Saint John's Magazine Winter/Spring 2024

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Jervon Sands ’23

SJU Rhodes Scholar


Kilzer Takes Inspiring Path Through SJU

Popp Finds His College Tour in Collegeville

On the Road With The Saint John’s Bible



Kilzer’s Remarkable Path Found Direction at Saint John’s P. 6

His roots began on a family farm in a remote North Dakota area that he calls ‘the end of the world,’ but Ralph Kilzer ’57 took things from there on an amazing life journey – exceptional surgeon and state senator, devoted family man and a man of faith. All of that was nourished in Collegeville.

Sands Motivated to Tackle Global Climate Threat P. 14

The impact of his family support, Bahamian roots and academic inspirations helped Jervon Sands ’23 become just the second Rhodes Scholar in Saint John’s University history. Now, his educational focus is on tackling the atmospheric threats to his native islands and the world.

Popp Expanded His Horizons at SJU P. 26

He initially came to Collegeville primarily to play soccer, but Kaidan Popp ’24 found other passions – his interests in theater and sustainability, a sense of community and a sense of direction. Now, he’s ready to share his experiences as part of The College Tour series on Amazon Prime TV.

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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.


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Departments My Perspective 2 Transforming Lives 3 In Sight 24 Johnnie Sports 30 View from Collegeville 34 Alumni Achievement Awards 40 Class Notes 42 Service to the Church 47 Inspiring Lives 48 14 26 6 Find Saint John’s Magazine online at ©2023 Saint John’s University WINTER/SPRING 2024 MAGAZINE

Living Examples of Saint John’s Institutional Vision Building It Forward Paying It Back

Here at Saint John’s University, we take our responsibilities as educators seriously. We also embrace this important work of shaping Johnnies with a sense of joy, hope and awe. It is sacred work, that of providing unique opportunities and experiences for students to develop the habits and practices that will change and shape their lives.

And it is work squarely centered in our Saint John’s mission – calling us to instill the values and aspire to lead lives of significance and principled achievement.

In this issue you will encounter three Johnnies who are living examples of the Saint John’s mission in action: senior Kaidan Popp ’24, Rhodes Scholar Jervon Sands ’23 and former North Dakota State Senator and surgeon Ralph Kilzer ’57.

In so many ways, Kaidan, Jervon and Ralph are manifestations of our institutional learning goals: men who are thinking deeply, embracing difference, engaging globally, serving graciously, and living courageously. Each, in his own way and across his own sphere of influence, adopts a stance of curiosity, seeking to courageously live a life of purpose.

In so many ways, these Johnnies represent precisely what we expect of all Johnnies: to not just achieve, but to live a deliberate, thoughtful life dedicated to helping solve our world’s most urgent and complex problems. As you encounter their stories, you will see what I mean.

• Dr. Ralph Kilzer’s life is rich with service and leadership. As a physician, state legislator and clinical professor of surgery, Dr. Kilzer’s unapologetic embrace of his Catholic faith and Benedictine values is awe-inspiring.

• Jervon Sands, a 2023 graduate, is the first Rhodes Scholar from Saint John’s in more than 50 years. His impressive academic success is noteworthy, but so is his service-minded, spirituallyrich vision to work creatively on global climate justice.

• And if you haven’t already seen him in the must-watch Amazon Prime show featuring the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s, you will enjoy meeting senior Kaidan Popp. Kaidan’s extensive work with Saint John’s Sustainability

Office and in theatre represents a contagious enthusiasm to “observe life from multiple perspectives … [to] take part in the world.”

These are just three of the thousands of outstanding Johnnies who are living lives of courage and grace, making both their president and our entire community immensely proud and profoundly humbled.

The men in this issue are witness to the impact of a Saint John’s education –precisely who we are and what we strive to be as the greatest Benedictine, liberal arts institution in the world!

Saint John’s gave Dr. Philip Tsui ’73 a life-changing experience, and now his generosity is passing that opportunity along to other Johnnies

Philip Tsui’s years at Saint John’s launched his higher education and a rewarding career as a therapist, social worker and mental health therapist.

Dr. Philip Tsui ’73 calls his mission paying it back, and also paying it forward.

The Saint John’s University graduate also calls himself an “informal employee” who happily is working beyond the date when most people have already retired, largely for the benefit of the beloved institution that provided him with a “transformative experience.”

For all of that, Tsui is eternally grateful. “It’s a debt of honor that I owe Saint John’s and the Benedictines – I need to pay back.

"I would be ashamed of myself if I don’t pay back,” Tsui said. “Without them, who plucked me out of an impoverished environment all the way across the globe and brought me to Saint John’s, I wouldn’t be who I am.”

Saint John’s has been a life-changing experience for Tsui, who was 18 when he arrived on a campus he had never

seen before in the fall of 1969 and turned a serendipitous opportunity into a lifelong gift – to himself and to others.

“He’s never forgotten it, and he’s reached a point in his life where he’s in the position to pay it back or bring it forward to others and give other Johnnies the same opportunity he had,” said Rob Culligan ’82, Saint John’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement.

From Hong Kong to Saint John’s and beyond, Tsui has had quite a trip.

An Unlikely Path

Tsui was born Sept. 25, 1950 to a family of modest means in Hong Kong, which then was a very different place.

“We tend to think of Hong Kong now as this very modern, very wealthy metropolis. But shortly after World War II it was largely unknown,” Culligan said.

Said Tsui: “We lived in a poorer section of the city, a working-class family struggling to get by. In my last year of high school in Hong Kong there was no future. The odds of me going to college in Hong Kong was next to zero. So I applied everywhere in the United States.”

Through the Institute of International Education in Hong Kong, one of those applications came to Saint John’s.

“Thank God Fr. Don LeMay had mercy on me, and he took a chance,” Tsui said.

“It was amazing. Just imagine: An 18-year-old from the other side of the

world, landing in Central Minnesota of all places.”

Fr. LeMay picked Tsui up at the St. Cloud train station and drove him out to Collegeville, right up to the front door of the Abbey Church.

“It was an awe-inspiring experience – in the middle of the night, all lit up,” Tsui said. “I thought I was going to heaven or something.”

Fostering the Future at SJU

In many ways, he was. Saint John’s provided a nurturing, protective environment in which Tsui thrived.

“It’s a great place to grow up. It was home,” said Tsui, who cites Fr. LeMay, Fr. Aidan McCall, Fr. Rene McGraw, Dr. Jack Lange and Fr. Tom Thole as primary mentors. “I was lucky enough to have gained a lot of father figures on campus, not to mention the camaraderie of my fellow students – not just from Central Minnesota, but from around the world.

“A residential community like Saint John’s really helped me develop interpersonal skills, which is really very important for everyone’s future. It prepared me for adulthood.”

It also served as the launchpad for his rewarding career. Tsui graduated with a degree in sociology, then went on to a master’s degree in social work and a doctorate in clinical psychology.

During his long career in mental health, Tsui has served as a therapist, social worker, manager of mental health facilities and psychiatric institutions. He has worked as a community advocate for underserved populations in the San

President Brian Bruess
President Brian Bruess

Francisco area, specializing with the mentally ill and in substance abuse.

“He’s very bright, and he’s competent in a variety of fields,” Culligan said. “Now he trains other social and mental health professionals to do the same kind of work that he has done over the course of his career."

Tsui now works extensively with the elderly population and in geriatric mental health, specializing in neurocognitive disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.

“It’s my vocation and calling in my older years,” Tsui said. “Retirement is you don’t stop doing things.”

Carrying the Torch

Tsui’s career of helping others stemmed largely from those who did the same for him at Saint John’s. “He remembers these people fondly,” Culligan said. “They were very kind to him. It wasn’t just about being educated at Saint John’s – it was being treated so well. That’s something he remembers and he’s grateful for it. Philip has a big and generous heart.”

Said Tsui: “When you do a good deed,

there’s a rippling effect. Saint John’s and the Benedictines have done a good deed by making educational opportunity available to me. So through me, they also have done a very good deed to society.

“Because through my work, I help a lot of people. It’s my turn to carry along that torch and do some more.”

And at age 73, he has no interest in stopping.

“Good deeds beget more good deeds,” Tsui said. “That’s how I feel moving forward.”

Those good deeds include his financial generosity. Saint John’s is the primary beneficiary of his estate, and Tsui has taken delight in telling that to his latest “boss” – College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University President Brian Bruess.

“Since I’m still working, I was telling him, ‘Brian, did you know I’m officially your employee because I’m working for you? I’m making money, putting it into my estate, and Saint John’s is benefitting from it,” Tsui said.

“I am actually an informal employee of Saint John’s University. He was very pleased.”

Said Culligan: “He’s not just blowing smoke there – that’s exactly what he’s doing. It’s the ultimate way for any old Johnnies to give back – put us in your philanthropy and your estate plans. He’s a model for Johnnies to emulate." But that’s not just about making financial contributions. It’s about contributions to society and the world at large, as the latest chapter in a distinguished career that was launched for Tsui at Saint John’s.

“Doing something bigger than yourself is really contributing to the meaning of life,” Tsui said. “It’s not just ‘me me me’ – doing something for the common good is what gives purpose to our existence.

“Me doing my little bit, by contributing to Saint John’s and its community, is for the future generations. I will continue to do so until I take my last breath.”

From Saint John’s to the Super Bowl

Ben Bartch ’20 First Johnnie to Reach the ‘Big Game’

Super Bowl Sunday was a big day around the house when Ben Bartch ’20 was growing up.

“We always had a big Super Bowl party,” recalls Bartch, an Oregon native who went on to become an AllAmerican offensive lineman at Saint John’s University.

“It was a tradition. We’d have food. We’d all play football outside and everybody would wear the jersey of their favorite team.”

Of course, Bartch dreamed of one day wearing an actual jersey in the actual game. And now, that childhood fantasy has become reality.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound offensive lineman was on the field Feb. 11 when the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 25-22 in overtime in Super Bowl LVII at Allegiant Stadium in the Las Vegas area.

“This is what any player dreams of –regardless of whether they came from Division I, Division II, Division III or NAIA,” Bartch said. “If you love the game of football, this is what you dream about when you’re growing up playing in the backyard with your brothers, cousins and friends.”

First Johnnie at the Pinnacle

The fact that Bartch did not come from a traditional Division I powerhouse certainly makes his story more unique.

He became just the 10th player in Saint John’s program history to be selected in the NFL Draft when he was picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th

Former Saint John’s University All-American Ben Bartch ’20 (78) was joined on the field by former teammate Patrick Gans ’20 after the San Francisco 49ers won the NFC Championship game Jan. 28 at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco.

pick in the fourth round (116th overall) in 2020.

And now he’s the first former Johnnie to play in a Super Bowl.

“It’s an honor to represent not only my family, but also Saint John’s,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. It’s a great opportunity and I feel very blessed and honored to have the opportunity to play in this game.”

Bartch still keeps in close contact with the coaches and teammates who meant so much to him during his time in Collegeville.

“We talk regularly – even before I was playing in the Super Bowl,” he said. “I built so many great relationships and friendships during my time there. I had a lot of great coaches who gave me a lot of direction and guidance and were great resources for me.”

Those coaches and teammates could not be more excited to see Bartch get to where he’s now at.

“It’s certainly unprecedented for us,” said SJU head coach Gary Fasching ’81, whose program boasts four national titles – two at the NAIA level and two in NCAA Division III. “We’ve never had a Saint John’s guy play in the Super Bowl before.

“I know we’re all really proud of Ben –of the path he’s taken to get to the NFL and how hard he’s always worked. He is one of just a few players who have been able to live their dream of not only playing in the NFL, but (now) getting to play in a Super Bowl.

“I told him when he was drafted that he was a self-made NFL player,” Fasching continued. “He did all of the things it took to get him where he’s at today.”

Built in Collegeville

Bartch arrived in Collegeville as a 230-pound backup tight end in the fall of 2016 before switching to offensive tackle following his sophomore season.

Through a combination of diligent work in the weight room and a diet that included his now well-chronicled protein shakes (ingredients included seven scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, quick grits, peanut butter, bananas and Gatorade), he put on 50 pounds and started for two seasons, earning AllAmerican and MIAC lineman of the year honors as a senior in 2019 while helping lead SJU to a berth in the Division III national semifinals.

“It’s a special time and I’m really happy for him,” said Dan Greenheck ’20, a fellow All-American alongside Bartch on the Johnnie offensive line who also joined him on a study abroad experience in South Africa during the spring semester of 2019.

Philip Tsui chats with Rob Culligan, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, in front of the Great Hall.

Ralph Kilzer

An Inspired Life of Endless Possibility

An unmarked, unpaved, dusty dirt road rambles across windswept fields in the southwest corner of North Dakota and rolls past the Kilzer family farmhouse, a humble prairie home surrounded by endless acres of virtually nothing.

About a mile northeast of the farm, one can vaguely see the outskirts of the tiny town of Bentley, current population in the single digits. In any other direction, there are only open vistas: an occasional fencepost, a smattering of scrub brush, very little else other than horizons and skies that go on forever.

This isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here.

“Oh, I think it IS the end of the world,” said Saint John’s University graduate

Ralph Kilzer ’57, flashing a wry smile that accentuates his warm octogenarian facial features.

This is where Ralph came into the world 88 years ago, anyway. But all the places he went from here is the most remarkable element of his unlikely story, which pivoted around his equally unlikely experience at Saint John’s University.

“I feel extremely grateful for all the things that I’ve been privileged to experience. Saint John’s supplemented a lot of what my heritage is and reinforced it,” said Ralph, whose life trajectory seems more like something that could have been written into the movie script for Zelig or Forrest Gump.

“It’s funny, because he’s not a guy who talks about himself a lot,” said Ralph’s daughter Nancy (CSB ’92), one of Ralph and Marcia Kilzer’s six children and one of three who followed their dad to Saint John’s and the College of Saint Benedict. “You kind of have to pull it out of him a little bit.”

There’s a lot to pull. Ralph’s life story is an improbable succession and progression of achievements and accomplishments:

• From remote and spartan prairie farm to boarding high school.

• From farm life to Saint John’s, which became the springboard for a remarkable trajectory.

• From college in Minnesota to an

Atomic Energy Commission internship in Iowa to a U.S. Army posting in Missouri.

• From a high school teaching job in North Dakota to a chemist job in Nebraska where he met and married his wife – 10 days before he started medical school in Wisconsin, where within a year they began to expand their family.

• From four years at Marquette Medical School to internship in Minneapolis to residency in Michigan to the start of his career as a surgeon in North Dakota.

• From general surgery to orthopedic surgery, performing the first knee and hip replacements in western North Dakota – thousands of them – and starting an extensive chain of clinics.

• From gradually retiring as a surgeon to being elected to the first of his six terms and 22 years as a public servant in the North Dakota House of Representatives and Senate. There’s plenty of other stuff, too, all blended with Ralph’s devotion to his family and faith.

“He’s from the Greatest Generation, and he’s lived a really full and successful life –from a great education to a great husband to a great father to a great family man to a wonderful professional,” said Tom Stock, Senior Development Officer at Saint John’s and Ralph’s friend and associate. “It was stick-to-itive-ness, work hard and dream big – ‘I can be anything I want to be. I can do anything I want to do.’ ”

(Left) Ralph Kilzer still has his copy of the 1957 Saint John’s University Sagatagan, the yearbook from the year he graduated; (Right) The Kilzer family farm was located off this dusty dirt road in southwest North Dakota, not far from the tiny town of Bentley.
Ralph’s portrait as a 13-year-old altar boy.

Said Ralph’s son Tom (SJU ’97): “Nothing fell into his lap. We talked about Forrest Gump, and he kinda lucked into some stuff, but it was all his hard work. At the Christmas dinner table, he never bragged about what he was doing, or even talked about it.”

Added daughter Barb (CSB ’05): “What did he take with him from Saint John’s? When you read the Benedictine values, it’s Dad through and through. He’s just a simple, prayerful, hard-working man. He’s done so many things in his life, but he’s not boastful.”


Ralph, who turns 89 on March 30, resides with Marcia in an assisted living facility in Bismarck. His mobility is limited due to diabetic neuropathy, which causes nerve damage in feet, organs and muscles.

His memory is anything but limited.

“I think my memory, for my age, is better than anything else,” said Ralph, who effortlessly reels off dates and events and names while recanting the details of his life and family.

Said Nancy: “He’s very beloved in our family, very respected. We all feel very much loved unconditionally by him. He’s our rock. I always think of Dad as our anchor.”

Family and deep faith have been that anchor back through generations of Kilzers, who have a legacy at Saint John’s dating back more than a century.

Ralph’s father Alois Kilzer attended Saint John’s Prep in the 1920s, and his uncle Fr. Ernest Kilzer left a seven-decade footprint at Saint John’s University. Fr. Ernest entered Saint John’s Abbey in 1924, returned to Saint John’s in 1934 and spent

58 years as a philosophy teacher, administrator and dean of students (1939-43) until his death in 1992.

Those were Ralph’s Saint John’s roots, and from 1953-57 he refined them here himself.

“I think it was absolutely critical,” Nancy said. “It really continued to open his mind to dream. He started realizing ‘I could go to medical school.’ He had academic success, and I think that helped build his confidence. He thought, ‘I can go and I can do a lot in this world.’ “

All of that stemmed from humble beginnings in remote North Dakota.


Ralph was born March 30, 1935 in Mott, another tiny North Dakota town (pop. 640) at the intersection of two state roads in the middle of nowhere.

“My parents got married in June 1934. The Depression and the drought and farm failures was the rule at that time. I was born nine months later,” said Ralph, who was followed by brother Robert (now a rancher) and sister Dorothy.

“I’m not alone in this part of the world with a rags-to-riches story. Moneywise, yes, I did grow up in rags. But my life was rich from the very beginning.”

The Kilzers’ 320-acre farm had a modest house made of two homestead shacks pulled together. It had no electricity until Ralph was age 14.

“It was a very basic farm – no plumbing, no electricity, an outhouse,” Ralph recalled. “No toilet paper: it was the spring and summer Sears catalog and later it was the winter and spring Sears catalog.

“But we didn’t even realize we were

poor. My parents were very loving parents. We had all the food we needed on the farm. When you’re little and nobody else has the things we have now, you don’t even miss them.”

And from a very early age, Ralph was very much fully employed.

“It was life on the farm, sunup to sundown,” Nancy said. “Dad was the pig guy. He was the chicken guy.”

Or the tractor guy. Said Ralph: “I tell people my youth was wasted because I spent my summers going over the fallow and cultivating corn, which no farmer does now.”

What he had was work, family, faith and education. At first it was a oneroom country schoolhouse, then it became high school at St. Mary’s Boarding School in New England, North Dakota (pop. 682).

“There were 15 nuns when was there. That was the faculty – it was all nuns,” Ralph said.

Said Nancy: “He loved school. He loves learning. He’s a lifelong learner. He was always a curious guy, and he’s always learning about everything.”

That’s exactly what Ralph did at Saint John’s.


Ralph had never seen the place before he arrived at Saint John’s in the fall of 1953, the same year when a young football coach named John Gagliardi also arrived.

“Just the idea of how different it was here to me is mind-blowing,” Tom said. “No Interstate 94. No Abbey Church. No classes at Saint Ben’s. No girls on campus.”

Said Ralph: “Boys on the farm didn’t

even think about college in the ’40s and ’50s. Very few boys went to college other than Ernest.”

John’s was a tough school, and it had a good reputation all over.”

Ralph flourished. He was a natural science major but expanded his horizons in a variety of areas.

“Academically, I wanted a diversified education, and I took a lot of courses

Oh yeah: Fr. Ernest Kilzer. Ralph’s uncle had been in Collegeville since the 1920s, was ordained in 1930, and by 1953 had already been dean of students and was head of the philosophy department.

“We went for a walk once every week. He would come to my room in Benet Hall,” said Ralph, who lived there as a freshman, then Mary Hall in his second year and Saint Joseph in his third and fourth years.

“We would talk about everything. He was impressed after the first semester when I made the honor roll. Saint

in a lot of different areas. I took an accounting course. I tried out for the orchestra,” said Ralph, who initially thought he would become a high school teacher or pharmacist. He also played on the Saint John’s tennis team.

“I never dreamed I would go into medicine. had no connection with medicine at all. My parents were farmers. All my uncles and everybody

Ralph (right) and his father Alois Kilzer with his younger brother Robert, 1938.
Ralph and his parents Alois (left) and Jean (right) were greeted at Saint John’s by his uncle, Fr. Ernest Kilzer, in 1953.

in my family were farmers except Fr. Ernest, who was an anomaly.”

Ralph’s parents agreed to pay his tuition if he would return to work during summers. That worked out well – until 1956.

“After my junior year, was working on the farm and we hailed out,” Ralph said.

“So for the upcoming senior year, my dad said, ‘Well, it’s going to be difficult for you to go to college both semesters.’

“I called Saint John’s. Fr. Arno Gustin was the dean, and he’s from Mandan so he knows what hailing out is. I called Fr. Arno and said it’s going to be difficult for me to go both semesters. Fr. Arno said, ‘Yeah, we understand. I’ll bring your case before the academic council.’

“He called me back a few days later and

said, ‘We’ll give you a degree if you take these courses and you get at least a B in German from Fr. Roland (Behrendt).’ Fr. Roland was a tough priest who taught German. So that’s what I did – I took 22 credits and got a B in German from Fr. Roland, and I got my degree at the semester.”

Two of the classes he took – Genetics and Advanced Organic Chemistry – met at the same time, so he was able to go to only half the classes.

“He took 22 credits in one semester to graduate, and he still was at the top of his class,” Barb said. “He worked so hard. Work and worship, that’s him.”

Said Nancy: “He started to see the bigger world, because he had never really left North Dakota. Once he

got here, I think he saw he can have success, even beyond the borders of North Dakota.

“I can dream, and I have skills, and I can contribute. can do this stuff.”

Ralph finished his senior year in December 1956. He came back in May 1957 for graduation, but by then his life was well along its way.


Now things get complicated:

• Ralph got a fellowship from the Atomic Energy Commission for spring 1957 at Iowa State University, where he studied chemistry and taught classes.

“The fellowship gave you $105 a month and covered your tuition for halftime student/halftime work,” he said. “My

students were all older than me. I was 21 years old.”

• After the Iowa State semester and graduation from Saint John’s, Ralph returned to the family farm to work for the summer. That fall, he enlisted in the Army and served at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

• He was out of the Army and back on the farm in 1958. That fall, Ralph “got bored” and went to Dickinson State College to get additional credits and become a teacher. He taught algebra and chemistry (and driver’s ed) at Dickinson High School in 1959-60.

• In 1960 a recruiter from the U.S. Geological Survey offered Ralph a job as a water chemist at a lab in Lincoln, Nebraska. It paid better than teaching, so he went.

• That’s where he met Marcia. Ralph and the young nursing instructor connected through Young Christian Workers.

• He was recalled to the Army in November 1961. “By that time I had been accepted to medical school,” said Ralph, who was scheduled to start at Marquette Medical School in September 1962.

• Before that, however, Ralph and Marcia

got married. “I got out of the Army on August 15, 1962. We got married on August 25, and I started medical school a week later,” Ralph said.

“The wedding was at 10 in the morning at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Lincoln. The day before I had a flat tire on my car, and I wanted to get it fixed.

I took it over to the Montgomery Ward store garage, and they said we can fix it tonight, but we don’t open until 9 in the morning.”

That was one hour before the wedding.

“At 9 o’clock I went and got that tire they fixed, and at 10 o’clock the ceremony started,” Ralph said. “And as Marcia was driving TO the church, she saw me driving the car AWAY from the church (to pick up the tire).

“A lot of people were wondering ‘Is he ever going to settle down?’ ”


Medical school and the ensuing internship and residency were a challenge for the growing family.

“When I went to med school I was 27 years old, newly married,” said Ralph, who profusely credits Marcia. “My wife is a nurse, and she was working – that

was how we lived. It was difficult being in school after five years. I had to bear down.”

Oldest daughter Jeanne was born in 1964. Oldest son Ken followed in 1965. Anne arrived in 1967 while Ralph was an intern in Minneapolis.

Nancy was born in 1970 during Ralph’s internship in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Tom arrived in 1975. Barb came later, in 1982.

“He’s exactly 40 years older than me, so we’re on the same (Saint John’s) Reunion cycle,” Tom said.

Added Barb, with a laugh: “I was a fun surprise.”

By then, Ralph had finally figured out the next phase of his life.

“I knew I wanted to go into surgery but I didn’t know if I wanted orthopedic or general surgery,” he said. “When I was a kid, Bismarck was a big deal. We came here for big things.”

And Bismarck – where farm, rodeo and softball injuries abound in an active population – was very much in need of orthopedic surgeons. Ralph arrived on July 1, 1971 and went straight to work.

“There was such a backlog of other

Ralph studies as a medical school student at Marquette University in 1962.
11 10 WINTER/SPRING 2024
(Left) Ralph served in the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in 1957; (Right) Ralph and Marcia were married Aug. 15, 1962 at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska – a week before he began medical school.

cases that I didn’t immediately do replacements of knees and hips,” Ralph said. “I started doing them in the fall of 1972 because there were so many other cases to do.”

How many? Thousands. Previously, most patients had to travel to Minnesota or larger metro areas for joint replacement surgeries.

“He did a LOT of them,” Barb said. “He was kind of a gift of what he brought back.”

In addition to performing the first knee and hip replacements in the Bismarck area, Ralph also trained new surgeons and formed his own practice. The Bone & Joint Center now has 10 orthopedists and a lot of satellite clinics that serve

the western part of North Dakota.

“When I first came to town in the 1970s and ‘80s, I was just so busy,” said Ralph, who also taught medical students at the University of North Dakota-Bismarck. “I was a solo practitioner, working day and night.”

He partially retired at age 57, although he was 75 before he finally stopped seeing patients in 2010. But by then, it was time to try something new anyway.


By the time Ralph received the Saint John’s Alumni Achievement Award in 2009 for his work as a civil servant, he had already segued to a new phase –government service.

“He encourages people to get involved no matter what they believe in,” Barb said.

Added Nancy: “We all kind of wondered, ‘What are you going to do?’ (after retiring from medicine). But he was at the caucuses for the Republicans, and the seat came open for his district.”

Ralph, who had previously testified on proposed bills at the Capitol, threw his hat into the ring and won a seat in the North Dakota House of Representatives. Two years later, the Senator from his district retired after 38 years.

“So I ran, and I won, and I kept winning,” said Ralph, who was elected to five four-year terms in the Senate –22 years of Legislative service in all.

“I didn’t have one particular issue. I got handed the anti-smoking issue – that was a big one,” said Ralph, who was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 2400 in the 2005 session that passed the North Dakota indoor smoking ban.

“There was a lot of opposition. It went through conference committee, and there were 29 amendments. My leadership didn’t like it at all, so it was a battle,” he said. “In North Dakota, that argument – ‘nobody tells me what to do’

– is probably even stronger than it is in Minnesota.”


Ralph retired from the Legislature in 2018 at age 83. But he never stops learning and finding things to be interested in.

“I’ve taught at just about all levels,” said Ralph, who has served on the board at the University of Mary and as clinical director at Bismarck State College. “I’ve always loved challenges.

“Even when was a kid, my parents gave me challenges that I think about once in a while today. I loved school, and I succeeded.”

Saint John’s was part of that, and part

of the person that Ralph became.

“Our parents built a family lake cabin in western North Dakota near where Dad was born,” Barb said. “He would often get up at 6:30 a.m. and be out there, by himself, no cup of coffee or anything – just sitting. I always thought he’s probably praying or remembering the simple life growing up in the area.

“This is the dad I always think of, not the politician or the doctor. It’s the dad in his living room around his kids, and he loves us joking together. He loves listening to the sounds of his kids and grandkids playing.

“That’s where he is happiest.”

And that can be almost anywhere –even back on those dusty farm roads,

with endless horizon and infinite possibility.

(Above) Ralph served six terms over 22 years in the North Dakota Legislature; (Below) His daughters Nancy Kilzer (left, CSB ’92) and Barb Kilzer (right, CSB ’05) and son Tom (SJU ’97) all followed their dad to Saint John’s and Saint Benedict's. Ralph welcomed great granddaughter Stella in 2023.
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Ralph and Marcia Kilzer were joined by their extended family on their 60th anniversary Aug. 25, 2022 in Bismarck, North Dakota.

From The Bahamas with a crucial four-year stopover at Saint John’s, Jervon Sands ’23 has always been a leader and master of his own course. That’s taking him to Oxford University for a rare opportunity that could help him confront perhaps the biggest threat to humankind.

The waters near the Fish Fry district just west of downtown Nassau in The Bahamas are so clear and have so many shades of blue that they almost look like they’re from another world.

Close to the beach they are turquoise – almost an electric neon – darkening only where pockets of depth create a playground for small boats lolling gently in a breeze that usually caresses these islands just as it has for thousands of years.

About 1,500 feet from shore, the hue becomes cobalt. Giant cruise ships – engines of the local economy –moor at Prince George Wharf before they inevitably drift north of New Providence, where the bottom can be miles deep and navy waves stretch as far as the eye can see toward Miami or out into the Atlantic Ocean.

This is home to Saint John’s University graduate Jervon Sands.

He learned to swim in these waters,

jumping off “the dock” – a limestone pier that once served Fort Charlotte, a British colonial citadel that remains on a hill, spared from combat more than 230 years after it was built.

He and his cousins caught stone crabs, creeping behind to step on them before quickly using their hands to pull them to the surface without getting pinched by the claws. While the catch would occasionally make a meal, the fun was the pursuit – just as when they would aid his uncle in spearfishing. They would take turns holding a cooler for

Becoming a Rhodes Scholar

The four years Jervon Sands ’23 spent at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict were instrumental to his academic development, and a springboard to the achievements that helped make him the second Rhodes Scholar in SJU history.
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his catch, the others snorkeling down to watch him hunt with a spear gun.

“We’re island people, so a lot of the things we do are tied to the ocean,” said Sands, whose childhood house was a few hundred feet away from Arawak Cay, where today dozens of shipping containers queue outside the modern customs office.

"Going to the beach was always one of the things we did for recreation. It was a natural experience to just go hang around the dock. It’s been that way for generations.”

If the garrison represents the past as a tourist attraction, and the Nassau Container Port symbolizes the present as a primary trade conduit between North and South America, Sands –in his own way – will help shape the Bahamian future.

Less than a year after he graduated summa cum laude from Saint John’s, a second home more than 1,700 miles to the northwest, he became the first

Johnnie in more than 50 years – and just the second in school history – to be named a Rhodes Scholar. It’s the world’s oldest and arguably most preeminent graduate fellowship.

Beginning in October, he will embark at England’s University of Oxford on a Master of Sciences (MSc) in Environmental Change and Management and an MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment. At the conclusion of his two-year program, he intends to pursue solutions for climate change in his native country.

Almost any rise in the ocean – a threat of global warming – can spell disaster for The Bahamas, where more than 80 percent of the land mass is within 5 feet of mean sea level. Experts have warned of irreversible consequences if Earth’s average temperature rises 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Last year, the hottest on record, propelled that measurement past the 1.15-degree mark, and estimates have shown we could eclipse 1.5 degrees by 2027,

according to the World Meteorological Association.

The islands account for less than 0.01% of global carbon emissions. China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan total more than 60% combined. But The Bahamas will be among the first to pay the price as seas are expected to rise more than a foot by 2050 and not quite 3 feet by 2100. And that’s before you factor an increasing number of hurricanes – more than a dozen during Sands’ lifetime – and the violent sea surge they create.

You don’t have to tell Sands the outlook is dire. Still, he remains hopeful future generations will thrive here just as he did and those who came long before him.

“I think I’m like a lot of Bahamian people,” Sands said. “There’s a culture we grow up on. When you describe who we are, it follows a phrase you heard in the Bible: ‘Whatsover you do for the least among others, that you do unto me.’

“We’re taught hospitality and how to be of service. But we also talk about getting into ‘good’ trouble. In the spirit of John Lewis, we want to recognize when something is wrong and stand up for what’s right.”

By their criteria, Rhodes Scholars are young people with proven academic excellence who show exceptional character, leadership, the energy to use their talents to the full and a commitment to solving humanity’s challenges. The overall global success rate for applicants is 0.7%

Jervon Sands has been right an awful lot in his life. Otherwise, he’d never have gotten this far. So, while the odds get longer every day that we can prevent irreparable damage to our planet in the years to come, don’t bet against him.

Learning Since Before Birth

Tiffany McKinney always knew her only child was going to be special. In preschool at Kid’s Way Academy in Nassau, Jervon Sands was tops in his class and set a standard he would meet as salutatorian at St. Thomas More Primary School and valedictorian at St. Augustin’s College, a high school founded in the 1940s by monks from Saint John’s.

His exposure to academia goes back even further, however.

“I used to read to him when he was in my stomach,” said McKinney, who studied accounting – first at the University of the Bahamas and later Omega College, when she was

From a very early age,

pregnant at 21, the same age Jervon is now.

“I was constantly studying and, after he was born, I was taking him with me on the campuses sometimes. I didn’t have anyone to keep him. When he wasn’t with me, he was with my mother or my sister, and she, too, was in college. And my mother would read to him from the Bible and children’s books. So, he was constantly around people who were studying and reading. We noticed his academic ability from when he was very

young, and there was a pattern to his continuous successes.”

While he was a Boy Scout and competed in judo, track and field and soccer, his mother could most often find him devouring Magic Treehouse titles, books by Pseudonymous Bosch and classics like Frankenstein and Treasure Island .

“Sometimes the house would be so quiet, I’d have to go and look in his room to see if he was still there,” she

Sands was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and grew up surrounded by family, friends and support.
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Sands poured himself into his studies, his faith and his community.

said. “He loved to read.”

She brought him up a practicing Catholic and took him along for charity and volunteer work at senior facilities, children’s homes, prisons and hospitals. He was an altar server and assisted the priest at funerals and weddings.

Already in primary school, Jervon dominated spelling bees and spent so much time in the library that the librarian eventually just let him lock up when he was ready to go home. Tiffany swears he was 8 the first time she told him he was going to be a Rhodes Scholar. As she continued her education toward a master’s degree, her son helped her study – reading and repeating questions so she was prepared for tests. Today she is a financial analyst with the Bahamian government.

By the time Jervon was a freshman at St. Augustine’s, he was reading Shakespeare and fascinated with writing. He participated in Commonwealth Writers, a cultural initiative that helps aspiring wordsmiths hone their craft and compete for short story prizes. Patricia Glinton-Meicholas, a Bahamian writer of folk tales, is one of his favorite authors.

“My passion for reading helped me develop a hunger for knowledge and the idea of thinking about how the world looks different through separate lenses,” Jervon said. “Sometimes I could see dualities and my heritage laid out on a page, the characteristic storytelling you’re used to as a Bahamian.”

His father, Jermaine Sands, drives an armored truck for a living. They spent weekends, summers and Christmas together – later with Jervon’s younger brothers, J’maire and J’kai, now in sixth and first grade, respectively. On a recent visit, Jervon walked in and found a little blue notepad on the counter. In it, years ago, he and Jermaine kept a diary of life lessons and ways they thought about the world. Jervon thought it had been lost to time, only to realize his father had

kept it for him.

“I took it with me to Barbados,” Jervon said of the site for the Rhodes interview process. “I talked about him in my personal statement. He’s inspired the activist in me. My dad was instrumental in me understanding the world. And my mom always worked very hard, and she taught me the value of doing well with my education. She showed me it was important to seize my opportunities.”

Pivoting at SJU

In the early spring of 2019, Jervon was among a group of prospective students from The Bahamas who stepped off a bus at the Gorecki Center to visit campus at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s.

Their first attempt a couple weeks earlier was canceled by a snowstorm, and on their second they were greeted with winter coats and hot chocolate. While he considered other destinations, Jervon – and perhaps most importantly, Tiffany and Jermaine – ultimately was charmed by Alex Schleper, Director of International Admissions.

“He made it seem like it was a familyoriented environment and there were endless possibilities,” Tiffany said. “We were comfortable with Alex, and he reassured me that my only child going away from me for a long time was going to be secure. I think that’s what sealed the deal for both of us.”

She accompanied Jervon to Mary Hall, his home for his first two years in Collegeville – the only time she came to campus before his graduation. A week later, The Bahamas suffered the worst natural disaster in its recorded history when Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 storm, lashed the islands with winds greater than 185 mph while remaining almost stationary for 24 hours. It caused nearly $3.5 billion in damage, destroyed thousands of homes and the number of

people killed isn’t even known. More than 70 deaths were confirmed but almost 250 remained missing more than a year later.

His family made it through unscathed, but the horror Jervon felt watching from afar, combined with what he learned in his first-year seminar (two sequential liberal arts classes designed to develop critical thinking, speaking and writing), helped set his future course.

“Even before coming to CSB and SJU, I was interested in helping to solve the infrastructure issues I could see growing up,” Jervon said. “The framework of sustainability was always important, but I never really explored what that meant until first-year seminar. That experience could be anything for different incoming students, but it seemed like one in a long line of fateful occurrences to me that I landed in one that focused on sustainability.”

He chose to study applied physics so he could go on to civil or environmental engineering. Spurred by his seminar, he wanted to add an environmental studies minor, but the schedule for the requisite credits wouldn’t mesh with his major.

Jervon served as the Abbey sacristan and worked in the Institutional Advancement call center as a freshman. Then came the hardest part of his college experience – the isolation of COVID-19 after campus went allvirtual in 2020. But he returned as an RA as a sophomore and was elected to the SJU Senate. During the fall of his junior year, he studied in London and landed an internship with Ashden, a global climate change charity.

Sands branched out from the surroundings of his native Bahamas with inspiring visits to such places as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and Preservation District in Atlanta, Georgia.

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With the help of his parents, Tiffany McKinney and Jermaine Sands, Jervon flourished academically and developed “a hunger for knowledge.”

Sands attended and flourished at St. Augustine’s College, his high school in Nassau, before graduating to Saint John’s University.

In the spring, Jervon returned to a large room with vaulted ceilings in Benet Hall. While he was the sole occupant, it soon became a popular gathering place for Bahamian students to play cards and dominoes as he repaid the mentorship received from those who came before him.

During the summers, he returned to The Bahamas. In 2021 he was a Jackson Fellow, producing an alumni newsletter at St. Augustine’s. In 2022, he was a Brandl Scholar, working with government agencies to research sustainability.

That set the tone for his senior year when, as part of his ENVR 305 course, he traveled with other Bennies and Johnnies to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as official observers to the 27th Conference of the Parties in Egypt. There, he researched climate resilience and adaptation in small island developing states

and organized Zoom presentations on behalf of the Office of the Bahamian Prime Minister. Jervon’s thesis overlapped with a project for the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholars at CSB and SJU. It focused on optimizing three greenhouses on campus.

And he did all this while living at Marmion House, a Flynntown residence where a small group of students strive to save energy, reduce waste, compost, recycle and use other environmentally friendly living techniques. Jervon and six others grew kale, radishes, dill, lettuce and cabbage, feeding the soil with refuse they received in exchange for donations to area community meals. They also hosted “Parties with a Purpose,” where visitors would bring donations of food and clothing or help start petitions related to sustainability or social justice.

“That was my greatest on-campus living experience,” Jervon said. “It was a warm

as we lived together, I sometimes saw him more when we were out on campus,” Fisher said.

But there were audible signs Jervon arrived, like when Fisher could hear the bells and chimes of the Duolingo app drift up from the basement.

“Whenever I heard that, I would think, ‘Oh, Jervon’s home,’ ” Fisher said. “He stayed up very late at night, so our schedules didn’t always overlap. But one of his passions was learning languages.”

Arabic. Japanese. Currently, Jervon is volunteering in Puerto Rico where he’s working on his Spanish.

“He’s so multifaceted, it’s hard to describe in a few words,” Fisher said. “From the get-go I was always in awe of Jervon. He’s an eloquent speaker, always two steps ahead, and able to engage with his peers almost on a professor level.

Resume of a Rhodes Scholar


College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, BA in applied physics, 2019-23

St. Augustine’s College, high school diploma and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education, 2013-19


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Observe to the Conferences of the Parties 27, Sharm elSheikh, Egypt

• Selected to participate via competitive process

• Supported research on climate resilience and adaptation in small island developing states with expert interviews and thorough literature review

• Organized Zoom presentation with advisory units of the Office of the Prime Minister of The Bahamas

Professional/Volunteer Engagements

• Benedictine Volunteer Corps at Colegio San Antonio Abad, a bilingual sixththrough 12th-grade school in Humacao, Puerto Rico, current

• Yale Young Global Scholars, Resident Advisor and Tech Support every two weeks for 600 new students from more than 150 countries, Summer 2023

• CSB and SJU Multicultural Center, International Student Mentor, 2022-23

• Summer Leadership Fellow, Brandl Scholar, working with government agencies to research sustainability in The Bahamas, 2022

• Ashden Global Climate Change Charity, Research Intern, Fall 2021

• Jackson Summer Leadership Fellow, Editor of St. Augustine’s College alumni newsletter, 2021

Leadership & Service

community and helped us develop strong relationships. It felt like a hub. Everyone took care of each other. We had this community food counter – you’d never go hungry in Marm. We were kind of off on our own and responsible for ourselves. “Anything that was supposed to go on there, it was up to us to make it happen.”

Left-brain, right-brain, ALL-brain

Sean Fisher ’23 was one of Jervon’s closest friends at SJU. They arrived at the same time, got to know each other better as sophomores and they took the COP class together – even serving as roommates in Egypt. Fisher, who came from Pueblo, Colorado, and majored in environmental studies, also lived in Marmion House when they were seniors and both worked at the Multicultural Center.

“Jervon was very involved so, as much

“He would listen and say, ‘You’re not wrong. I see your thought process. I’d like you to try and look at it this way.’ I’ve always admired that. He communicates in a Benedictine way – listening with the ear of your heart, but yet he speaks with the mouth of his brain.”

Elsewhere on campus, you might’ve found Jervon playing music (his instrument of choice the drums) or relaxing in a hammock. But it was in the classroom that he sparkled, talent evident and creativity prolific. His physics classes were in the Peter Engel Science Center, also where Corrie Grosse, an assistant professor of environmental studies, taught him in the COP class. Today she has a reminder tacked to her office bulletin board: Jervon’s poetry.

“His education is the epitome of liberal arts,” Grosse said. “Physics major. Does public policy for a small island nation. He’s also a spoken-word poet. Took advantage of his opportunities here and did really meaningful work. I think he’s

• Presented in poster session of the Society for Applied Anthropology annual conference in Cincinnati

Undergraduate Research Project, Applied Physics Thesis

• Conducted original research on optimizing greenhouses

• Performed comparative analysis of three on-campus facilities

• Offered recommendations to improve design, components and performance

• Defended thesis in PowerPoint with critique from the CSB and SJU Physics Department

Honors and Awards

• Graduated summa cum laude, May 2023

• Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa honor society, April 2023

• Awarded Healy-Conlin Family Creative Scholarship, Spring 2020 (three-year award)

• Bahamas National Merit Scholar, Summer 2019

• Graduated valedictorian, Spring 2019

• Graduated salutatorian of Technical Cadets and Most Outstanding Engineering Student, Spring 2019

• Student representative on the Community Conduct and Standards Board, Spring 2023

• Co-chair Archipelago Caribbean Association, 2022-23

• Secretary of Indigenous Student Association, 2022-23

• Co-chair of Joint Club Board, 2021-22

• Student activities representative of the Saint John’s Senate, 2021-22

• Saint John’s Senate Decolonization and Reparations Committee, Summer 2021

• Saint Vincent De Paul Organization volunteer, Summer 2021

• Mary Hall Resident Assistant, 2020-21

• Student Ambassador for Institutional Advancement, 2019-20

Sands joins select list of other Rhodes Scholars

Jervon Sands ’23 was announced as a Rhodes Scholar recipient on Nov. 14 in a ceremony at the State House in Barbados by President Sandra Mason.

Steven Michaud ’67 is the only former Johnnie to be a Rhodes Scholar. A Chisholm native who was an Upper Midwest Golden Gloves boxing champion, he graduated summa cum laude, studied Japanese at Harvard and went to Hiroshima University on a Rotary

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International Fellowship before earning his two-year appointment to Oxford in 1969. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1978.

Although women were ineligible for the Rhodes until 1977, the College of Saint Benedict also has produced two –Laura McGrane ’91 earned the award in 1992 and Rachel Mullin ’14 gained the distinction in 2016. McGrane, an English major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earned an MSc in comparative education at Oxford and got her Ph.D. in English and American literature at Stanford. Today, she is associate provost for strategic initiatives and an associate professor of English at Haverford (Pennsylvania) College. Mullin, who helped Sands prepare for his Rhodes application, was a political science and history major from Humboldt, South Dakota, and a Truman Scholar as a junior at CSB, before serving as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Malaysia. She earned two master’s degrees at Oxford, the first in refugees and forced migration studies, and the second in public policy. She now works in Washington, D.C., as a product marketing manager with Sendwave, an organization that facilitates the transfer of money to Africa and Asia.

Sands follows Drs. Desiree Cox (1987), Christian Campbell (2002) and Myron Rolle (2009) as Rhodes Scholars in Bahamian history. Cox is a medical doctor, published author and expert in regenerative health. Campbell is an assistant professor of English in the creative writing program at the University of Toronto. And Rolle, who played football at Florida State and was drafted as a safety by the Tennessee Titans in 2010, is a neurosurgery resident at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital.

While 32 students from the United States and more than 100 from around the world are chosen as Rhodes Scholars each year, the Commonwealth Caribbean (which includes 10 independent island countries) has only one.

The Rhodes Trust, established by British mining magnate Cecil Rhodes more than 120 years ago, has benefitted many influential recipients. Americans

among them include former President Bill Clinton, current Senator Cory Booker, former Senator Bill Bradley, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, astronomer Edwin Hubble, actor/singer Kris Kristofferson and TV hosts Rachel Maddow and George Stephanopoulos.

How We Survive, a poem by Jervon Sands

am not a colony am not some sub identity am all of me am none of you and not for you am all for who am becoming am Bahamian am the son of those who Escaped when running

From the master’s gun and

My ancestors died but they are

Survived by humming

Survived by drumming

Survived by me and all of mine

Remembering for all of time

Their heavy sacrifice so that

The culture may never die

And that’s why I’m always singing always wear a smile

When hear the cowbells ringing

The thought of home lingers for a while

Take me back to the sunny isle

Lemme ebb and flow with the tide

Lemme take the boat for a ride

Lemme roam the beaches

Skipping rocks across the wave tops

And sorting seashells

Diving headfirst off the old dock

Looking for crab or cray to de-shell

After a long day of soaking up sun rays

After I empty my plate know imma sleep well

(Sands read this poem, one of many he has written and published, at the 2022 Festival of Cultures. It has been permanently displayed on a plaque in the CSB and SJU Multicultural Center.)

a very wise person about climate and social justice and how to be respectful and accountable.”

If a little maddening.

“We’d go to the art studio together and his sculptures were incredible,” Fisher said. “He found a way to work in motors and moving parts. It was like he was letting his physics brain and his art brain collaborate.

“There were times when I was like, ‘Jervon, please be bad at something. Save something for the rest of us to excel at.’ He’s meant to do something big with his life.”

Grounded, but no limits

It all begs the question: Jervon Sands, did you ever struggle?

“Struggle?” he echoes. “I mean, I would say, ‘yes,’ but for me that’s all part of the process.”

His first class at Saint John’s was calculus. The first six weeks, he was lost at sea – the homework impossible. He’d never have believed it if you told him he was going to ace his math minor.

“I didn’t allow myself to sink,” Jervon said. “I relied on the resources available – reaching out to the TA, other students or going to my professors. I asked all kinds of questions. Being an applied physics major, it’s impossible not to have a difficult academic period now and then.

“Seeing your way through those tough periods and realizing it’s not an everlasting thing, those are what prepare me for the next challenge.”

He said the integrational learning he experienced at Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s was crucial to developing his full potential.

“There should be no limit to your pursuits – creative and academic,” Jervon said. “You can do all of it, really. Whatever your passion, there are ways to mesh that with whatever you’re learning. I want to be the glue bringing them together. So, it’s not strange to me to be a poet and an applied physics major. It makes sense to me.”

To know what’s next, perhaps it makes sense to look where he’s been and what he’s done. Sydney Robinson ’19, assistant director of the Multicultural Center, was Jervon’s supervisor last year.

“You can tell he was raised where family is important,” Robinson said. “He’s a caregiver. He makes sure others have food before he eats. He’s intentional. Other people sit down before he sits down. That was what was so great during our programming because, if there was someone who wasn’t talking much during a social, he would engage and invite them to the conversation. Hospitality shines out of him.”

Whether it’s government, private sector or nonprofit, she believes Jervon will succeed wherever he goes.

“Not to quote Mean Girls, but the limit does not exist,” Robinson said. “He is what we try to produce. We want to holistically transform students. That happened for him, and I’d argue those who knew him were holistically transformed, too.”

Ever grounded, Jervon’s mom can’t forget the challenges she and her son faced. To her own sacrifice, she made sure he had opportunities – classes and activities – that she didn’t. They were not deterred.

“We are Christians, so I give the Lord praise,” Tiffany said. “I’m grateful he turned out the way I hoped.”

As for Jervon, he’s come so far – from a stubbly-haired young boy with a studious look behind wire-rimmed glasses, to a progressive undergraduate

with dreadlocks teasing his expression. In the next two years at Oxford, he’s going to become someone few of us ever know, let alone get to be.

“I see myself following in the footsteps of people I admire as pillars of the Bahamian community,” he said. “I’d like to be an integrator; someone who’s connecting people. I don’t have ambition to be a public figure. I’m happy to be in the background, supporting all the things that need to happen for my country, the Caribbean and people everywhere.”

Jervon and his parents reunited in Collegeville for his graduation in 2023. Next stop: University of Oxford to pursue a Master of Sciences in Environmental Change and Management degree.
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Bahamian Connection Reunites on the Saint John’s Campus Photo by Tommi O’Laughlin ’13 Saint John’s University Rhodes Scholar Jervon Sands ’23 (center) shares a laugh with The Honorable Philip Davis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas (left) and distinguished SJU graduate Prince Wallace ’68 (right) during their stroll across campus Dec. 11 before Philip Davis’s address at the 17th annual McCarthy Lecture.
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Philip Davis was the first sitting prime minister to visit the Saint John’s campus, and Sands is the second Rhodes Scholar in school history.

Embraced by a Sense of Place Kaidan

Popp ’24 Found Much More Than Just Soccer at Saint John’s

Kaidan Popp ’24 originally came to Saint John’s University to play soccer. But what the Redmond, Washington, native discovered in Collegeville turned out to be so much more.

Not only did Popp – who graduated at the end of the fall semester in 2023 with a degree in communication –play four seasons for the Johnnies but, thanks to a theater scholarship, he was able to explore his interest in the arts by working on six theatrical productions –both onstage and behind the scenes.

He also served as a resident assistant in the residence halls and discovered ways to channel his passion for the

environment into concrete action through his work with the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University Sustainability Office. That included creating a newsletter to help spread the word about the office’s efforts to promote sound ecological habits on the two campuses.

And, perhaps most importantly, he met his longtime girlfriend, College of Saint Benedict senior Clea Wachtler ’24, in October of his freshman year. The two have been together ever since.

“Initially, my idea had been to choose a college closer to home,” Popp recalls.

“Coming to Minnesota took me a little

Bennies students and one Johnnie alum and one Bennie alum) selected to be part of the 11th season of the Amazon Prime TV series The College Tour. He was one of more than 30 students who auditioned for the episode.

The film and production crew of the program – which highlights college and universities from across the nation –arrived last October at CSB and SJU, filming segments with Popp and the other students selected over five days.

The 30-minute episode – the first to feature schools from Minnesota –became available for viewing on the CSB and SJU website, YouTube and The College Tour website in early February and is scheduled to begin streaming on Amazon Prime on May 28.

Popp had extra one-on-one time with The College Tour host Alex Boylan when

Boylan, a serial entrepreneur, filmed him giving a tour of his Seton Village townhome for a new The College Tour digital series “Dorm Tours.” Popp and his roommates and friends were captured on Boylan’s iPhone without advance preparation.

“That was so much fun to be part of,” he said. “Just to see how the whole process worked. I was able to write my own script and focus on the things I wanted to talk about. Then I got to deliver it on camera.

“I also have a passion for photography and I got to send them a number of photos I’ve taken. I loved every part of being able to talk about my own story and experience here.”

Finding his way to Collegeville Popp, whose four older siblings all

played collegiate soccer as well, first became aware of Saint John's when he got what he assumed to be a random email encouraging him to apply.

“As a high school senior I had been applying to schools up and down the West Coast – California, Oregon and Washington,” he said. “Then, in early December (of 2019), I got an email from Saint John’s out of the blue. It said to apply – no fee. So I did it on a whim.

"Then (SJU head soccer coach) John Haws reached out and said they’d like to come watch me play. I had a tournament with my (club) team in Las Vegas and Noel Quinn, who was an assistant here at the time, was there. The game he was at turned out to be the only one I scored in that entire season. I ended up chipping a 7-foot tall goalkeeper. So it was a pretty exciting goal.

further away than that. But I’m so glad I made that decision. My time at Saint John’s has been an amazing experience. It’s helped me become a lot more independent and allowed me to get involved with things I might not have otherwise.

“I don’t think I would have become the person I am today if I hadn’t decided to come here.”

The College Tour

Last fall, Popp had the chance to share his experiences with a wider audience when he was one of 10 CSB and SJU students (four Johnnies and four

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Kaidan Popp (center) shares a light moment during a filming session for Amazon Prime’s College Tour TV series.

his information and got the admissions loop going.

“So that’s why he got that initial email. Then I reached out once we were on his radar.”

Leaving his footprint

Popp played for the Johnnies in each of his four seasons, including as a senior last fall when he had one goal and three assists.

He finished his career with a total of seven goals and seven assists But Haws said his impact on the team went well beyond contributions on the field.

“He’s involved in so many things and that’s part of what we try to preach to recruits,” Haws said. “This is a place where you can have the full college

“They offered me a spot, and I wound up getting a really good scholarship package,” continued Popp, who in addition to his theaterscholarship also received a Slaggie, an Academic Achievement, a Saints and National Merit Commended Recognition scholarships.

“I really wanted to continue to play soccer at a place that actually wanted me to be there. I had other offers. But they were all like ‘You can come play, but I don’t know if you’ll play your freshman year or ever. We’re just saying you can come.’ John was like ‘I want you to come be part of this family and do something with this team.’ He wanted me for a specific role. So that was a big part of making me look this direction.

“But it all started with that one email.”

An email, it turns out, that may not have been as random as Popp believed.

“What he doesn’t know is he got that email because of soccer,” Haws said. “(Quinn) had been coaching a highlevel youth team from Minnesota in a tournament in California, and he went to watch some of the older teams play. He shot me some info on a few guys and Kaidan was one of them. I entered

experience. We don’t want soccer guys who try to fit academics in around soccer. We want guys who are wellrounded and involved in a lot of different areas.

“K-Pop – which is what we call him –has been a great influence in that way. He’s a guy who can talk about the new music he’s into, or a new tattoo he got. He brings a different perspective in a lot of ways.”

That openness to exploration is evident to those who’ve worked with him in the Sustainability Office.

“He brought with him his interests as a communication major,” said Kyle Rauch, the sustainability program manager at CSB and SJU. “It was really great timing because I was just settling

How to Watch

The College Tour Episode

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University episode on The College Tour can be viewed at

The 30-minute episode is also available on The College Tour (TCT) website and TCT apps on Roku, Apple TV, Android, Google Play and others.

The episode will launch on Amazon Prime TV on May 28, 2024, as part of the 11th season of The College Tour.

In addition to Kaidan Popp, the episode also features Matt Gish '22, Jimmy Buck '24, Luke Budzyn '25 and Kobe Forbes '26.

into my role and one of our goals was to revamp and relaunch the monthly newsletter. Kaidan jumped right in and did a great job as editor. He was a terrific member of the team and had a great rapport with others.

“I always enjoyed talking with him after he’d gone home for a break. He told me that he tried to drive a new route back from Washington each time. I thought that was a real testament to his adventurous nature and his desire to seize new opportunities.”

Eyes on the future

Though Popp graduated a semester early, his girlfriend does not graduate until May. He plans to remain in Central Minnesota until then as they both figure out their future.

“I took a class on documentaries and was able to do some work on that,” he said. “Then I had so much fun working on the Amazon project. So I could see

doing something in broadcasting.

“But I’m really passionate about sustainability as well. So doing something in that space would also be a natural fit.”

But whatever the future holds, Popp said he will always be grateful for the rich experience he was able to have as a student at Saint John's.

“I came in here as a freshman with no idea of what I wanted to do,” he said.

“I’m still trying to figure things out.

But being able to immerse myself in as many different activities as possible has really helped make clear where my passions lie.

“It’s added a lot of depth to my character and it’s helped show me who I want to be and what I want to focus on. I’m not sure that would have happened at another place – at least not the way it did here.”

Popp and his girlfriend, Clea Wachtler (CSB ’24) met in their first year at Saint John’s and Saint Benedict's. Participants in a filming session for The College Tour series take a walk along the shores of Lake Sagatagan on the Saint John’s campus. Members of The College Tour video crew zoom in on Kaidan Popp while shooting a scene for Amazon Prime’s The College Tour TV series.
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Wrestling and Nutrition at Saint John's Fed his Passion for Pro Wrestling with Castro ’17

In July of 2022, he earned a fellowship in Las Vegas at the Ultimate Fighting Championship Performance Institute, the official mixed martial arts training facility for the world’s premiere MMA organization. He went on to be hired full-time as a performance nutrition manager.

“There are over 600 UFC athletes in all and we offer services to free-of-charge,” Castro said.

“We provide body composition assessments, resting metabolic rate (RMR) evaluation, weight descent and meal plan programming, consultations and supplement plans, among other services, that allow us to provide a bestin-class service.

in a sport where you’ve had experience with trying to make weight, it provides you with a lot more insight into the process,” he said. “But when you’re working in pro sports the way we are here, there’s really no margin for error. If our athletes miss weight, they get fined and fights may not happen. So we have to be very, very, very precise when it comes to our recommendations. The pressure is a lot higher than it was when it just involved yourself.”

Because UFC is a worldwide brand, and many of its fighters come from Spanishspeaking countries, Castro said his own background has helped him form connections.

“I’m super thankful to be bilingual,” he said. “My grandfather spoke perfect English and I was able to learn and practice with him. That’s been a skill I’ve been so fortunate to possess.

Especially in this job with athletes from all over the world and a (UFC) Mexican performance institute about to open. A lot of these athletes speak minimal English, but I’m able to communicate with them and that helps a lot.

“One of my favorite parts about being at UFC is seeing the positive changes our work can have on athletes who come from under-resourced areas,” he said. “A lot of them are so talented and athletic, but nutrition isn’t something they’ve been used to focusing on. And when they start, it’s like a light bulb clicks. They see the benefits right away.”

Those who knew Castro during his time at Saint John’s are not surprised by the success he’s gone on to have professionally.

“He was such a determined athlete and he was always very passionate about the nutrition and exercise science piece,”

said Brandon Novak, who was the Johnnies’ head wrestling coach during Castro’s first season with the program and recruited him to Saint John's.

As a wrestler at Saint John’s University, Glenn Castro ’17 always looked for a competitive edge. It’s what led Castro to major in nutrition.

“As a competitor, you’re always in pursuit of self-improvement,” said Castro, who was born in Los Angeles but grew up moving back and forth between Tijuana, Mexico, and Southern California. He assembled a successful prep wrestling career at Westlake High School in Westlake Village, California, the school from which he graduated in 2013.

“I took wrestling at the collegiate level very seriously, so it only made sense to take nutrition seriously as well,” he said.

“The two went hand-in-hand. That’s why I decided to become a nutrition major. It was a chance to study something I was passionate about and that could benefit me as an athlete as well.

“And the nutrition major at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s is really fantastic,” he continued. “I learned so many things that helped prepare me for the future.”

A future that, as it turned out, held big things. After completing his dietetic internship at Pepperdine (California) University, he worked two years as a clinical dietitian at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, and as a performance dietitian for weightcut based sports.

A lot of our athletes have to focus on making weight. We help them make sure they are dieting in an appropriate way that allows them to make weight while still staying well-nourished. Our emphasis is on providing nutrition guidance that allows for the most benefit when it comes to their performance development.

“We also travel with the company both domestically and internationally, which involves a lot of planning,” he continued. “Not just regarding nutritional guidance for our athletes, but also when it comes to food procurement. It’s our job to ensure that the hotels we stay at have the correct food ordered so our chefs have the right items on hand to provide the correct portions and nutrients to our fight-week athletes.”

Castro said his own time as a collegiate wrestler helps inform the work he is engaged in now.

“I think anytime you’ve been an athlete

“It’s something he always wanted to get into and you knew he’d have the drive to make it happen.”

Castro said he is grateful for his time in Collegeville and the lessons he learned both on and off the mat.

“The style of education I received there was fantastic,” Castro said. “When I talk to people who went to other schools and I hear about their experience, it makes me so thankful for how involved my professors were. You can get as much or as little as you want out of any school, but Saint John’s seems to have so many more professors willing to take the time to go over whatever you need to go over with them.

“The spirit behind both Saint John’s and Saint Benedict is fantastic. There’s so much pride there. To this day, if I meet another Johnnie, we have an immediate connection. That all goes back to the culture of community that exists and I’m so blessed to be a part of it.”

His expertise in dietetics, nutrition and body composition assessment helped earn former Saint John’s wrestler Glenn Castro ’17 a position as a performance nutrition manager with the Ultimate Fighting Championship Performance Institute. Glenn Castro conducts a class at the Ultimate Fighting Championship Performance Institute, the official mixed martial arts training facility for the world’s premiere MMA organization.
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Glenn Castro

A Scroll Down Memory Lane: The History of Saint John's Basketball

No one knows more about the history of Saint John’s University basketball than Jim Smith. After all, the legendary longtime Johnnies head coach was responsible for making a large share of it.

So it only made sense that Smith, along with former SJU standout Paul Bernabei, ’69 would eventually put pen to page and co-write the recently published Saint John’s University Basketball: Building a Tradition of Team.

The 265-page book provides an overview of every season in which the Johnnies have taken the court, and features stories about many of the key figures and moments in team history.

The book is available through the Saint John’s Bookstore. After expenses, proceeds will be donated to the Jim Smith Endowment Basketball Leadership Program Fund, which was established in 2016 to honor Smith’s legacy and keep the program at a top-tier level in both the MIAC and NCAA Division III.

“We’ve had a lot of positive comments so far,” said Smith, who coached at SJU from 1964 to 2015 and finished with 786 career victories, the most of any college coach at any level in Minnesota history.

“It was a lot of fun to put together. But it was hard work. I was looking back through my cellphone to see how many text messages and emails Paul and I traded back and forth and it was close to 600. We met pretty regularly and spent a lot of hours researching this.”

It helped that the two have long shared


a close connection. Bernabei was the star of the 1968-69 Saint John’s team that won the school’s first conference championship and advanced to the first round of the NAIA national tournament. He earned All-MIAC honors as a senior that season.

A sociology major at SJU, Bernabei went on to pursue a long career in education. In 2000 he founded Top 20 Training, an educational training firm for students, parents, educators and other professionals designed to create “healthier cultures where individuals are more positive, engaged and effective.”

“The genesis for this book started when (Smith) retired in 2015,” said Bernabei, who was inducted into the SJU J-Club Hall of Honor in a ceremony last October. “I’ve written several books, and I approached him about writing

his story. That didn’t happen, but about a year-and-a-half ago, he came back to me and proposed writing a book about the history of basketball at Saint John’s together.

“He was there for 51 years, so that covered a lot of it. But we wanted to do something that included it all.”

Smith said writing the book provided him with a true stroll down memory lane.

“When you’ve coached in as many games as I’ve been involved with, it’s hard to remember them all,” he said.

“A few stand out – usually tough losses, like on a last-second shot. Unfortunately, you remember those all too well.

“But working on this book brought back a lot of things I hadn’t thought about in quite a while.”

Saint John’s football (8-2, 7-1 MIAC) tied for the most wins, both in conference play and overall, but failed to reach the MIAC championship game due to the conference’s two-division format. SJU ended the 2023 season ranked as high as No. 19 in the Top 25 poll. Quarterback Aaron Syverson ’23 was a semifinalist for both the Gagliardi Trophy and the National Football Foundation’s Campbell Trophy. He ended the regular season tied for the NCAA Division III lead in passing touchdowns (45), was second in passing yards (3,436), fourth in points responsible for (272), fifth in completions per game (27.0), sixth in total offense (339.6 ypg.), 16th in pass-efficiency rating (176.0) and 23rd in completion percentage (.684). Wide receiver Jimmy Buck ’23 was honored Jan. 1 at the Sugar Bowl as a member of the 22-man Allstate American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Good Works Team, the seventh Johnnie to make the team and the sixth in the last seven seasons. Tight end Alex Larson ’23 was a unanimous All-America first-team selection (Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association and for the secondstraight season, while teammate Joe Jaeger ‘23 earned third-team honors

from Both earned All-Region first-team accolades, while linebacker Erik Bjork ’23, defensive tackle Zach Frank ’25 and wide receiver Nick VanErp ’23 were named to the second team, and Syverson and cornerback Cayden Saxon ’23 were named to the third team. Fourteen Johnnies earned All-MIAC honors, one shy of last year's program record of 15, and eight were College Sports Communicators Academic All-District: Frank, Syverson, safety Noah Arneson ’26, linebacker Ben Dahl ’25 offensive tackle Tommy Hessburg ’25, kicker Conor Murphy ’25, offensive tackle Grant Peroutka ’25 and linebacker Hayden Sanders ’25.


Saint John’s cross country finished fourth out of 11 teams at the MIAC Championship and 15th out of 34 teams at the rugged NCAA Regional last fall. Lloyd Young ’23 led SJU with his third All-MIAC honor (top 15) in eighth place out of 177 runners with a time of 24:58 at the MIAC Championships Oct. 28. Young earned his third-consecutive All-Region honor (top 35 individually) two weeks later with a 16th-place finish in 24:51, which was two seconds faster than last year when he placed 10th. He then ended his collegiate career by finishing 249th out of 294 runners at the 2023 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Pennsylvania. He was 230th (5:04) at the 1-mile mark, 145th (10:11) at two miles, 66th (15:46) at 5k and 46th (18:55) at 6k, but ran out of gas in contention for All-America honors (top 40) with 600 meters to go and crossed the finish line in 26:41. Young and the team earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association (USTFCCCA) AllAcademic honors in January. To qualify as

a USTFCCCA All-Academic Cross Country Team, the team must record a cumulative team GPA of 3.10 or better. Thirty-three Johnnies combined for a cumulative team GPA of 3.69. To qualify for All-Academic honors, student-athletes must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.30 on a 4.0 scale and finish in the top-25 percent of their respective NCAA regional.


The Saint John’s golf team finished second out of nine teams at the 2023 MIAC Championships in early October. Three Johnnies earned All-MIAC honors (top-10 individually, including ties), led by Sam Berger ’24 in fourth place out of 45 golfers with a three-day total of 214 (-2). Andrew Boemer ’25 tied for sixth with a 218 (+2) and Nate Loxtercamp ’24 collected his third All-MIAC honor with a 222 (+6) to claim 10th. The Johnnies tied for sixth (of 25 teams) at Golfweek’s October Classic in Destin, Fla., and finished the fall schedule in 13th out of 18 teams at the Division III Preview in Boulder City, Nev. SJU ended the fall season ranked as high as No. 9 nationally.


The Saint John’s soccer team finished sixth in the MIAC with a 4-4-2 record (7-7-4 overall) and made its 13th appearance in the MIAC Playoffs – 10th in the last 11 seasons – in 2023. Midfielder Matt D. Anderson ’23 and goalkeeper Evan Siefken ’25 were named All-MIAC and defender Noah Hermanson ’26 was All-MIAC honorable mention. Siefken was also named to the 11-man MIAC AllPlayoff team. Anderson and Hermanson were named to the College Sports Communicators Academic All-District IV men's soccer team in November.

Former Saint John’s University basketball coach Jim Smith has joined former player Paul Bernabei to write an exhaustively researched book on Johnnie basketball history.
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Aaron Syverson

The Saint John’s Bible

Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director

The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program

In November 2023, Saint John’s celebrated the 25th anniversary of the commissioning of The Saint John’s Bible with a pilgrimage to England, the artistic home of the first handwritten, illuminated Bible in 500 years.

The tour included the presentation of fine art editions of The Saint John’s Bible to three reknowned Anglican institutions, made possible through the generosity of the Catharine Elizabeth Laney Trust.

Hosted by Abbot John Klassen and President Brian Bruess, the trip began with a Eucharist service in Salisbury Cathedral with Abbot John preaching, and the presentation of a Heritage

25th Anniversary Pilgrimage to England

Edition at Sarum College, Salisbury. Christopher de Hamel, renowned expert on medieval manuscripts, gave an engaging lecture titled, Giant Bibles in the Middle Ages and Now. Also joining was Sarah Rose Troughton DStJ, the Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire – the first woman to hold the position since it was created in the 16th century.

Next stop was London where the Pax Christi Award was presented to Donald and Mabel Jackson and the 39-member team responsible for the creation of the original manuscript. A highlight of the trip was a private reception and burnishing ceremony with Archbishop Justin Welby followed by Evensong in Lambeth Palace. One of only six remaining Apostles Editions was dedicated in honor of Her Late Majesty

Canterbury Cathedral was the final stop and served as a perfect closing chapter of the tour. After guided tours of this World Heritage Site and one of the oldest structures in England, the group enjoyed talks by Tim Ternes, Director of The Saint John’s Bible, and Fr. Michael Patella of the Committee on Illumination and Text. The final gatherings formed the perfect pair of closing experiences – Evensong in the Cathedral Quire and a banquet in the Cathedral Lodge.

Work is far from over in the United Kingdom. Heritage Editions are headed to other prominent cathedrals in 2024.

Queen Elizabeth II at the Lambeth Palace Library.
Abbot John Klassen preaching in historic Salisbury Cathedral during Sunday service for the blessing and dedication of The Saint John's Bible Heritage Edition Donald Jackson, Artistic Director of The Saint John’s Bible, reads the dedication page at Sarum College as members of the delegation look on. President Brian Bruess processing the Gospel & Acts volume into Evensong worship at Canterbury Cathedral.
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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby turns pages of the Pentateuch volume of the Apostles Edition as he visits with benefactors Bruce & Elaine Culver.

For more information about the Heritage Program, please visit https://heritage.saintjohnsbible. org or contact the Rev. Dr. John F. Ross at or 320-363-3209.

England Tour Photo Credits By Location

Sarum College/Salisbury Cathedral: Peter Langdown

Pax Christi Award Dinner: Lia Vitonne

Lambeth Palace & Library: Neil Turner

Canterbury Cathedral: Tim Stubbings

The entire 25th Anniversary Tour group gathered around the Pentateuch volume of The Saint John’s Bible on the chancel of the Salisbury Cathedral. President Brian Bruess enjoying one of the seven volumes of the Heritage Edition gifted to Sarum College in Salisbury. Rev. Dr. John Ross, Executive Director (second from left) offers commentary to esteemed guests (left to right): President Brian Bruess, former Bishop of Salisbury Nicholas Holtam, Lord Lieutenant Sarah Troughton, Dean of Salisbury Nicholas Papadopulos, and Bishop of Salisbury Stephen Lake. A table of guests enjoy the Pax Christi Award Dinner held at Inner Temple Hall. (Left to right: Fr. Eric Hollas, Christopher de Hamel, Paul Krump, Anne Krump, Dick Nigon, Scott May, Mary Kay May, Peter Blyberg, and Linda Hoeschler.) Abbot John Klassen and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby embody the spirit of ecumenical unity as they burnish with gold the dedication page of the Apostles Edition that will reside at Lambeth Palace Library in memory of Her Majesty the late Queen Elizabeth II.
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Bassett ’

58 Honored With Fr. Walter Reger Award

If you’d have told the Jim Bassett ’58 who arrived at Saint John’s University as a freshman in the early 1950s that he’d go on to become one of the school’s most ardent supporters, he’d likely have thought you were crazy because of his initial impressions.

“I lived on the fourth floor of Benet Hall and my room was one of the

closest to those bells (of the old Abbey Church, now known as the Great Hall). They’d ring every morning at 5:30 a.m. and it felt like my bed was shaking,” Bassett said.

“The monk on my floor had been a lawyer before he joined the monastery. We had to be at our desks to study every night at 7:30. And we had to be up for Mass in the morning. If we weren’t, he’d shake us until we were. So I only lasted two years before leaving.”

But Bassett eventually returned, graduating in 1958, then going on to establish a lengthy track record of service and philanthropy toward the school. That support is a big part of why he has been named this year’s recipient of the Fr. Walter Reger Distinguished Alumnus Award – the highest honor bestowed by the SJU Alumni Association for service to alma mater.

The award is named in honor of Fr. Walter Reger, OSB. A priest, professor, prefect, dean and friend, he was the

driving force behind the SJU Alumni Association for years. Basset too was a member of the SJU Alumni Association board, even serving as board president in 1994-95.

Bassett and his wife Mary sent six of their sons to Saint John’s and their two daughters to the College of Saint Benedict. Five of them got involved with the basketball program. Jim and Mary accompanied the team on several overseas trips and have been generous with their financial support.

Bassett has made it possible for that support to continue well into the future by establishing an estate plan that includes a dedicated gift to the Jim Smith Endowed Basketball Leadership Program Fund, an endowment established to assist Johnnies basketball by providing budget enhancement funding to ensure the program is able to remain at a competitive level in the MIAC and nationally in NCAA Division III.

Rev. Douglas Mullin elected as 11th Abbot of Saint John's Abbey

The Rev. Douglas Mullin was elected the 11th Abbot of Saint John’s Abbey. Mullin, who made his solemn profession as a monk of Saint John’s Abbey in 1992, was elected on the first vote.

He replaces Abbot John Klassen, who was elected in November 2000 but retired in accordance with Church law as he approached his 75th birthday March 25.

Mullin, who was ordained in 2007, previously served as a chaplain at the St. Cloud VA Medical Center and as a faculty resident in SJU’s Benet Hall. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, a Master of Arts in religious education and school administration, a Master of Divinity and a doctorate of

education in educational leadership.

He previously served as the Abbey’s subprior, vice president of student development at Saint John’s University, chair of the education department at SJU and the College of Saint Benedict and director of residency at Saint John’s Preparatory School.

“This is an exciting time of leadership transition,” said Brian Bruess, Ph.D., President of CSB and SJU. “I applaud the monks on their deliberate and wise community discernment, and I look forward to working alongside Abbot Douglas, just as I have with Abbot John.”

Benedictine Volunteer Corps Volunteers Primed For World-Wide Service

year in between. I’ve thought a lot about a year of service and the BVCC was my best opportunity to do that.”

Doom too is excited about the chance to spend a year in a part of the world far different from the one he’s been used to.

volunteers who are eager to serve is a huge benefit,” he said. “Especially volunteers who have the strong liberal arts background our students receive at Saint John’s.”

From almost the first moment he set foot on the Saint John’s University campus, Jacob Gathje ’24 was drawn to the Benedictine Volunteer Corps.

“I’d see the signs all over and it seemed like something really impactful that would be cool to be part of,” said Gathje, an Omaha, Nebraska native. “It looked like a great way to help make a difference in the world.”

The BVC is a service opportunity offered to recent graduates of SJU. According to its mission, “grounded in Benedictine values and spirituality, the BVC provides a unique encounter with the Catholic monastic tradition, the multitude of needs expressed in religious communities around the world and the challenge to commit one’s talents to meeting those needs.”

Since its founding in 2003, the BVC has sent around 315 volunteers to Benedictine monasteries around the world. Participants spend a year supporting those communities in their work, prayer and common life. This year’s chapter – the 20th in the program’s history – is made up of 19 students. One of whom is Gathje, now a senior majoring in both math and English and scheduled to graduate this May.

“I’m not yet entirely sure what I want to do (when it comes to a career), so that played a role in my decision as well,” said Gathje, who along with fellow senior Max Doom ’24 will be serving at Saint Maur’s Hanga Abbey in Hanga, Tanzania. “Graduate school could be in the cards, but I knew I wanted take a

“I’m from Minnesota,” said Doom, a psychology major who remains undecided on future plans, but is considering a career in sales or business.

“Most of my family lives in Minnesota. This is a chance to get out on my own and see what another culture is like. To immerse myself in a different community and experience a lot of things I never would otherwise.”

Doom is also excited that Fr. Nick Kleespie – his faculty resident in Mary Hall – is considering spending a sabbatical at Saint Maur’s in the spring of 2025. He served there during his own BVC experience in 2006-07.

“He has connections and it would be really cool to be able to have him there with us,” Doom said.

Tanzania has been a regular assignment for BVC volunteers over the two decades of the program’s history. But this year will also see volunteers serving at two new locations: Abadia de Jesucristo Crucificado in Esquipulas, Guatemala and Monastere de Gihindamuyaga in Butare, Rwanda.

“Both locations were in need of teaching staff,” said Logan Lintvedt ’21, the BVC’s assistant director. “We’ve been looking at how to create more of a presence in East Africa, and there was a priest from Rwanda who had studied at SOT (Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary). He is back there now and played a big role in helping get this set up.”

Lintvedt said it means a lot to each of the monasteries to have volunteers serving there.

“Many of these places don’t have a lot of money to begin with so to have

Here is a full look at the 2024-25 BVC cohort and where the 2024 Saint John’s graduates will be serving in 2024-25:

Abadia de Jesucristo Crucificado –Esquipulas, Guatemala

• Scott Spangler

• Fredi Ponce Parra

Monasterio San Antonio Abad –Humacao, Puerto Rico

• Richard Guerue

• Peter Hommes

Prince of Peace Abbey – Nairobi, Kenya

• Wesley Kirschner

• Ethan Sturm-Smith

Monastere de Gihindamuyaga –Butare, Rwanda

• Evan Mattson

• Ian Aadland

Saint Maur’s Hanga Abbey – Hanga, Tanzania

• Max Doom

• Jacob Gathje

Newark Abbey/Saint Benedict’s Preparatory School – Newark, New Jersey

• Luke Broghammer

• Joseph Stoddart

Colegio Sant Anselmo – Rome, Italy

• Preston Parks

• Alec Otte

Santa Maria de Montserrat –Montserrat, Spain

• Zach Staver

• Joseph McMahon

• Dominic Amon Site undecided

• Ethan Plumier

• Charles Matuska

Jim Bassett Rev. Douglas Mullin
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Max Doom (left) and Jacob Gathje

Alumni Achievement Awards

Mark Jantzer’s service record reaches from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Kunsan Air Force Base in South Korea. Between lies an extensive list of the business manager’s contributions to his church, community, state and nation, with a focus on support for military personnel.

Jantzer’s roles as Minot Air Force Base honorary commander and chairman and chairman of Task Force 21 Minot, which educates the community and state legislators on national security issues, helped his city earn the Air Force Global Strike Command’s prestigious Barksdale Trophy for outstanding community support. He won the North Dakota National Guard State Meritorious Service Medal for his work to assist North Dakota’s efforts to become more supportive of military personnel.

On the national level, the Air Force Civic Leader program awarded him its highest non-employee civilian honor, the Secretary of the Air Force Distinguished Public Service Award, in 2023. Jantzer’s desire to provide informed civilian advice to Air Force leadership knows no boundaries, taking him on missions as far as Kunsan near North Korea.

winning author and long-time musician, Wayne Liebhard is a Saint John’s University education incarnate.

Liebhard practiced family medicine in Shakopee for 20 years before moving to an emergency clinic. He won the Minnesota Medical Association’s Community Service Award, given annually to one physician in the state, in 1996 and was named an “Everyday Hero” in the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Magazine for his leadership in medicine and the community.

He won national awards and attention with his first book, 1997’s Elephants in the Exam Room: The Seven Things You Need to Know About Today’s Health Care ‘Crisis’ and followed up with 2009’s Elephants in the Exam Room: The Big-Picture Solution to Today’s Health Care ‘Crisis’ and 2022’s Walking The Tightrope – Trusting Your Life To Telemedicine. He released his first novel, The Vortex Effect, in 2016 and recently finished his second, Remember My Face

Liebhard, a member of the Solid Gold Band, wrote music for all three of its albums, produced its first and wrote the music for his first solo album, 2021’s Reflections.

Small towns and rural areas have a champion in Bernie Sinner, who invests himself in growing and sustaining communities in the Fargo area and beyond.

Sinner, president and board member of BankNorth, serves on the boards of member community bank associations and has helped develop bank branches in

North and South Dakota communities that other banks were leaving. He looks for progressive opportunities for small towns and was instrumental in introducing high-speed internet to Casselton, North Dakota, before many people knew what it was. Agricultural technology initiative Grand Farm is building its Innovation Campus in Casselton thanks in part to Sinner’s efforts.

His significant impact on his community through volunteer service in a wide variety of initiatives and organizations earned Sinner the Casselton Business Association’s Bradley J. Burgum Community Service Award in 2010.

Sinner began his banking career after graduating from Saint John’s University, returned to the family business and farmed with his brother-in-law for a few years and then went back to banking, bringing with him the Benedictine values of service, hospitality and community.

Brian Kueppers exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit Saint John’s University fosters and, in turn, helps younger Johnnies foster theirs.

Kueppers, who founded healthcare IT and document design company Apex Information Technologies in 1995, started his first venture as a student when he opened a video rental store in Mary Hall.

to Work For and Minneapolis/St.

Paul Business Journal’s Healthiest Employers. He received the 2016 Saint John's Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship.

Kueppers stepped down from Apex after merging with RevSpring in 2018 and now puts his business acumen to work as the principal of BWK Advisors, a partner in MY SALON Suite of Minnesota and a board member for a variety of companies. He personally supports non-profits such as St. Jude Children’s Cancer Research Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project and CROSS Catholic Relief Services.

Kueppers is a McNeely Center mentor who shares his expertise to help current Johnnies and Bennies developing business ventures of their own.

Rob Bellin is a catalyst for community whose Benedictine gift for cultivating connections touches everything from biochemistry to baseball.

Bellin is a dedicated Worcester community member and devoted father who served as a Boy Scout leader for both of his sons’ troops.

A Johnnie through and through, Bellin helps keep his Collegeville friends connected as a founding member of the “Baseballapalooza” Class of ’94 group that has gathered annually since 2009 to visit a different Major League ballpark.

Darius Husain ’99

Community. Respect. Stewardship. Dignity.

The hallmarks of Darius Husain’s career as executive director of the Face to Face Academy in St. Paul read like a recipe for Benedictine hospitality.

Face to Face has been lauded for its role in closing the achievement gap, and Husain’s contributions have earned him status as a valuable resource in Minnesota education.

Brian Eder is at the top of his game as a wealth management advisor and a philanthropist.

A community-focused physician, award-

He grew Apex to 185 employees and $122 million in annual revenue and imbued it with Benedictine values, earning honors including being named to Minnesota Business Magazine’s 100 Best Companies

Bellin, a biology professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, has served as co-director of the biochemistry concentration most of his 20-plus years there. In addition to his official campus work and considerable research, he fosters Holy Cross’s ties with past and current students through the Bellin Lab Annual Reunion Dinner, better known as BLARD, which he has hosted for two decades. He is a highly regarded professor known for setting high expectations for students while teaching with humility and care.

Husain has spent more than 20 years leading the charter school, which gives teens in grades nine through 12 at risk of dropping out of school a chance to get their education back on track. Face to Face exposes students to educational opportunities traditional schools might not — for example, its award-winning Wilderness and Outdoor Program — with a 12-month calendar and 8:40 a.m. start.

Husain’s quietly confident, humble, passionate and empathetic leadership has cultivated a safe, supportive culture that offers students different ways of learning and inspires them to show up, learn and ultimately graduate. His positive impact shines through in graduation rates and math, reading and science scores that are higher than state, district and local school averages.

Eder started as an intern at Northwestern Mutual in 2005 and now serves as partner and CEO of wealth management firm Voyage Wealth Architects, a founding member of the Northwestern Mutual Private Client Group. He has earned Forbes recognition as a Best in State Security Professional and Best in State Wealth Advisor and is a 12-time recipient of the FORUM award recognizing the top 5 percent of Northwestern Mutual’s 7,000-plus financial advisors.

Eder put his passion for golf to work in the Birdies4Brains, the nonprofit he founded in 2011, which has raised more than $1.5 million through golf-centric events to support brain injury survivors. Eder was recognized with Northwestern Mutual’s Community Service Award, and he and his Voyage Wealth Architects partners have been on MSP Business Journal’s Corporate Philanthropist List two years in a row. They recently committed $250,000 to M Health Fairview Masonic Children’s Hospital to fund the first Child Life Specialist in its Pediatric Kidney Dialysis Unit.

Mark Jantzer ’74 Wayne Liebhard ’79 Bernie Sinner ’84 Brian Kueppers ’89 Rob Bellin ’94 Brian Eder ’04
40 41 WINTER/SPRING 2024


1963 Franco Pagnucci has published his new book, Again The Red Fox, a collection of poems that explores his world from lake country to seashore. Creatures such as the red fox that sometimes stop to interact with the poet are the main characters. Pagnucci celebrates life transcendent and draws readers into moments of awareness –morning light on a blue-black fisher, a river otter smacking her lips, or a kingbird twittering in the May air.

1972 Jose Delgado-Figueroa has published two books during the past three years through Besus & Abadi, a published based in Auckland, New Zealand. They include:

• Unsettling Accounts: Biofiction, a novel about a young man who migrates to Minnesota from Puerto Rico and becomes successful in business and in his home life until intolerance and hate bring tragedy to his life.

• Puerto Ricans Say It Like This:

Everything No One Taught You in Spanish Class, a linguistic study of Caribbean dialectology • In addition, the third edition has been released of his novel The Tango of the Shipwreck, set in Puerto Rico, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, narrating the story of a nontraditional family bound by love, respect and commitment rather than by blood lines.

1977 Patrick Garry has published his latest book, The Power of Gratitude: Charting a Path Toward a Joyous and Faith-Filled Life. The book is a memoir of his parents, focused on the theme of gratitude, which greatly influenced and shaped their lives and illustrates about how gratitude can transform life and deepen faith. Garry, who has published more than 20 books, is a law professor at the University of South Dakota where he has been teaching for 25 years. His books are available at

1981 Scott Simkins received the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s 2023 Kenneth G. Elizinga Distinguished Teaching Award from the Southern Economic Association. Simkins, chair of the Department of Economics in the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics, was selected as an award corecipient for his extraordinary contribution to economics

education as a scholar and innovative student educator and by facilitating the improvement of economics teachers at the college level.

1981 Paul Marsnik recently published Baseball Road Trip, a book based on a 1987 road trip by Marsnik and a group of his friends to explore and enjoy major league baseball ballparks and history throughout the Midwest. Marsnik is currently a Saint Benedict and Saint John’s teacher and academic director of the Entrepreneur Scholars program.

1981 Timothy Herwig has published The Long Way Home, a closely observed account of the author’s five-week, 500-mile walk from Chicago to Minneapolis and a parallel journey through the memories of his traumatic and painful life as a young man. His meetings with people and places along the journey open up the history, culture and experience of this part of the Midwest.

1983 Ed Driscoll, his spouse Michele Villaume-Driscoll (CSB ’85) and their son Michael (SJU ’25) have been honored by readers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who voted the Villaume-Driscoll Gallery in Spring Park the 2023 “Best Art Gallery in Minnesota” award. Ed, Michele and Michael all run different aspects of the gallery. Her art is owned by collectors throughout the United States, and Michele is grateful for the impact her art teachers at the College of Saint Benedict had on her journey as a full-time artist.

1992 Patrick Hicks recently published his 10th book, Across

the Lake. The Augustana (South Dakota) University professor’s book is set in Nazi Germany in an all-female concentration camp. He has been referred to as “the face of South Dakota literature” and “the leading literary voice of our state.” Hicks has been at Augustana for more than 20 years and is the university’s Writer-In-Residence.

1997 Dr. Brian Manternach was named the NATS CalWestern Region Teacher of the Year Jan. 12 at a conference at the University of Utah campus in the University of Utah School of Music and University of Utah Department of Theatre. Manternach was cited for his commitment to his students, for his support and advocacy for equity, diversity and inclusion in the field, and by his academic and research colleagues. His contributions also include hundreds of published articles and columns for Classical Singer and National Association of Teachers of Singing Journal, as well as in the voice studio.

1998 Noah Whiteman has published the book Most Delicious Poison, The Story of Nature’s Toxins – From Spices to Vices. Following his father’s death in 2017 from complications related to substance use disorder, Whiteman – a professor of molecular and cell biology at UC-Berkeley – received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2020 to write a book on the origin of drugs and other chemicals from nature we use and abuse. His book chronicles how this changed the natural world through coevolution between plants and animals, and how they changed our

own world, from Neanderthal's use of medicinals to the Spice Trade, Opium War, and our current Opioid Epidemic. Said Whiteman: “The quality of the education I received in the liberal arts at Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s was, I would say, maybe even higher than what I would have experienced at a place like Berkeley, where I now am a faculty member, or Harvard, where I was a postdoctoral fellow for four years and also taught. I really do think it was distinctive.”

2001 Phillip Trier has been appointed as executive vice president, commercial banking group leader at Associated Bank in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In his new role, Trier will focus on accelerating core Commercial Middle Market business development across the company’s major metropolitan markets. He also will lead the company’s equipment finance and leasing vertical and commercial deposit and treasury management sales and service strategies.

2010 Joel Coleman received the Ninth through Twelfth Grade Educator of the Year award from the Minnetonka Public School District for his work at Ubah Medical Academy. He now teaches at Minnetonka High School. Coleman’s teaching approach to economics and personal finance stands out

for its innovativeness, as he masterfully transforms what students often perceive as dull and challenging into an engaging and enjoyable learning experience.


2016 Anne (Bjelland ‘18) to Neal Smith, Aug. '23

2016 Anne Sandell to Trevor O'Brien, Oct. '23

Samantha (Womeldorf ’16) to Connor Reilly, March '23

Ricardo Torres-DeSantiago to Edwin Torres-DeSantiago Aug. '23

Grace (Vaughan-Wenner ‘16) to Charlie Wenner, Aug. '23

2017 Ellen (Marvin-Conlin ‘18) to Thonmas Conlin, June '23

Lydia (Skemp ‘17) to Jacob Stock, Sept. '23

2018 Allison (Eikmeier ‘18) to Trevor Dittberner Oct. '23

Gabrielle (Horsford ‘18) to Alec Janning Sept. '23

Anne (Dockendorf ‘18) to Josiah Passe, Sept. '23

Brigette (Miller ‘18) to Patrick Strom April '23

2019 Hannah (Moen ‘19) to Brent Andries, May '23

Bree (Gibis ‘19) to Kyle Busta, July '23

Megan (Barta ‘19) to Joe Chitwood, Dec. '23

Megan (Schroeder ‘19) to Robert Fink May '23

Julie (Honsa ‘19) to Grant Gullickson, Aug. '23

Kennedy Gorres to Colin Kozol, Oct. '23

Maia (Hapke ‘19) to Chris Pathoulas, Aug. '23

Elizabeth (Day ‘18) to Blake Weber, Sept. '23

2020 Amber (Klein ‘20) to Jake Muehlenbein Sept. '23

Jane (Ludwig ‘21) to Nate Saunders July '23

Maya (George ‘20) to Nicholas Skluzacek, Aug. '23

Frances (Weyrauch ‘20) to Kyle Sorenson Aug. '23

2020 Isabella (Haeger ‘20) to Jack Vermedahl, June '23

Katherine (White ’23) to David Whitford,

Digital Review Copy 42 43 WINTER/SPRING 2024

July ‘23

2021 Lindsay (Will ’21) to John Mahowald, May ‘23

2023 Ariana (Mollgaard ‘23) to Tom Nemanich, July '23


2000 Sara & Andrew Landkammer, girl, June '23

Nora & Mark Musgjerd, girl, Sept. '21

2002 Christine & Paul Thomas, boy, Aug. '23

2006 Rebecca (Gross ‘12) & Jeff Clobes boy, Dec. '23

2008 Anna (Martin ‘12) & Pete Larson boy, July '23

Mallory (Lundeen ‘08) & Justin Swierk boy, June '23

Abby (Stahl ‘08) & Paul Zipoy boy, Feb. '23

2009 Dana (Joseph ‘09) & Ted Fagrelius girl, June '23

Abby (Milton ‘9) & Ryan Turbes boy, Dec. '23

2010 Julie (Walter ‘09) & Jeff Bohlman, boy, Dec. '23

Kelley & Nick Hansen boy, Feb. '23

2011 Laura (Andersen ‘11) & Nick Alonzi girl, May '23

Jennifer (Tong ‘10) & Chase Kroll girl, Dec. '23

Carolyn (Triggs ‘12) & Ryan Mosco boy, April '23

2012 Kayla & Evan Bojar boy, Dec. '22

2012 Bri (Schrankler ‘12) & Joseph Fiedler, boy, June '23

Megan (Boll ‘12) & Jim Foley, boy, Sept. '23

Adriana Valeria & Noah Jeffrey girl, July '23

2013 Meghan (Simmet ‘13) & Dan Hermes girl, Oct. '23

Kate & Bill Jaffee, girl, Sept. '23

Samantha (Lloyd ‘13) & Nate King, boy, April '23

DeLaney (Lundeen ‘11) & Joe Long, boy, May '23

2014 Alli & Calvin Herold, girl, July '23

Stephanie (Pinkalla ‘14) & Stephen Katz, boy, Nov. '23

2015 Bailey (Zallek ’15) & Nicholas DeVetter

2015 girl, March '23

Annie (Luke ‘15) & Bill McCue, girl, Nov. '23

Bridget (Cummings ‘15) & Ryan Michaelis, girl, Jan. '24

Theresa (Hickman ‘15) & Eric Reichert, boy, June '23

Carolyn Bedford (‘15) & Michael Torgerson girl, Sept. '23

2016 Emily Hawkins (Hille ‘16) & Joe Hawkins, girl, March '23

Megan Carter-Johnson (‘16) & Nathaniel Johnson, boy, Aug. '23

Nick Simon, boy, May '22

Ashley Bukowsi (‘15) & Mike Sowada girl, Sept. '23

2017 Carly & Beau Garding, girl, Oct. '23

Mary (Hooley ‘17) & Zach Wright, boy, June '23

2019 Josie (Thelen ‘19) & Mitch Fritz boy, July '23


2014 Sara (Gardner ‘15) & Ben Danielson, boy, July '23


2018 Andrew & Louise Welbig, boy, June '23


1930 Betty Hennes spouse of deceased, James, Nov. ‘23

1943 Jeanne Weyandt, spouse of deceased, Mark, Jan. ‘24

1946 Patricia Koenig spouse of deceased, Robert, mother of John ’73 and Peter ’76, Dec. ‘23

1947 Patricia Hackert spouse of deceased, Donald, mother of Mark ’80, Nov. ‘23

1949 James DeGrood, Jan. ‘24

Patricia Grayck, spouse of deceased, Don, mother of Tom ’74, John ’76, Kevin ’82, sister of Jerry Gretsch ’55, Oct. ‘23

Roger Linnemann brother of deceased, Mark ’50, May ‘23

Marian Pappenfus spouse of deceased, Robert, mother of Tom ’87, Sept. ‘23

LaDonna Reisdorf spouse of deceased, George, Jan. ‘24

1950 Rick Schmitz, son of deceased, Dick brother of Tim ’78, deceased brother, Terry ’80, Dec. ‘23

1951 Rev. John Coss, FMSI, July ‘23

Mary Torborg, spouse of deceased, 1951 Leander mother of Joe ’91, Jan. ‘24

1952 Philip Burnett, July ‘23

Catherine Gadbois spouse of deceased,

Chuck, mother of Steve ’78, Larry ’81, Oct. ‘23

Therese Juba spouse of deceased, Richard, mother of Mike ’77, Greg ’80 and Mark ’86, Sept. ‘23

Tom McKeown, father of Mark '82, John '86, Dan '85, brother of deceased, James '53, Sept. ‘23

Irene Moser, spouse of deceased, William, Jan. ‘24

Emmett Mulcare Sept. ‘23

Chuck Novacek, July ‘23

Rev. Edward Sherman brother of Rev. William ’51 and SOT/Sem ’55, Feb. ‘23

1953 Harold Duffy Dec. ‘23

Gene Eiden brother of Darrell ’57, Neil ’62 and deceased, Merle ’64, Dec. ‘23

Theresa Thurmes spouse of John ’53, Dec. ‘23

1955 Harvey Fiala, Sept. ‘23

Joseph Hunn, brother of deceased, Francis ’60, Nov. ‘23

Joe Lutz, father of Dave '89 and deceased James '77.

Joan Marchek, spouse of deceased, Dick, mother of Michael '87 and Steve '92, July ‘23

Joe Monn, Dec. ‘23

Tim Murphy Dec. ‘23

William Schneider, Nov. ‘23

1956 Annette Kittock spouse of Alfred ’56, Aug. ‘23

Bob McTaggart Dec. ’22

Donald Opatz, brother of deceased, Ralph ’49, Jan. 24


Robert Tekippe Nov. ‘23

1957 Robert Derenthal, Nov. ‘23

Wayne Hergott Aug. ‘23

Margaret McCarron, spouse of deceased, Peter, mother of Tom ’91, Oct. ‘23

Wiliam McGrann Jan. ‘24

John Traxler, Sept. ‘23

Darlene White, spouse of Tom ’57, sister of Paul Mohrbacher ’56 and mother of deceased, Bobby ’87, Nov. ‘23

1958 Jim Franklin Aug. ‘23

Jane Heitz, spouse of Duane ’58, mother of Kevin ’89, Aug. ‘23

Gerald Herman, Sept. ‘23

William Horak Sept ‘23

Tom Liesch, Sept. ‘23

1958 Robert Lindquist, father of Joe '81, Aug. ’21

Yvonne Lindquist, spouse of deceased,

Robert mother of Joe '81, Feb. ‘23

Deanna Rasmusen, spouse of deceased, Arnold ’58, July ‘23

John Ronan Jan. ‘24

Bill Wallenta Nov. ‘23

1959 J. David Enestvedt, Dec. ‘23

Stanley Kummer, Jan. ‘24

Larry Luetmer, Aug. ‘23

1960 Mike Ford brother of John ’67, Nov. ‘23

Rev. John Goggin, SOT/Sem '64, Oct. ‘23

Kenneth Herzing, brother of Tom ’61, May ’22

Richard "Dick" Paulsen, Jr., father of Mike '87 and Bob '91, Jan. ‘24

1961 Eileen Angell, spouse of deceased, John, Aug. ‘23

Gene Lebrun, brother of Richard, July ‘23

Steve Muggli, brother of Francis ’62, Aug. ‘23

Robert Schmitt, Dec.’23

Kathleen Virnig spouse of deceased, Norman ’61, Dec. ‘23

1962 Larry Blaylock, brother of Wally ’66 and David ’72, Sept. ‘23

Thomas Hickey, Jr., Nov. ‘23

James Klein Aug. ’21

Rev. Michael Naughton OSB, Sept. ‘23

Robert Praus, father of Stephen ’89, Dec. ‘23

Richard Rolfson, Dec. ‘23

David Wagner, Dec. ‘23

1963 Thomas Canar, brother of Bob ’65, Nov. ‘23

Charles Dahl, Nov. ‘23

1963 James LaFaye, Aug. ‘23

1964 Dale Breckel, Sept. ‘22

James Callahan, Dec. ‘23

Thomas Fritz, father of Mark ’87 and Michael ’88, Oct. ‘23

Dr. Donald Graves, Oct. ‘23

John Nussbaum father of Dave '92, brother of Jim ’61 and Joe ’67, July '23

Stephen Schoffman, March ‘23

Tom Skoog, father of Greg ’89, July ‘23

1965 Thomas Packard Nov. ‘23

1966 Tom Arth, father of Craig ’99, Sept. ‘23

Robert Brezinski SOT/Sem, Jan. ‘24

James Kohanek, Sept. ‘23.

Joe Palen Aug. ‘23

Anthony "Bob" Vandrovec Nov. ‘23

1967 Nanette Connor, spouse of deceased,

1967 Robert Oct. ‘23

S. Telan Hu SOT/Sem, Dec. ‘23

Mary Lou Juettner, spouse of Fred, Dec.


Michael Oehler, Dec. ‘23

1968 Michael Drake, father of Tad ’92, Nov. ‘23

Bob Russell June ‘23

1969 Joe Bozicevich Oct. ‘23

Steve Loosbrock, brother of Mark ’72 and deceased brother, Gary ’68, June ‘23

Maria Cristina Perez Ramos, Oct. ‘23

Michael Vander Linden Sept. ‘23

1970 Mariella Arnold mother of Joe and John ’80, Oct. ‘23

Al Finlayson, Sept. ‘23

Paul Hayden, brother of Joe ’71, Jack ’72, Tim ’92, July ‘23

Daniel Kelly, Jr. son of deceased, Daniel, Sr.'36, father of Sean '96,brother of Tim '69 and Terry '78, Feb ‘23

1972 Lane Doerring, Oct. ‘23

Tom Farnham, father of Tom ’01, Oct. ‘23

Michael Grigsby Jan. ‘24

Wayne Zenk, father of Eric ’99 and Rob ’07, July ‘23

1973 Cindy Armstrong, spouse of Steve, Nov. ‘23

Rev. Gerald Chinchar, SM SOT/Sem, Oct. ‘23

Tom Elenz, father of Danny ’12, Oct. ‘23

Joseph Pattner, Apr. ‘22

Lisa LaFrance spouse of Greg July ‘23

S. Mary Pattison July ‘23

Adrienne Smith mother of Patrick Aug. ‘23

1984 Joe Blake, brother of Thomas ’83, Sept. ‘23

Bernie DeLaRosa, brother of Mark ’86, Dec. ‘23

Daniel Fink spouse of Dianna Vossen

Oct. ‘23

1985 John Huss, Jr., Aug. ‘23

Tom Patrin, brother of Daniel ’77, John ’88 and deceased brother, Richard ’79, Nov. ‘23

1986 Tom Flock-Johnson, son of Dick ’58 and brother of Lee 84, Aug. ‘23

Sandi Schommer, daughter of Peter Jan. ‘24

Rose Zumwinkle, mother of Mike, Feb. ‘24

1988 Rev. Michael Cronin, Aug. ‘23

Phillip Logan, father of Ryan, Jan. ‘24

Tracy McGarry, spouse of Mike, July ‘23

Tom Zipoy, Aug. ‘23

1989 Thomas AlfaroZierten, Jr. Oct. ‘23

Dennis Jaeger brother of Doug ’89, Sept. ‘23

Margaret Jaeger mother of Doug ’89, Sept. ‘23

1990 Bradley Johannes Dec. ‘23

Patricia Pederson, mother of Erik ’90, Dec. ‘23

1975 Patrick Courtney

1974 Clara Melsen, mother of Greg, and Tom '77, March ‘23

Oct. ‘23

Julie Hennessy, spouse of Murray and sister of David Panek '75, Sept. ‘23

1976 Rod Cosgriff, Nov. ‘23

Dan McGlynn July ‘23

1977 Kuniko Muhvich, spouse of Michael, June ‘23

Paul Staupe, Sept. ‘23

1980 S. Cecile Uhlorn, OSB SOT/Sem, Sept. ‘23

1981 Rev. Longinus "Al" Bitz SOT/Sem, Nov. ‘23

Todd Brandstetter, Sept. ‘23.

Sophie Cavanaugh, mother of Joe and Tom ’90, Aug. ‘23

Anne Fasching, mother of Gary, Aug. ‘23

John Peck, father of Mike, Sept. ‘23

Rose Schleper mother of Jim and Denny ’83, Aug. ‘23

1981 Jackie Witter Oct. ‘23

1982 Tom Driscoll Oct. ‘23

1983 S. Ruth Fox Sept. ‘23

1997 Amy Maikkula spouse of Stephan mother of Will ’24, Jan. ‘24

2002 Pat Dirksen, son of Joe '73 and brother of Mike '99, Sept. ‘23

2005 Joseph McClure, father of Nick, Sept. ‘23

2006 Lindsay Block, spouse of Joe, sister of Brendon Krieg ’02, Nov. ‘23

2010 Matt Michaletz Oct. ‘23

2014 Leona Jenniges, mother of Rev. Brad Jenniges OSB, SOT/Sem, Jan. ‘24

2023 Bernie Fitzpatrick Aug. ‘23

44 45 WINTER/SPRING 2024

Alumni Volunteerism: What Is It Worth?

Ask a CFO for advice on running a business and the response you are most likely to hear: “Cash is king.”

Regardless of the business entity, academic institution, non-profit, etc., the immutable reality is, it takes money to sustain and/or grow an entity.

Private academic institutions like Saint John’s University wouldn’t survive without the financial support of their alumni.

Financial support is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is the “priceless” value provided by our volunteer hours.

Volunteer effort and commitment of work, talent and respect hold great value. In addition to their annual contribution, alums are spread throughout every element of our institution through participation as trustees, board members, advisors, academic supporters, club members and programs members.

Saint John’s Alumni Association president Bill Olson ’91 provided this insight:

“I estimate there are well over 3,000 volunteer hours by Alumni Board members. Those 36 members lead or participate on a variety of committees

that are of direct benefit to the Student Fund, five-year reunions, student programs, alumni networking and mentoring support, institution guidance (i.e. trustees),” he said.

“Now add to that our worldwide population of alums who volunteer time and effort. The number of hours and the currency value of that volunteer time is incomprehensible. There isn’t anything, anywhere in our Johnnie universe that doesn’t have the fingerprints of a Johnnie volunteer.”

Shawn Govern ’88 is an alumni board member and Milwaukee chapter chair. He spoke about the chapter alumni member volunteer programs.

“Over the years, there has been a variety of events the chapter has hosted. We invite new and returning students, their parents and siblings to a Brewer game, including a traditional Wisconsin Tailgate. Other traditions include various impromptu stand-ups, hosting the men’s choir on tour, and welcoming the SJU and CSB President for a president’s dinner,” he said. “Most recently we have started a new tradition on the Benedictine Day of Service, to make and serve breakfast to 70-80 homeless guests at the Milwaukee Guest House homeless shelter.”

Ben Franklin coined the axiom, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” One might think that our alumni volunteers are those with free time on their hands. Actually, our alum volunteers are really busy, with a full list of family obligations and work commitments before they became aware of a need.

Why do our alums take on these extra commitments? They reference their Benedictine value of “giving back” to their community and add to that personal fulfillment and the value of sharing and joy.

2023 Fr. Walter Reger Award winner Scott Becker capsulizes it this way: “I volunteer to follow in the footsteps of those before me who did the same and made a positive impact on my life,” he said. “I truly believe it is the Johnnie and Bennie way.

“In baseball coaching and teaching our Private Equity class, Cary Musech and I try to impress upon the athletes and students the many different possible ways to successful outcomes in sport and life. In baseball I spend a lot of my time and energy teaching what we call ‘small ball’ (bunting, baserunning and situational hitting). In our P.E. class, we stress to seek growth markets as you plot your careers.”

The value of volunteerism side of the coin? Priceless.

SOT Faculty Making Distinct Contributions to Global Church

Over the last century, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary (SOT/Sem) has led the world church in such areas as liturgy, sacramental theology, ecumenism, rural ministry and engaging the Second Vatican Council.

It seeks to guide the local and wider church to engage the “signs of the times” with both theological insight and pastoral wisdom and so build up the Body of Christ.

Pope Francis continues to direct the church’s ministers and theologians to engage questions about how the People of God can create cultures of encounter, both within and beyond the church’s doors.

Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media.

• Finally, Dr. Kristin Colberg, Associate Professor of Theology, currently serves under two Vatican appointments. Working under the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, she is a member of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC), which participates in ongoing dialogues between the Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. Under the Dicastery for the Synod, she serves on the Theological Commission on the Church’s global Synod on Synodality as the only theologian from the United Sates on the commission.

SJU Organizing Vow Renewal Gathering

If you were married by Saint John's Alumni Chaplian Fr. Tim Backous, OSB, he would like you to send the date and year of your wedding. He will be inviting as many couples as possible to renew their vows in a festive gathering at Saint John’s. Please send your information to or by text to 320-492-2852. The date of this event has not been set.

Faculty members at the SOT/Sem find themselves as vital partners in this work, cultivating close relationships with Vatican leadership and their counterparts across the globe. Three of its faculty are presently working with Vatican commissions in the areas of science (particularly artificial intelligence), communications, ecumenical dialogue and the global Synod on Synodality.

• Dr. Noreen Herzfeld, the Nicolas and Bernice Reuter Professor of Science and Religion, joins a group of invited theologians, philosophers and ethicists who work with the Vatican Dicastery for Culture and Education to “discuss the current and future issues that the continued development of Artificial Intelligence poses for life and society.”

• Dr. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology, has been collaborating for three years with the Vatican’s Dicastery of Communication as part of a 2021 group that published the document Towards Full Presence: A

Few schools can boast having even one theologian serving in these capacities, yet Saint John’s community and its School of Theology and Seminary are blessed with three such leaders, each with her distinct theological contributions to share.

Beyond their noted distinct areas of scholarship, all three mentioned the importance of working with scholars and leaders of the global church.

Dr. Herzfeld's 2023 book The Artifice of Intelligence: Divine and Human Relationship in a Robotic Age was enhanced through her collaboration with others working at the Vatican.

Dr. Zsupan-Jerome appreciated getting to know the “context” of the Vatican, gaining a greater understanding for how church teaching develops through her own contribution to the document Towards Full Presence.

Dr. Colberg is presently writing a book on the nature of synodality and its meaning for our understanding of the church and its mission. She stressed that her ecumenical work is “part of the heritage of Saint John’s Abbey. People

all over the world know that Saint John’s has long been a leader in helping the church engage contemporary questions and dialogue with the modern world.”

With this heritage in mind, it is no wonder that these three accomplished scholars were chosen to serve in these ways.

Dr. Colberg mentioned that when people hear she is from Saint John’s, they frequently bring up the work here that helped lead to Vatican II, The Saint John’s Bible, Virgil Michel and liturgical renewal, Godfrey Diekmann, etc.

Herzfeld’s, Zsupan-Jerome’s and Colberg’s gifts of service contribute not only to the worldwide church and its mission: They also bring the fruits of their collaborations, conversations and projects back to the classrooms and larger mission of the SOT/Sem and CSB and SJU.

Students have marvelous opportunities to learn first-hand from these theologians – gaining a sense of theology unfolding in real time around the world – who challenge them to translate their learning into new forms of ministry and leadership.

Faculty like Zsupan-Jerome, Colberg and Herzfeld keep Saint John’s and the SOT/Sem rooted in its heritage and at the forefront of theology’s most timely discussions and contributions.

Seated: Dr. Noreen Herzfeld Standing Left: Dr. Kristin Colberg Standing Right: Dr. Daniella Zsupan-Jerome Rick Speckmann ’72
46 47 WINTER/SPRING 2024

A Legacy of Perseverance and Love

Al Wegleitner ’46 graduated from Saint John’s University with a double major in architecture and mathematics. Like many from the so-called “Greatest Generation,” his education was interrupted by World War II. But that wasn’t all that he had to persevere.

En route to his high school diploma at St. Cloud Cathedral, he missed half a year with rheumatic fever – then a potentially life-threatening condition –but still walked with his class. Having grown up in a German-Catholic agrarian family near Melrose, he worked a couple of years to earn enough to be a day student at Saint John’s University.

He was drafted in 1942 and failed his physical for high blood pressure. He tried again and enlisted in the Navy, entering an engineering program at Iowa State University that would potentially make him eligible to transfer to the air corps. However, he failed another physical and instead was assigned to an ROTC unit at St. Mary’s University in Winona.

After one semester and a steady diet of garlic pills, his high blood pressure subsided and he was sent to Asbury Park, New Jersey, and then officer training school at Columbia University in New York. He was 10 days from becoming a Seabee (serving in a construction battalion) when he contracted rheumatic fever again. He underwent experimental treatment in California, then shipped home with an honorable discharge at the end of the war.

He later advanced his education in architecture at the University of Minnesota and, all told, went to school in Minneapolis, Winona, Ames, Iowa, Chicago, Asbury Park, New Jersey and New York City.

After designing buildings around the country in a career that bridged four decades, he returned to his Minnesota roots and settled in Hopkins.

Despite attending a number of educational institutions, he chose to establish the Wegleitner Family Endowed Scholarship at his beloved alma mater, Saint John's in 1981.

Since, his repeated donations of even a thousand dollars here or a few thousand there have grown to be a significance resource each year for a few students who have distinguished themselves academically, participate in extracurriculars and demonstrate financial need.

The scholarship has supported the education of 55 Johnnies over the years. This academic year, five SJU students are receiving the scholarship and their average grade-point average is 3.96.

“He really felt that Saint John’s gave him what he needed to do what he loved for the rest of his life,” Carol Wegleitner said, referring to her father, who died in 2022 at age 102. “My father was not braggadocious, but he was so honored to receive the letters of thanks that he got from the students who benefitted from the scholarship throughout the years. In the beginning they were handwritten, but they were all important.

“One of the last he received was from a student who was considering the priesthood. When I handed it to him, and he was fully with-it – even at 102 years old, he looked at me and said, ‘Wow!’ I said, ‘Yeah, dad. You’ve made a difference in many people’s lives.’”

Al’s wife, Margaret, died in 2012. Their children Kurt (SJU ’73), Paul, Mari and Carol and their cousin, Mark

’72 have chosen to carry on with the philanthropy.

“He was intentional about it being the Wegleitner Family Scholarship and I think that was his way of communicating to me that there’s a greater need that can be addressed,” said Kurt, who went on to a financial services career in. “Everybody doesn’t have to give a million dollars to make a big impact. My father was a humble guy who didn’t think of himself as a wealthy man.

“By the end, he was in position where he probably could’ve done a lot more except for the obligation he felt to his family. But he told me, ‘In all my years of visiting with anyone from Saint John’s, there was never a direct request for any money.’ The conversations were all about how he was doing and how life was going. I think he respected that a lot.

“People kept in touch with him because he was part of the Saint John’s family. He left me with the impression that I should be thinking about something similar, and I am. We all have a chance to contribute in different ways.

“He did – and look what it has achieved.”


Devney ’93 Paying Forward the SJU Experience

When it came time for John Devney ’93 to make his college choice, there were a couple of criteria that needed to be met.

“My parents made it clear to us they would pay for our college education as long as the place we picked checked a couple of boxes,” the 1993 Saint John’s University graduate recalled.

“No. 1, it had to be a Catholic school. My Dad was a Notre Dame graduate and that was important to him. And No. 2, it had to offer a good, solid liberal arts degree. So I really ended up looking at only one place. That was Saint John’s.”

Looking back, Devney said he could not have made a better decision.

“The entire Saint John’s experience – the place, the people I met there and the faculty – had such a huge impact on my life,” said Devney, who is now Chief Policy Officer at Delta Waterfowl, a Bismarck, North Dakota-based conservation group for which he has worked since 1998. “It was a place for me to learn and grow, not just in an academic manner, but also as a person. So much of who am today is a result of the time I spent there.”

That’s why Devney believes so strongly in giving back to his alma mater. He has made the establishment of an endowed scholarship one of his highest philanthropic priorities – beginning to provide funding now, but also including Saint John’s in his estate plan to assure

funding continues beyond his lifetime.

“After my mother and father’s passing, really started to think,” said Devney, a Mahtomedi High School graduate who majored in government and minored in psychology while also running track and field at SJU.

In the end, he said, it’s simply about paying it forward.

“If people think long and hard about the great experiences in their lives, they’ll realize that somebody, somewhere helped provide that opportunity for them,” said Devney, who resides in Bismarck with his wife Carmen and their children Katherine, John and James.

For those of us who are lucky enough to be in a position to carry that forward, think we have a responsibility to do it.”

For more information on ways to LEAVE YOUR LEGACY through Charitable Gift Annuities, or other similar giving tools, please contact the Planned Giving team at 320-363-2116 or visit
Al Wegleitner
48 49 WINTER/SPRING 2024
John Devney, wife Carmen, daughter Katherine (9th grade), sons John (7th grade) and James (4th grade).


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Collegeville, MN 56321



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