added bonus. They look forward to resuming these traditions post-pandemic. Rebecca and Chris draw on lessons from the SOT/Sem as they navigate ministry in extraordinary times, including virtual visits or more limited in-person interactions. One thing that has not changed is their calling to listen deeply to the needs of the most vulnerable. “The SOT/Sem prepared me for listening with the ear of the heart, a Benedictine value which was instilled in the classroom and spirit of the community at Saint John’s,” Chris said. “That prepared me as a chaplain to be exposed to a diverse population with diverse beliefs and experiences.” The Calderones keep this spirit of community alive among fellow alumni, too. Rebecca served as the first co-
chair of the SOT/Sem Alumni Council when the group formed in 2018. Chris stepped into that role in 2020. Under their leadership, the council hosts happy hours, reunion prayer services and conversations with favorite faculty. “I hope the council continues to create a foundation to support current students, help prospective students see what you can do with a degree in Theology, and continue the sense of community among alumni at the SOT/Sem,” Rebecca said. Added Chris: “Community is what people feel is so special about this place.” Jessie Bazan, M.Div., SOT/Sem ’17, helps Christians explore vocation and calling in her work with the Collegeville Institute. She is editor and co-author of Dear Joan Chittister: Conversations with Women in the Church (Twenty-Third Publications, 2019).
SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR
Eric LeCompte’s Faith Helps Spark a Worldwide Jubilee By Dave DeLand energy out of a tidal wave and reuse it and reshape it,” said Richard Bresnahan ’76, SJU’s Artist-In-Residence and LeCompte’s former teacher and personal friend. “I do what I do and try to be who I am because of my faith,” said LeCompte, the Executive Director of Jubilee USA – a coalition of communities of faith that works for reform to the international finance system in order to reduce poverty. “Whatever I’m trying to do is follow my understanding of the life God calls us to, and along with that have as much impact as I possibly can.”
The text of the Alumni Achievement Award that Saint John’s University presented to Eric LeCompte in 2019 began with this:
“Eric LeCompte ’99 has built his influential career around addressing inequality and injustice by working with organizations that fight poverty and promote human rights.”
It’s an apt descriptor of a dedicated Johnnie doing vital humanitarian work, domestically and around the world. What could be more important? According to LeCompte’s friends, colleagues and world leaders ranging from presidents to the Pope, absolutely nothing. “He’s a Catholic social justice warrior, an intellectual and a policy activist,” said Matt Lindstrom ’92, SJU/CSB Political Science Professor and Director of the McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement. “He’s trying desperately to take the
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That work entails advocating and lobbying at the highest levels of government and finance to address an array of the world’s problems – thirdworld debt, trade, economic policies, environmental issues, worker rights, human trafficking, corruption. “My work with Jubilee over the last 10 years is looking at the intersection of having certain faith-based values and how they intersect,” LeCompte said, “not only with an economic system, but with our society and with economic decisions that often we don’t understand but that impact our lives almost as much as the oxygen we breathe.”
The Roots of Jubilee Since 2010, LeCompte’s work has been through Jubilee USA, an organization
based on a Biblical concept that advocates for everyone having enough, and no one having too much. “My intersection in this world is between what our faith calls us to, what our teaching calls us to and also what it means in terms of global political decisions that are being made right now – whether they’re being made at the White House, Congress or the G-20,” said LeCompte, who previously served as National Council Chair of Pax Christi USA and worked with the School of the Americas Watch, the Catholic Worker movement and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Of the world’s 180-plus countries, 110 are getting emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund. The planet’s poor are drowning in governmental debt. “There’s the adage that debt means death. That’s been happening for decades,” LeCompte said. “He’s been in the trenches in terms of policy making, the executive branch regulatory world and international trade agreements,” said Lindstrom, who sends several SJU/CSB interns to work with LeCompte every summer at the Washington, D.C. Summer Study Program. LeCompte and his organization work with and advise both religious and elected leaders, advocating for policy changes and working across the political spectrum. “Congressional Quarterly cites us as the last-standing bipartisan coalition in Washington because we are able to pool the voices and resources of mainstream faith communities,” LeCompte said. “It’s meant that for many of the things we work on, we’ve been able to bring Republicans and Democrats together.” Some of his most recent priorities have included working with President Joe
Eric LeCompte has met with Pope Francis on multiple occasions, most recently in February 2020 at a Jubilee Economics conference at the Vatican that included an array of world economic leaders. Biden’s transition team and advising incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on economic issues. “We were asked to create a timeline of our recommendations for things that need to happen to make some real changes in the global financial system,” LeCompte said, “things that put Main Street before Wall Street.” That advocacy can have a major impact, and its roots sprouted in Collegeville.
The Path to Saint John’s LeCompte grew up in Oak Lawn, a suburb on the south side of Chicago where his grandparents first connected to Saint John’s monks through the Catholic Family Life Movement that began in the 1940s. “Whenever the monks would come to Chicago, they would stay at my grandparents’ house,” LeCompte said. “My grandparents knew how to throw a really good party when the monks came.”
“If we are all the children of God … following that understanding of faith is to be able to lift anyone who is suffering.” A pivotal moment in the evolution of his faith came at age 5, when LeCompte examined a crucifix inside his home parish – St. Linus Parish in Oak Lawn. “It kind of shook me,” he said. “My parents came up behind me, seeing what I was looking at – this image of failure, of terror, of suffering. “My dad said, ‘That’s Jesus Christ, the son of God. And we’re all children of God.’ And I remember thinking, ‘If that’s what happens to the children of God, I want no part of it.’ Looking up at that crucifix, that didn’t make much sense to me in terms of why we came
here every Sunday and sang happy songs. “For me, in a lot of ways, that’s been my journey,” LeCompte said. “If we are all the children of God, what does it mean when we’re suffering and people are dealing with such terror and failure? Part of following that understanding of faith is to be able to lift anyone who is suffering.” That became his inspiration and mission. After high school, LeCompte spent a year and a half at a Catholic Worker house in upstate New York before applying to Saint John’s University. “I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to college, and I really felt this calling to be with the poor and folks that were struggling,” LeCompte said. “Then I came here. “This is a very special place. Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s are unique in terms of that community-supported feel.” At Saint John’s, LeCompte and five other Johnnies founded a Jubilee
“Getting a piece of legislation passed … that affects hundreds of millions of people – that doesn’t happen just by having your viewpoints quoted in a newspaper.” community, and he was hired to organize the national assembly for Pax Christi, the national Catholic peace movement. His focus on an interfaith movement to make changes in the worldwide economic system flourished and evolved in conjunction with individuals on campus advocating for the same changes. “Being in this environment where there were a lot of people struggling with these ideas during this important time, as well as having access to the monastic communities, was really critical for me,” he said.
“This was the only place that I could have come that really helped form me in terms of following my faith and having that impact.”
Joy Attacks LeCompte became Executive Director of Jubilee USA in 2010 and is passionate about making an impact worldwide. “I see what I’m a part of as something that’s big, much bigger than myself,” he said. “Getting a piece of legislation passed at Congress or a new policy from the G-20, like the one we just won that affects hundreds of millions of people – that doesn’t happen just by having your viewpoints quoted in a newspaper.” Jubilee was instrumental in securing debt relief, child poverty reduction and anti-corruption measures for Puerto Rico in 2016, successfully lobbying for passage of the only bipartisan piece of legislation to clear the 2016 Congress. LeCompte’s testimony to Congress and briefings of Puerto Rico’s governor, religious leaders and other decisionmakers laid the basis for multiple financial reforms on the island. LeCompte’s views appear regularly in mainstream and religious media, and he writes on Jubilee economic issues for publications like Barron’s and The Hill. He advises the Holy See, the Vatican’s jurisdiction for maintaining diplomatic relations with countries, and has met with Pope Francis on multiple occasions – including a February 2020 meeting with world leaders on global Jubilee policies. During a 2014 audience with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, LeCompte was formally received by the Swiss Guard and toured the Apostolic Palace.
LeCompte participates in a press conference with Jubilee USA and Puerto Rican religious leaders in San Juan, P.R., during summer 2019 at the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, the oldest Catholic church in the western hemisphere.
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“It’s one of those experiences I won’t ever forget,” he said. LeCompte spent fall 2020 living in
• Release global reserve funds known as special drawing rights to help more than 110 developing countries suffering from extreme financial crisis, which also would help boost U.S. imports and exports. • Revise trade, tax and anti-corruption policies that favor the extremely wealthy and penalize working people. Shifting these policies would increase development, enhance labor rights and secure environmental protections while increasing jobs and labor standards, in the U.S. and abroad. LeCompte’s views on finance, politics and religion are called upon by a variety of worldwide media sources. He also advises the Holy See and writes on Jubilee economic issues for a variety of national and international publications. Flynntown with his wife Kate and kids Jonah (18), Hannah (13) and Jeremiah (9) as a Resident Scholar at the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical Research, doing research on economic policies. His presentation titled Finding Virgil Michael is named after the famed Benedictine monk. He also renewed his Saint John’s and Midwestern roots. “Over the last 20 years when I’ve been doing advocacy in Washington, D.C., it’s been clear to me time and time again that people making decisions in Washington don’t have much of a sense of what’s happening with farmers and working-class folks in rural Minnesota,” LeCompte said. “I think that’s ultimately how we got to this point.” Wherever he is at, however, Saint John’s is often on his mind – sometimes prompting what LeCompte calls “joy attacks.” “I don’t think it can be separated from being at Saint John’s,” he said. “That’s an important, continuing part of my journey. Everything that we’re talking about comes down to much of the thinking and vision of the monastic
communities that are here. “Sometimes, that joy attack comes from my closest relations with the people that I engaged with here.”
The Road Ahead Working to improve the lives of desperate people around the world remains central to LeCompte’s mission. “Certainly, there are moments where we all feel the enormity of the challenges that we face, that our planet faces. But I rarely feel despair,” LeCompte said. “I’m highly motivated by what we’re doing and why it’s important. I certainly do feel joy when we win policies, because of the impact. I let myself have joy attacks quite often when things move forward.” That commitment is apparent, every day and in every way. The challenge is enormous. LeCompte is advancing three key components with world leaders for a global Jubilee: • Put in place tools to deal with the current worldwide economic crisis, centering on an international bankruptcy process or financial crisis resolution process.
“I’m optimistic,” LeCompte said. “We have a window that could be three to five years right now to actually change the financial system entirely, to create a financial system where people are put first and all needs are met and our planet is protected.” The same Alumni Achievement Award that begins by lauding LeCompte’s humanitarian efforts ends like this: “As one nomination read, LeCompte ‘truly cares about what he does and brings these serious issues to light in the hope that the rest of the world will follow his lead’.” That also seems like a fitting description. “It’s a very kind one,” LeCompte said with a smile. “I hope that my tombstone in some way says, ‘Tried to follow my faith and leave things better than what they were.’ “We’re working in a strategic way and lifting our voices very strategically so that we can fulfill that Jubilee promise, so that we can get back in line with that vision where we’re all protected – from having too much or not enough.” Dave DeLand is Saint John’s Executive Director of Marketing & Communication and an award-winning writer.
Expanding Educational Opportunity for Men of Color What if you could transform the life of a student? To help a young man find purpose. To find his voice. To achieve his full academic potential. To make a difference.
You Can. Over the past 20 years, Saint John’s University has made significant strides to diversify its student body. In 2005, roughly 4 percent of the student body were students of color and another 4 percent were international students. The percentage of first-generation college students (those who are the first in their family to attend college) had steadily declined to 6 percent. Since that time, the composition of the student body has changed dramatically. Presently, roughly 22 percent of our enrollment is men of color and/or international students, and approximately 26 percent of our students are first-generation. The key to this growth has been a substantial investment in scholarship support for those in need, especially first-generation college students and students of color. Since 2000, donors have established nearly 50 scholarship funds at Saint John’s to provide generous scholarship support for students with financial need, with a preference for students of color and/or those who are the first in their family to attend college. These endowed scholarship funds now total nearly $18 million, with over $4.7 million in scholarships awarded since
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2002. In addition, benefactors have committed another $12.5 million in estate gift commitments designated to these existing scholarships. As a result, Saint John’s total cash and pledges targeted for this scholarship purpose exceed $30 million. Here are a few examples of these scholarship funds:
First-Generation Scholarship Funds
First-generation students are the first in their families to attend college. They are the fastest-growing segment of the traditional college-age population, both regionally and nationally. They are highly concentrated among students of color, and many are new immigrants to the United States. Saint John’s is committed to recruiting first-generation college students. We are actively recruiting first-generation students from Minnesota and from communities across the country, such as Newark, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and Los Angeles, California, to name a few. The First Gen Scholarship program was established in 2010 with a generous grant from the Eugene and Mary Frey Family Fund of The Saint Paul Foundation. Now called First Up, this threepronged program is aimed at 1.) recruiting first-generation college students, 2.) awarding them financial aid, and 3.) providing them with the academic and student support services that they need to thrive at Saint John’s. Scholarships have been awarded to a wide variety of students with surnames
like Yang, Sura, Martinez, Cheung, Schultz, Zuniga, Chavez, Garcia, Bell, Duran, Bouddhara, Kelly, Thao and Gray. Graduation rates for these students have been strong – over 75 percent, which is remarkable for first-generation college students.
Intercultural LEAD Fellowship Program
The Intercultural LEAD Fellowship program provides support for talented first-generation students to build on the leadership skills they are already demonstrating within their high schools and home communities. Unique to SJU/CSB, Intercultural LEAD (Leadership, Education and Development) is a program of firstgeneration college students from many different backgrounds. The recipients represent many cultures, races and ethnicities; promote equality and the ideas of diversity and civic stewardship; aspire to be academic leaders in college;
and attend national and international leadership conferences.
Aidan McCall Scholarship Fund
teacher of classical languages, enjoyed his work as a faculty resident, served the University as Dean of Students (196873), and was deeply involved in student concerns, especially students of color.
In 1992, Br. Dietrich Reinhart established a scholarship fund at Saint John’s in honor of Fr. Aidan McCall ’50, an African monk at Saint John’s Abbey. The fund was created at the encouragement and support of alumnus Mark Froeba ’84 to support students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education, particularly those of African-American heritage. Two other alumni – Lewis Nixon ’71, who was then the General Counsel of the Chicago Department of Housing and Urban Development and was named “Black Lawyer of the Year” in Chicago, and Gerald Sullivan ’84 – were instrumental in the establishment of this fund.
On January 31, 1991, Froeba wrote to Fr. Don Lemay: “My recollection, Fr. Don, is that Saint John’s has had only limited success in attracting African American undergraduates. Perhaps it would make sense to direct the purpose of the fund either to paying for increased efforts to recruit these students or to provide scholarships so that these students would be better able to make a decision to attend Saint John’s.”
Fr. Aidan was born of African American parents in Washington, D.C. He was dedicated to his profession as a
In response to the tragic killing of George Floyd, alumni and friends established the Racial Justice
Racial Justice Scholarship Fund at Saint John’s University In memory of George Floyd
Scholarship Fund at Saint John’s University. “We call upon our alma mater to establish a memorial scholarship to George Floyd that will promote the educational promise of aspiring young Black American leaders,” wrote a group of Saint John’s University alumni advocating the scholarship. Citing the inspiring words of Nelson Mandela – “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – alumni urged Saint John’s to take “actionable steps to fight systematic racism in all its forms.” The purpose of this scholarship fund in memory of George Floyd is to help students with a commitment to the common good through social and racial justice. Scholarships are awarded to those who have been historically economically disadvantaged, with a preference for African American young men.
The Popes’ Blessing Supporting Future Generations of Johnnies “I could never have imagined that we would be in a position to make a gift of this size to Saint John’s. Sandy and I have been very fortunate … truly blessed.” These are the words of a humble, soft-spoken alumnus, Dick Pope ’58, after he and his wife Sandy made an extremely generous gift that raised their lifetime giving to Saint John’s to over $1 million and established the Dick and Sandy Pope Scholarship Fund for students with financial need.
“This gift is about giving back and paying forward. We want to ensure that current and future generations of students have the same opportunities that I received.” The Popes were initially tentative about speaking publicly about their generosity. “This isn’t about us, and we don’t want or need recognition. But if by sharing our story this benefits Saint John’s and helps raise additional funds in support of student scholarships then, yes, by all means, you can share this news with others. “I grew up on a farm near a small town, Cleveland, in southern Minnesota,” Pope said. “Our family had modest means, and if it wasn’t for the scholarship that I received I never would have been able to afford to come to Saint John’s. It changed my life.” Similarly, Sandy grew up in a small town (St. Peter) and attended Gustavus Adolphus College. “I was in ROTC and I also had a job on campus,” he said. “To save money I graduated in three and a half years.” Upon graduation from Saint John’s, Pope was hired by the high school class ring company Jostens. During his time at Jostens, Pope sold four of the first five Super Bowl rings, including the first two to Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers. He also sold the first NHL Stanley Cup Championship ring to the Chicago Blackhawks. In 1979, Pope left Jostens and became an owner in what was then a small company named WinCraft, which was founded in 1961 to produce and sell “cheer products” to high schools. It still counts high schools among its customers, and its product line still includes pom poms and megaphones. Under Pope’s leadership, the company began to pursue pro and college sports licenses and grew substantially. Today, WinCraft is the leading
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hardgoods supplier of sports memorabilia, selling over 30 product families to retailers, companies, schools and Internet consumers. It has sports licenses with the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA, MLS, NASCAR, World Cup, the Olympics and over 700 colleges. It has the licenses for all professional players and all college championship events, Division I through III. At any given time, WinCraft has between 550 to 700 employees in multiple states and sells tens of thousands of items. WinCraft has received the Minnesota Governors Award for keeping jobs in Minnesota, and it has been selected as the Winona Business of the Year. WinCraft is also well-known as the supplier of the famous Minnesota Twins “Homer Hanky.” These accolades don’t mean much to Pope. He’s a quiet, unassuming man who goes about his business without fanfare or desire for public attention. “I owe a lot of credit to my wife. This was a true partnership,” Pope said. “She supported me, our family and our business every step of the way. “John Gagliardi used to tell me: ‘Dick, when it came to marriage, you outkicked your coverage,’ Naturally, I would reply that I sure did!” When asked about the secret of his success, Pope offers a very simple formula: “Produce an excellent product, deal with people with honesty, integrity and fairness and you will have a good business. When people try to do the right things for the right reasons, they usually work.”
There are many life lessons to learn from Pope. Above all else, act with honesty and integrity. There are no shortcuts in business. Don’t compromise your values. Work hard. Hire good people. Treat them fairly and with respect. Your people are the key to your company’s success. According to his son-in-law, who worked at WinCraft, Pope places a premium on hiring employees with a strong work ethic … and he has a very simple way of spotting this trait: “If they know how to milk a cow, they’re hired!” This hiring practice should come as no surprise from a Johnnie who grew up on a farm. “My dad and mom are the most hard-working and generous people I know,” commented Lisa Pope, a 1983 graduate of the College of Saint Benedict. “It was important for them to be able to give back to an institution that has meant so much to our family.” In December 2020, WinCraft was sold to apparel-maker Fanatics. In addition to the being the industry’s largest hard goods licensee, WinCraft’s shipping and logistics channels will be extremely valuable to Fanatics’ e-commerce efforts. “The sale of my dad’s company, WinCraft, is quite an accomplishment, but bittersweet to leave behind after all these years,” Lisa Pope said. “He loved WinCraft and what he was able to build for his employees and the community, so for him, it never felt like work.” Bittersweet, surely, but oh so sweet for future Johnnies who will benefit mightily from the Dick and Sandy Pope Scholarship.
(Left to right) John and Peggy Gagliardi, Sandy and Dick Pope.
Johnnies Playing Beyond SJU
double-doubles, the program’s secondmost since 1983-84. He fell 26 points shy of 1,000 for his career, including 104 points in 31 games as a freshman (201617) at Division II Augustana (S.D.).
An NCAA Division III athletic department is not a typical launchpad for professional athletes. Maybe one of two every few years? Sure. But six in one academic year? That’s quite an accomplishment, and a testament to the quality of Saint John’s University athletics, its coaches and its student-athletes.
• Award-winning quarterback Jackson Erdmann ’19 participated in The Spring League, an elite developmental camp held in the fall for the first time last year in San Antonio. Bartch
• Two weeks after the SJU hockey team won the MIAC regular-season championship last season, All-MIAC forwards Brady Heppner ’20 and Kyle Wagner ’20 signed with the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. Both student-athletes played three games in March, where Wagner totaled four points (one goal and three assists) and Heppner collected two assists.
• Offensive lineman Ben Bartch ’20 became the 10th Johnnie to be drafted in the NFL when he was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the fourth round (No. 116 overall) April 25. Bartch played in 13 games and totaled 219 snaps on offense this past season, including his first career start (at left guard) Dec. 13 against the Tennessee Titans, and 47 more between field-goal and PAT attempts. • Pitcher Joey Stock ’20 signed with the Boston Red Sox Aug. 28, becoming the first Johnnie to sign an MLB contract since first baseman Jon Dold ’94, who was selected in the 40th round of the 1993 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. Stock ended his Johnnie career tied for third in school history with 17 home runs, as well as with a .325 batting average, 66 RBI and a .650 slugging percentage. On the mound, he collected 64 strikeouts in 63.2 career innings pitched. • Meanwhile, post Lucas Walford ’20 signed with the Drogheda Wolves, a team in Ireland’s National Basketball Division 1 league, on Sept. 25. In three seasons as a Johnnie, Walford managed to become the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots (131) and recorded 26
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Then, in December, Erdmann signed a contract to be part of Fan Controlled Football – a new league scheduled to begin play in February. As the name suggests, it’s a league in which fans will control virtually everything through online voting (via Twitch) – from the makeup of the teams in each game to the plays quarterbacks like Erdmann will be executing on the field. That field, by the way, will be just 50 yards long. And play will consist of seven-on-seven. A number of celebrity owners have signed on to be part of the venture, including current and former NFL stars like Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch and professional wrestler Miro (Rusev in his time with the WWE).
Backes Makes Good Works Team Quarterback Chris Backes ’21 is the fourth consecutive Johnnie to be named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, and the fifth overall. Backes and the rest of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team – which consists of players from all divisions of college football - were honored New Year’s Day during ESPN’s television broadcast of a College Football Playoff semifinal between Clemson and Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The most recent trio were all former teammates of Backes: Bartch, Erdmann and wide receiver Will Gillach ’19. Defensive end Kevin McNamara ’07 was SJU’s first to earn the honor in 2006. Backes is a semifinalist for the 2020 Campbell Trophy and a 2020 National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award.
Achievements Alumni Achievement Awards The Saint John’s University Alumni Achievement Award is given to outstanding alumni in seven Reunion classes annually. Recipients are nominated by classmates, with final selection made by the Alumni Association Board of Directors. Congratulations to the 2021 award recipients!
John A. Knapp ’71
John G. Asmussen ’76
John Knapp has made an indelible impact on Minnesota’s legal community and beyond.
A gifted accountant with a passion for education, John Asmussen devoted his career to public service.
A highly respected attorney with a long list of state and national honors, Knapp helped Minneapolis-based Winthrop & Weinstine grow into one of the Minnesota’s premier law firms, serving on its first board of directors and chairing its Legislative and Regulatory Practice Group for more than 30 years.
Asmussen graduated from Saint John’s University cum laude in Accounting and worked for the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor, becoming the Deputy Legislative Auditor and serving on the boards of several state and national accounting organizations. He received the William Smith Gold Medal in 1997 for earning the nation’s highest score on the Certified Independent Auditor Exam.
He invested himself in the legal and public affairs professions, serving on state and national committees, publishing and speaking extensively, and mentoring law students. Knapp, whose areas of practice include campaign finance and election law, served as general counsel for the host committee for the 2008 Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. Knapp also invests deeply in his community. He chaired Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Task Force and helped fellow Johnnie Tim Marx ’79 secure $100 million for the new center in St. Paul. He also provides leadership in organizations including the Guthrie Theater, the Citizens League, the Alzheimer’s Association of Minnesota and North Dakota and the Nature Conservancy of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
That year, he became Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Executive Director of Internal Auditing and embarked on furthering his own education. He attained a doctorate in education policy and administration from the University of Minnesota, retired from Minnesota State and continued to advise higher education institutions on strategies for assessing and improving graduation rates. Asmussen poured himself into research about how and why students learned, how their personal situations impacted their education and how colleges and universities could respond. He died unexpectedly in February 2020, but Asmussen’s contributions to higher education – and to those who knew him – keep his legacy alive.
Achievements Ed Bonach ’76
Dave Hesse ’81
Michael Ryan ’86
Business leader Ed Bonach made such an impact on Indiana that when he retired in December 2017, he was recognized on the U.S. House of Representatives floor, awarded the Sagamore of Wabash – the state’s highest distinction – and honored with Ed Bonach Day in Indianapolis.
Dave Hesse was a captain in the United States Marine Corps and a successful 3M business leader who classmates recognize for his humility, generosity and commitment to community.
The Rev. Michael Ryan followed a unique path both to Saint John’s University and his current position of rector at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Kirkland, Washington – a path that led him to the right place at the right time.
Bonach earned plenty more accolades in a 41-year career in life and health insurance that culminated as CEO of CNO Financial Group, where he is credited for revitalizing the company, boosting morale and increasing employee engagement. However, as one of his nominators noted, “His professional accomplishments are second to his positive influence on the communities in which he resided.” Among Bonach’s many contributions are helping launch the Boys Scouts’ Growing Future Leaders capital campaign in Indiana and serving on the boards of the National Arthritis Foundation and Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. He’s a member of the nonprofit Indiana Sports Corp’s board and a director of the Western Golf Association. Marian University, for which he is a trustee, recently purchased the Saint John’s Bible thanks to a matching pledge by Bonach and his wife, Peggy.
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“He's the kind of man who has and would sacrifice his own self-interest for the good of his friends and the broader community,” one nominator said. “Dave is a dedicated, honest, loyal friend who brings pride and honor not only to himself but to the larger Saint John's community.” Hesse was commissioned the day he graduated from Saint John’s University. He honored the legacy of his brother Tom (Saint John’s Prep ’73, USMA ’77), who performed the commissioning and then tragically died in a car accident that weekend, by serving the next five years in the Marines before launching a threedecade career with 3M that had him assist in building businesses in more than 40 countries globally. Hesse retired in 2018 and now focuses on his family, church and community involvement, contributing to non-profit organizations such as Second Harvest, Salvation Army and The Midway Men’s Club, which supports youth organizations in St. Paul.
Ryan took a detour before he enrolled at Saint John’s, one nominator recalled. “He had stories of taking a gap year to hitchhike around the country and do odd jobs, always relishing meeting new folks.” He also took an indirect path to ministry, graduating from Saint John’s with a Philosophy degree and starting his post-college career working in politics and as a lobbyist before entering the seminary. Ryan served in South Haven, Michigan after graduating from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and being ordained in 2009. He arrived at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in January 2020, just before the Kirkland area became a COVID-19 epicenter – and just in time to lend his trademark positivity, calmness and thoughtfulness to a congregation contending with the United States’ first stages of the pandemic that soon swept the nation.
Achievements Bill Kozlak ’91
Chris Palmer ’96
Nicholas Rowland ’01
Jax Café is more than a restaurant. It’s a Northeast Minneapolis institution, an integral part of the community and a three-generation Kozlak family legacy.
Dr. Chris Palmer worked at the forefront of Minnesota’s battle against the pandemic as he helped lead North Memorial Health’s COVID response team during the initial stages of the outbreak.
Dr. Nicholas Rowland has reached several academic pinnacles since he started teaching at Pennsylvania State University in 2007, and he still has half of his career in front of him.
Bill Kozlak ’91 has carried on that tradition since he bought the restaurant from his father Bill Sr. in 2000, maintaining the top-notch dining and exceptional service that Kozlak’s grandparents and parents carefully cultivated at the legendary 20th and University location. The past year has forced restaurants and bars like Jax to contend with unprecedented challenges. However, as one of Kozlak’s nominators wrote, “He meets challenges with the professionalism and poise that his family instilled in him and has made many sacrifices to maintain the Jax institution.” Kozlak’s dedication extends to the community around Jax, where he is known for his support for neighborhood events, youth sports, school foundations and his alma maters, St. Thomas Academy and Saint John’s University. “Bill is always there to step in and arrange a fundraiser, golf event or luncheon to help raise money for those who are serving our kids, neighbors or those in need.”
As a Saint John’s student, Palmer led Johnnie football to the conference title in 1995 and won the coveted Gagliardi Trophy. Ask him about either, and he’ll likely deflect credit onto his coworkers and teammates. At work and on the field, Palmer lives out the Benedictine values of humility and community. He also carries out legendary coach John Gagliardi’s legacy of valuing personal character above winning, while coaching St. Anthony youth basketball, football and baseball while working as a physician. Palmer is employed by Emergency Physician Professional Association and has served as Medical Director for North Memorial Health’s Level 1 Trauma Center Emergency Department since 2013. He has earned a reputation for leading with integrity and putting his team first. He has faced unprecedented challenges as he headed the Medical Branch of North Memorial's COVID response team.
Rowland was promoted to full Professor of Sociology in May 2019 while becoming the youngest Faculty Senate Chair in Penn State’s history – a role that took on new significance in spring 2020 when COVID prompted the university to create an emergency alternative grading system. A respected researcher with more than 50 publications and 100 presentations, Rowland serves on the board of two academic journals and conducts peer reviews for publications around the world. He also mentors students presenting at academic conferences and poster competitions through the undergraduate research laboratory he founded. Rowland’s “relentless work making future scientists out of undergraduate students,” as one nominator put it, earned him the designation of Faculty Fellow at Penn State’s Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence. He was named Penn State’s first Faculty Scholar in 2017, and his many awards include the university’s highest teaching honor, the Atherton Award for Teaching Excellence.
Ray Colwell and his wife Loretta celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Oct. 28. Ray attended Saint John’s as a freshman in 1947, but his college days were curtailed by the death of his father. He continues to follow SJU football, and family members who have gone on to attend SJU/CSB include John Hooley ’74, Tim Colwell ’90, Tricia Colwell Kerr ’92, Ben Hooley ’04, Mike Priebe ’04, Jenny Scarrella Vos ’07, Matt Vos ’04, Brian Horst ’09 and Ryan Hooley ’10. They have 9 children, 23 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. John Taylor retired from the Ever-Green Energy board of directors in September after two decades of service, including 11 years as board chair. Taylor previously served on the board of directors of Ever-Green’s affiliate District Energy St. Paul from 1982-2000. “John’s commitment to community energy has played a vital role in the development of District Energy St. Paul, helping the system advance to becoming one of the most notable systems in the world,” said Ken Smith, president and CEO of EverGreen Energy. “His leadership, vision and unwavering dedication have made a lasting impact.” Taylor also serves as Senior Associate for Institutional Advancement at Saint John’s University. James Stewart was one of seven attorneys at the Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick, P.A. law firm in Duluth to be selected as
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Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2020. Only 5 percent of Minnesota lawyers are awarded this honor each year. Stewart practices in the areas of estate planning and probate, trusts, business and tax law. 1971
includes a chapter dedicated to Field’s time at Saint John’s University, which he credits for helping to provide a secure base to go forward and live a meaningful life. 1983
Rick Hinkemeyer has published his latest Maryland Mystery, Confessions of the Soul.
It tells the story of Father Anton, a troubled Catholic priest who returns to his hometown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to heal and to confront a past he had forgotten or never really knew. Hinkemeyer is also the author of the Minnesota Mystery series. You can find his books at amazon.com/author/ rjhinkemeyer 1979
Dr. Paul Linde created a podcast, Hippie Docs 2.0: ReHumanizing Medicine, on Apple Podcasts. The podcast launched Oct. 1 with three eclectic episodes. Linde is the host of
the podcast, which is inspired by the generation of doctors working during the Civil Rights era and examines the ripple effect on today’s physicians who are dedicated to social justice and emphasizing the doctor/ patient relationship in the face of increasing corporatization of medicine. Linde and his team plan to publish a new episode at the beginning of each month. You can access the podcast at podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/ hippie-docs-2-0-re-humanizingmedicine/id1532873214
Joe Field published a book in 2020 titled Finding Joe Adams: Overcoming Great Odds a Son Searches for His Father. The book 1986
John Rosengren was featured in an October article in the Minneapolis StarTribune that examined his new novel, A Clean Heart. The novel is centered on the staff and patients of an adolescent drug treatment center and is inspired by the author’s personal experience with addiction, recovery and 39 years of sobriety.
Pete Godich, Chief of Operations for Junior Achievement USA, was recognized by JA with a Gold Award, one of eight given in the nation in 2020. Godich is a longtime, enthusiastic JA volunteer, including serving on the board and as board president for JA of the Upper Midwest. The organization chose Godich and the other honorees from more than 247,000 volunteers nationwide. Pat Lynch ’88, Jeff Smiens ’88, Brian Roers ’01, Matt Bergmann ’04, Andrew Ward ’06, Chad Henfling ’07 and Anthony Schmidt ’09 were profiled in the October 2020 edition of Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal as part of the magazine’s annual Fast 50 annual profile. Henfling’s company, ExperienceIT, ranked No. 4 on the list of fastest-growing companies. Schmidt’s company, Tarmac IO, ranked No. 7. Lynch and Smiens’ company, Sartell-based Granite Logistics, ranked No. 22. Ward’s company, Merchology, ranked No. 28. Roers’ company, commercial real estate developer and property manager Roers Cos., ranked No. 33. Bergmann’s company, Laketown Electric Corp., ranked No. 38. Patrick Hicks recently published his 10th book, In the Shadow of Dora, with SFA/Texas A&M Press. The novel is about the real-life intersections between the Holocaust and the Apollo program, and it already has received strong critical praise.
Matt Morrey was recognized as a Top Orthopedic Surgeon in the state of Texas. Morrey – who specializes in hip and knee reconstructive surgery at Christus Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine in San Antonio, Texas – received his bachelors degree in Studio Art at Saint John’s University, then went on to earn a master’s degree in Medical Illustration from the Medical College of Georgia and a medical doctorate at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston. He completed his orthopedic surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic.
Brian Ragatz was selected as president of the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence in Minneapolis. The nonprofit organization supports the 79 preschool through eighth-grade Catholic schools in the Twin Cities area. Ragatz, a product of Catholic education since kindergarten, has nearly 20 years of educational experience in Catholic schools within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Raymond ‘R.J.’ Welsh was promoted in November to Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves. Welsh, who played on Saint John’s national championship football team in 2003 for legendary coach John Gagliardi, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps following graduation from SJU with a degree in Computer Science. He works for Leidos, a Fortune 500 information technology,
He is the host and curator of a weekly NPR-affiliated radio show called Poetry from Studio 47, as well as being the Writerin-Residence at Augustana University. Hicks also recently became a faculty member in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada University.
Dr. Brian Lenzmeier was selected as the 19th President of Buena Vista University (Storm Lake, Iowa) in October. He joined the Buena Vista faculty as a Biology professor in 2003, and served as Interim President from May 2020 until his appointment as President Oct. 26. Lenzmeier was an allMIAC cross country selection and resident assistant while earning his undergraduate Biology degree at Saint John’s. He went on to earn his Doctorate in Biochemistry from Colorado State University and completed post-doctoral research in Molecular Biology at Princeton University.
engineering and science solutions and services company in Alexandria, Virginia. 2005
Aaron Johnson was promoted to CEO of the independent orthopedic practice at Twin Cities Orthopedics Oct. 22. Johnson joined TCO in 2010 and became Chief Operating Officer in 2013, overseeing clinic operations and local ambulatory surgery centers. Andrew Walesch was featured in an October interview with Jay Gabler of The Current, 89.3 KCMP-FM in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The interview centered on Crooners Supper Club, where Walesch serves as the venue’s music director. Nick Mans was selected for the Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence by the Nicollet (Minnesota) Public School system. Mans, who is in his fourth year of teaching middle and senior high school science courses, was cited for his enthusiasm, patience, love for teaching and science and his adaptability in transitioning his coursework to a digital format after COVID-19 hit last spring. Mans is also an assistant coach for the Nicollet High School football team, working with the same head coach who coached Mans when he attended the school. Joe Twohy has released his first album, Quiet Cycles, which is available on the major music streaming services. Twohy, a double major in Accounting and Piano at Saint John’s, started his professional career at the KPMG accounting firm
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Amanda (Dixon ’14) to Andrew Rose, Nov. ’20 Joslyn (Brugh ’15) to Bobby Thomas, June ’20 Sophia (Korman ’15) to Joe Wocken, Oct. ’20 2016 Alicia (Evenson ’16) to Josh Bungum, Aug. ’20 Sarah (Manning ’18) to William Canfield, Aug. ’20 Alexandra (Hammerstorm ’16) to Andrew Commers, Aug. ’19 Breanna (Gates ’19) to Mitchell Kuck, Aug. ’20 2017 Elizabeth (Erickson ’17) to Thomas Budd, Nov. ’20 Alexa (Roubik ’17) to Nick Colburn, Aug. ’20 Emma (Woods ’17) to MacKenzie Jarocki, June ’20 Ashley (Radatz ’17) to Stephen Uphus, Sept. ’20 2018 Anna (Barton ’18) to Josh Amacher, Aug. ’20 Emeline (Brudwick ’19) to Daniel Gillis, Sept. ’20 2019 Maria (Siebels ’19) to Alex Blechle, July ’20 Josie (Thelen ’19) to Mitch Fritz, Jan. ’21
before switching his focus to music in March 2020. He has been playing the piano since.
Lindsey Jeans to Sean Fahnhorst, Sept. ’20 2011 Christie Taylor to Chris Morgan, Aug. ’20 2012 Kelsey (Rose ’12) to Parker Deutz, Oct. ’20 Brittany (Dingman ’12) to Karsen Yelle, Aug. ’20 2013 Alisha (Voigt ’14) to Ryan Fuchs, Sept. ’20 Iris (Page ’16) to Joseph Hamburger, Oct. ’20 2014 Magdalen (Morris ’14) to Dylan Graves, Sept. ’20 Stephanie (Pinkalla ’14) to Stephen Katz, Sept. ’20 Shelby to Mike Peters, May ’19 Meghan (O’Brien ’14) to Thomas Rongitsch, May ’20 2015 Tayler-Brianna (Huston ’15) to Eric Boysen, July ’20 Marisa (Amacher ’15) to Ross Carlson, Oct. ’20 Katie (Monahan ’15) to Mike Fisher, Aug. ’20 Katherine (Rogosheske ’15) to Alex Funk, June ’19 Amanda (Whebbe ’15) to Ryan Fuxa, April ’20 Abigail (Jarnot ’14) to Dylan Gertken, Dec. ’20 Jennifer (Ulveling ’15) to Jack Hamilton, Oct. ’20 Anna (Schaefer ’15) to Desmond McKeown, Sept. ’20 Alissa (Lager ’15) to Trevor Plasky, Sept. ’20
Kathryn (Jeffery ’01) & Matt Foley, boy, David, June ’20 2003 Kelly (Ackerman ’05) & Phill Rojeski, girl, Olivia, Oct. ’19 2004 Atsuko & Mike Staffa, girl, Emma, Sept. ’20 2005 Kelsey & Keith Becker, boy, James, May ’18 Heather (Isaackson ’05) & Michael Orth, boy, Timothy, Jan. ’21 2007 Tara (Fasciana ’07) & Benjamin Durheim, boy, Kaj, Jan. ’21 Nicole & Seth Lembeck, girl, Penny, Jan. ’21 Tamara (Slivnik ’07) & Kyle Shaughnessy, girl, Natalie, Dec. ’20 2008 Raeleen (Rasmussen ’08) & Robert Fandrich, twin girls, Gracelyn & Makenzie, Aug. ’20
2013 Nicole (Behne ’13) & Nick Elfering,
1943 Marian Wocken, spouse of deceased,
Adolph, Sept. ’20 Jerome Zachman, Dec. ’20 Dr. Richard Salk, father of James ’70, Michael ’78, Gregory ’85, deceased son, Steven ’77, deceased brother, Edward ’41, Nov. ’20 1947 Ruth Gambrino, spouse of deceased, Robert, Oct. ’20 Vera Theisen, spouse of Sylvester, mother of David ’78 and Marcel ’93, Sept. ’20 Donald “Ed” Zins, July ’20 1948 Nancy Jirik, spouse of deceased, Joseph, Aug. ’20 1949 Rev. Donald Rose, Sept, ’20 1950 David Klein, Nov. ’20 Dr. Maurice Northup, Sept. ’18 Kathleen Norton, spouse of deceased, John, mother of Paul ’82, William ’83, David ’91, Jan. 21 Don Schimmels, Sept. ’20 Rev. Joseph Senger, Nov. ’20 Millie Warnert, spouse of deceased, Melvin, Nov. ’20 1951 Norman Bauer, brother of deceased, Clyde, Aug. ’20 Charles “Terry” Dooley, Sept. ’20 Vern Fahrenkrug, Jan. ’21 Gerald Knudson, Sept. ’20 Kevin Lawler, Nov. ’20 Rev. Gerald Noesen, SOT/Sem ’55, Nov. ’20 Maurice “Max” Wenker, Jan. ’21 James Zylla, brother of deceased, Joseph ’50, May ’20 1952 Rita Donlin, spouse of deceased, Larry, Nov. ’20 Paul Gannon, Dec. ’20 John Howard, brother of Sister Katherine, OSB SOT/Sem ’68, May ’20 Carol Ladner, spouse of Jim, Nov. ’20 Monsignor Richard Mahowald, brother of deceased, Pat ’61, Nov. ’20 Ted Peller, Dec. ’20 Barbara Thomes, spouse of Ray, mother of Gregory ’78, Sept. ’20 William Van Sloun, Nov. ’20. 1953 Dr. Zdenek Cerohous, Aug. ’18 Mary Duffy, spouse of Hal, Dec. ’20 Walter Fraipont, Oct. ’18 Merlin Tipton, Aug. ’17
Anna (Martin ’12) & Peter Larson, boy, William, Sept. ’20 Anna (Lynch ’09) & Ryan Sandquist, boy, Merit, May ’20 Abby (Stahl ’08) & Paul Zipoy, girl, Isabella, March ’20 2009 Samantha (Schmidt ’09) & Stephen Foertsch, boy, Beau, July ’20 Maria & Anthony Schmidt, girl, Camila, May ’20 Jolene (Brink ’09) & John Smith, boy, Leo, March ’20 2010 Angela (Tate ’10) & Andy Aebly, boy, Eamon, Nov. ’20 Stephanie (Maher ’10) & Todd Fredrickson, girl, Evelyn, Feb. ’20 McKinsey (Weydert ’11) & Jacob Haider, boy, Augustine, Oct. ’20 Amy & Johnathan Hohenstein, girl, Molly, Nov. ’20 Callie (Harp ’10) & Jake Koehler, boy, Levi, Dec. ’20 2011 Ellen (Griffith ’12) & Brandon Boquist, girl, Natalie, Dec. ’20 Brooke (Miller ’09) & Jake Carrow, boy, Carter, Sept. ’20 Kimberly (Schendel ’12) & Michael Ellias, boy, Brooks, April ’19 Katie (Elmquist ’12) & Andrew Grausam, boy, John, Aug. ’20 Carolyn (Triggs ’12) & Ryan Moscho, boy, Carson, Jan. ’21 Brittney (Helmbrecht ’11) & Alex Schoephoerster, boy, Griffin, Nov. ’20 Kelsey & Charlie Swanson, girl, Tessa, July ’20 Kerry & Ben Trnka, twins boy and girl, James & Piper, July ’20 2012 Kaycee (Knutson ’12) & Gavin Miller, boy, Beau, Nov. ’20 Dori Shima & Jessey Niyongabo, girl, Shami, Sept. ’20 Emily (Dobesh ’11) & Nick Roscoe, boy, Walter, Oct. ’20 Lauren (Herzog ’12) & Anthony Scardigli, girl, Mary-Kate, July ’20 Shannon & Bryan Wachter, boy, Lido, Oct. ’20 2013 Amanda (Brown ’14) & Rob Bruening, girl, Juliana, Nov. ’19 Rebecca (Spanier ’14) & Christopher Calderone, boy, James, Aug. ’20
boy, Adam, Aug. ’20 Cassondra & Kevin Opatz, boy, Noah, Aug. ’20 Samantha & Adam Wenker, boy, Leo, Dec. ’20 2014 Amy (Kiminski ’14) & Tim Baebenroth, girl, Rae, Sept. ’20 Amy (Knutson ’15) & Jacob Hall, boy, Andrew, Sept. ’20 Melissa (Stuckey ’14) & Preston Hardy, boy, Jerah, May ’20 Anna (Harren ’13) & Ethan Kvidt, boy, Mason, Nov. ’20 Sara (Tiemens ’14) & Garrett Lee, boy, Gavin, May ’20 Shelby & Mike Peters, girl, Adalynn, May ’20 Bailey (Rykken ’15) & Anthony Reynolds, boy, Crosby, June ’20 Emily (Roberts ’14) & Jay Roane, boy, Henry, Aug. ’20 Anne (Pavel ’13) & Mitchell Voigt, girl, Emily, July ’20 2015 Jennifer (Kretschmer ’15) & John Terseck, girl, Harper, Aug. ’20 2017 Tess (Troyak ’17) & Jeremy Reller, girl, Etta, Sept. ’20 Morgan & Peyton Thiry, girl, Elliette, Sept. ’20 2018 Alison & Noah Voigt, boy, Cyril, Dec. ’20
Deaths 1926 Agnes Steil, spouse of deceased, Marcus, mother of David ’64, Paul ’65, Ken ’67, Oct. ’20 1938 Cecilia Erickson Pulus, spouse of deceased, Arnt, mother of John ’72, Dec. ’20 1940 Joyce Hansen, spouse of deceased, Pierre, July ’20 1942 Dorothy Dierickx, spouse of deceased, Wally, Aug. ’20 1943 Anthony Bommarito Feb. ’20 Mary Engelen, spouse of deceased, Theodore, mother of Pat ’73 and Mike ’74, Aug. ’20 Francis Nierengarten, father of Donald ’73, Dec. ’20 1943 Kenneth Tauer, Dec. ’19
Lambert “Larry” Zenner, father of Robert ’84, Nov. ’20 Rev. Nicholas Zimmer, SOT/Sem ’57, Nov. ’20 1954 Glenn Kirsch, Dec. ’20 Bernard Len, Mar. ’20 Diane Martinka, spouse of Bob, mother of Ben ’82 and Bob ’85, Dec. ’20 Jim McDonald, brother of Robert ’59, Oct. ’20 Dominic St. Peter, Aug. ’20 Cornelius “Corky” Vahle, Jr., Mar. ’20 Cletus Windschitl, brother of Harold ’55 and Paul ’61, Oct. ’20 Jerry Zimmer, father of Mark ’79, Sept. ’20 1955 John Doerr, Aug. ’20 Marcia Lowe, spouse of deceased, George, Dec. ’20 James Sexton, father of Terry ’77, Tom ’81, Steve ’88 and brother of Robert ’66, Oct. ’20 Dr. Harold Windschitl, father of Jeff ’84, Mike ’85, brother of Paul ’61 and deceased, Cletus ’54, Nov. ’20 1956 Gregory Cummings,father of Kevin ’88, Michael ’91 and deceased brother Patrick ’57, Aug. ’20 Evelyn Eckroth, spouse of Charlie, Aug. ’20 Dr. Charles Eckroth, brother of Rev. Leonard Eckroth ’54 and deceased Rev. Richard Eckroth, OSB ’51 & SOT/Sem ’53, Dec. ’20 Frank Faust, Jan. ’19 Dr. Gerhard Feia, Jan. ’19 Robert Leiferman, Aug. ’18 Harvey Meyer, brother of deceased, Alvin ’55, Sept. ’20 James Tacheny, Nov. ’20 1957 Beverly Bresnahan, spouse of Bob, May ’20 Rev. Denis Fournier, Jan. ’21 Tom Gambrino, brother of Angelo ’51, and deceased brother, Robert ’47, Aug. ’20 Rev. William Jablonske, SOT/Sem ’61, Aug. ’20 Jackie Kapsner, spouse of deceased, Adrian, mother of Chris ’86, Jon ’86, Matt ’87, Dec. ’20
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Adrian Kapsner, father of Chris ’86, Jon ’86, Matt ’87, brother of deceased, Charles ’61, Dec. ’20 Dr. Timothy McCartney, Nov. ’20 Delrose Mies, spouse of deceased, Verlin, Nov. ’20 Thomas Mitchell, Dec. ’20 Robert White, brother of Tom ’57 and Jim ’57, Dec. ’20 1958 Douglas Bailey, father of Phil ’85, Oct. ’18 Leo Eisenzimmer, Nov. ’20 Kathy Johnson, spouse of Art, Nov. ’20 Mildred Kastner, spouse of deceased, Richard, mother of Michael ’87, Nov. ’20 Gerald Rieder, Sept. ’20 Urban Salonek, Jan. ’21 Dennis Zimer, July ’20 1959 Marcia, spouse of Rod Bailey, Jan. ’21 Robert Cisco, Oct. ’20 Robert Foley, Oct. ’20 Frank Moran, Nov. ’20 Herman Janzen, brother of Warren ’64, Jan. ’21 Pam Paul, spouse of Cyril, Nov. ’20 Deacon Larry Sisterman, Jan.’21 Severin Youso, Jr., brother of Ronald ’64 and deceased brother, Gary ’67, Sept. ’20 1960 Cliff Gardner, father of Dan ’91 and brother John ’74, Jan. ’21 Larry Herickhoff, brother of Bob ’60 and Jim ’64, Dec. ’20 Dan Kammeyer, Dec. ’20 Patricia Nicholson, spouse of Joe, Sept. ’20 John Paur, brother of Br. Roman, OSB SJU ’62 & SOT/Sem ’66, Patrick ’61, June ’20 1961 John Angell, Dec. ’20 Eugene Hanauska, brother of Ken ’64, Nov. ’20 Right Reverend Abbot Giles Hayes, OSB, Mar. ’18 Patrick Mahowald, father of Tom ’86, Andy ’91, deceased brother of Msg. Richard ’52, Oct. ’20 Bob Weber, brother of Eugene ’64 and Ev ’58, son of deceased Mathias ’20, Aug. ’20 1962 Donald Anderson, Sept. ’20
1962 John Dullea, father of Sean ’96,
Aug. ’20 John Hartert, April ’20 Adrian Lederamnn, SOT/Sem ’84, brother of Benedict ’66 and Philip ’68, Aug. ’20 Tom O’Gorman, Nov. ’20 1963 Sandie Conway, spouse of Jim, Dec. ’20 Dennis Ginther, May, ’20. John Nemanich, Oct. ’20. 1964 Tom Borak, Jan. ’21 Mary Cady, spouse of Tim, mother of Michael ’95, Dec. ’20 Kathleen Friedrich, spouse of Joe, Sept. ’20 Mary Ellen Radford, spouse of deceased Phil, Dec. ’20 James Rundquist, father of Andy ’93 and Matt ’00, Sept. ’20 Elizabeth Schmainda, spouse of Bob, July ’20 J. Peter Traskey, Jan. ’21 1965 James Green, Aug. ’19 Charles Spohn, May ’20 Tom Varley, father of Steve ’90 and Dan ’94, brother of Jim ’61 and Leo ’79, Dec. ’20 1966 Sheila Mulcahy, spouse of Ryan, mother of Ben ’91, daughter of deceased, Adrian Hogan ’38, sister of deceased Mark Hogan ’68, Oct. ’20 Kenneth Mueller, Nov. ’20 Abbot Patrick Regan, OSB, Feb. ’17 Lawrence Rooney, Aug. ’20 Jim Sweetman, father of John ’95, Michael ’97, Thomas ’01 and Patrick ’08, son of deceased John ’28, Jan. ’21 1967 Dick Casey, Sept. ’20 Hugh Dufner, Jr., Dec. ’20 Bob Ryan, Dec. ’20 1968 Ruth Doais, spouse of Donald, mother of Don ’91 and Jeremy ’97, July ’20 Tim Haeney, Dec. ’20 Mark Hogan, son of deceased Adrian ’38, Sept. ’20 S. Patrice Reed, OSB, sister of Br. Alan Reed, OSB ’68, Nov. ’20 Michael Sebastian, Jan. ’21 Roger Trobec, father of Stephen ’91, Garrett ’93, Paul ’99 and Greg ’07, Dec. ’20
Pat Vincelli, brother of Ron ’70, Aug. ’20 1969 Stan Bezek, Dec. ’20 1969 George Frey, father of George, Jan. ’21 1970 James Delebo, July ’20 Joyce Schampel, spouse of deceased, Grant ’70, Jan. ’21 John Stencel, brother of Joe ’67, Jan. ’21 1971 Bill Krantz, Sept. ’20 Vincent Tuohy, Aug. ’20 1972 S. Ruth Karnitz, SSND, SOT/Sem, Jan. ’21 Emily Vlasak, mother of Vic, Aug. ’20 Thomas Schoeneberger, father of Chuck ’99 and Paul ’11, brother of Bill ’64, Oct. ’20 1973 Glen Hentges, brother of Bruce ’72, Jan. ’21 Sister Diane Liston, OSB SOT/Sem, Nov. ’20 Diane Nolan, spouse of Jim, Sept. ’20 Jerry Tempel, brother of Joe ’63, Sept. ’20 John Wentz, March ’20 1974 Joseph Hanson, brother of Richard ’60 and William ’63, Dec. ’19 Tom Mans, Dec. ’20 Michael McDonagh, Jan. ’21
1974 Dr. Michael Sullivan, Nov. ’20 Jeanne Welch, spouse of Tim, SOT Sem ’77, Oct. ’20 1975 Dr. Donald Auger, Jan. ’21 Dennis Lynch, Dec. ’20 1976 Tom Fashant, son of Ronald ’53, brother of deceased Chris ’81, Nov. ’20 Jo Ann Wilch, mother of Matthew ’76 and Thomas ’84, Nov. ’20 Dr. Bruce Cross, brother of Tim ’77, Oct. ’20 1977 S. Marge Sasse, SOT/Sem, Aug. ’20 1978 Charles Drury, Sr., father of Tim ’81 and Chuck ’78, Sept. ’20 Gregory Theisen, Sept. ’20 1979 Patrick Dwyer, brother of Paul ’72, Peter ’73, Jim ’75, Tom ’77, deceased brother John ’72, deceased father John ’50, Nov. ’20 Bill Flintrop, Sept. ’18 1980 Delphin Dommer, father of Rev. Ian, OSB SOT/Sem, Dec. 20 John Hagel, Aug. ’20 Larry Rocheford, Nov. ’20 Tim Scott, Jan. ’21 1981 Dr. Jerome Eckrich, Jr., father of Steve, Dec. ’20 1982 Larry Schlichting, Sept. ’20
So What’s Next? A Monthly Podcast By Andrew McGee ’19 COVID-19 has impacted the entire Saint John’s University community in profound ways. In many cases, our livelihoods have turned upside down as we have searched for ways to reestablish meaning and purpose through communication, work, persistence and copious amounts of banana bread and Netflix. Navigating our futures and determining how to define success in the new normal have emerged prominently across our society. The resulting uncertainty and lack of reassuring conversations from those we trust created the idea of So, What’s Next? So, What’s Next? is a monthly podcast focused on helping
Roger Bechtold, son of Mary, SOT/ Sem ’73, brother of Stephen ’77, Mark ’80, deceased brother Gregory ’79, Oct.’20 Llewellyn Linde, father of Paul, Nov. ’20 Frank Pilney, July ’20 1986 Steve Boerner, father of Jay ’17, Dec. ’20 Michael Wander, son of deceased Robert ’42, brother of Terry ’72, Robert Jr, ’73, Daniel ’77, Feb. ’20 1988 Thomas Hofmann, brother of Robert ’81, Paul ’86, John ’89, Tim ’93, son of deceased Robert ’55, Sept. ’20 Linda Ley, spouse of Ray, SOT/Sem, Jan. ’21 1989 Bill Lynch, Jr., Oct. ’20 1990 Michael Mills, Dec. ’20 1992 Paul Thurk, Jan. ’21 1997 Mark Mitchell, Aug. ’20 2003 Josh Fiedler, Dec. ’20 2010 David Kirscht, brother of Dan ’09 and Charlie ’13, Nov. ’20 2012 Dustin Baxter, Aug.’20 2014 William Ellenbecker, son of John ’78, brother of John ’10, Aug. ’20
recent and upcoming SJU/CSB graduates navigate their futures. By delving into the stories of professionals who have succeeded in their endeavors, So, What’s Next? seeks to define what work will look like and how it will change for Johnnies and Bennies, based on their experiences of the past and navigation of uncertain times. This podcast will provide another avenue to share success in both life and work of Johnnies and Bennies, as well as provide guidance, insight and ideas to those who are seeking their own definition of success in work and a holistic life.
SJU Helped Rosengren Kick Addiction, Write His Own Story By Frank Rajkowski In many ways, John Rosengren’s latest book has brought the 1986 Saint John’s University graduate and noted Minnesota author full circle. The novel – A Clean Heart – is set on Six West, a fictional adolescent drug treatment center where counselor Carter Kirchner continues to manage his own efforts to remain clean and sober. Adolescent addiction was also a topic Rosengren – who has been open about his own struggles with addiction as a teen – explored in his first book, the loosely autobiographical collection of short stories Life is a Party: Portrait of a Teenage Partier published in 1989. A Clean Heart was written only a few years later. “I went through treatment myself when I was 17, and later I worked in an adolescent treatment center,” he said. “So I was able to draw on my own experiences, although my mother wants everyone to know the novel is fiction. Unlike Kirchner’s mother in the book, she was never an alcoholic. “I wrote it back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I tried to get it published then and it got rejected. Every five years or so, I’d revive it and send it back out. But the response was always the same. So I’d sort of resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be the proverbial unpublished novel sitting in a desk drawer. “Then recently, after I’d finished another novel, I thought I’d send this one off again too. And sure enough, A Clean Heart is the one that got picked up. So it’s really kind of a sequel to my first book. It’s just been delayed about 25 or 30 years.”
Rosengren has written nine books as well as penning short stories, essays and numerous articles for prestigious publications and websites including The Atavist, The New Yorker, The Washington Post Magazine, Sports Illustrated, History Channel Magazine, SB Nation and Vice. His long expose for The Atlantic – titled How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts – was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2017. A good deal of his work has focused on sports, including books like The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball's Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption (2014), Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes (2013) and Blades of Glory: The True Story of a Young Team Bred to Win (2003). He also co-wrote Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Player in the NFL with former Minnesota Viking Esera Tuaolo in 2006. “I don’t consider myself a sports writer,” Rosengren said. “I write about a variety of subjects. But what they all seem
to have in common is that they’re stories about the human spirit. I’ve always related to people who’ve had to overcome obstacles in some fashion and were able to succeed.” Perhaps that’s because Rosengren is no stranger to overcoming obstacles himself. He credits his time at Saint John’s with helping strengthen the foundation that makes his career possible. When he arrived on campus in the fall of 1982, Rosengren was newly sober. He said the community he found on campus helped him continue down the path he had embarked on. “Saint John’s was really innovative in that there were AA meetings on campus,” he said. “Back in the fall of 1982, that was somewhat unusual. “I think a big part of maintaining sobriety is having that spiritual foundation. And at Saint John’s, I drew a lot of support from Benedictine values and principals, and the sense of community that exists there.”
Inspiring Lives is reserved for reflective pieces with a Benedictine theme. Please submit essays, poetry or other reflections for consideration to Dave DeLand at email@example.com.
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LEAVE YOUR LEGACY
Mattson ’13 Kicks In at Age 29 James Mattson ’13 is still scoring points for Saint John’s University, long after his career as one of the most successful kickers in Johnnie football history came to an end. Last October, Mattson – a 29-year-old financial advisor who serves as managing director with The Falldin-Mattson Group (a Twin Cities-based financial advisory practice of Ameriprise Financial Systems) – signed a Letter of Intent toward his $1 million will provision. “Well, I am single,” he said, explaining his decision to make a planned gift to SJU at such a young age. “And if something were to happen to me, I wanted to make sure that Saint John’s University was in my estate plans.” Mattson, an accounting/finance major from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, kicked at SJU from 2010-12. His 24 career field goals rank thirdmost in program history and his 120 career PATs rank sixth.
The 52-yard field goal he kicked against Gustavus in 2011 is still tied for the longest in school history. The 2009 graduate of Eau Claire Memorial High School also earned All-MIAC and All-America honors as a senior with the Johnnies in 2012. “Saint John’s certainly helped make me the man I am today,” said Mattson, whose expertise now is in investments. “I had great mentors like (SJU football coach) John Gagliardi and (accounting professor) Boz Bostrom. “I owe a lot of my success to Saint John’s.”
For more information on ways to LEAVE YOUR LEGACY contact the Planned Giving team at 320-363-2116 or visit sjulegacy.org Read more inspiring donor stories at advancingsaintjohns.org
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