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A Good Game for UST; A Great Day for SJU

Let’s start with what probably goes without saying.  It would have been nice to win the game.  We take our football seriously, have an unrivaled tradition and a very good team.  Gary Fasching, his coaches and players all worked extremely hard to prepare for a strong University of St. Thomas team.  It would have been very nice to see their efforts rewarded.  As close as the score was and as well as the defense played, I am certain that these facts offer absolutely no consolation.

But the final score should not distract us from acknowledging that this past weekend was great for Saint John’s University and our community.

The game was a celebration of all that is great about D3 athletics: an intense but friendly rivalry, two schools from a conference where the players are truly student-athletes, deeply committed alumni, student and parent fans, a fantastic venue that recognized the importance of the two schools in the economic and cultural life of the Minnesota, and publicity that went national for these very reasons.

The game at Target Field was technically a home game for the Tommies, but you would never have known it by the overwhelmingly red crowd.  The game obliterated the previous D3 attendance record of 17,535 when 37,355 fans filled Target Field.  Of those fans, easily two-thirds were wearing red but some thought it looked more like 75 or 80%.  (You judge–here is a nice panoramic view )  Suffice it to say it was an impressive showing.


Pictured above–the National Anthem and presentation of the American flag was done jointly by the Air Force ROTC program at UST and the Fighting Saints Army ROTC program at CSB, SJU and St. Cloud State.

The game garnered tremendous local coverage in the print media and on the airwaves (here  and here ).  We also managed some highly sought after national attention with a story in the New York Times and a prominent Johnnie fan from Florida who happened to be giving the McCarthy Lecture at SJU a couple days before the game.


But what was most impressive was that at least 25,000 Johnnie fans showed up for the game and each other.
We have a total of about 26,000 alumni (College and School of Theology) across all years.  About 30% of those live outside Minnesota, and I did meet alumni who came back from IL, AZ, CA, GA and MA.  Of course those alumni have spouses, children, siblings and friends, and we also have Bennie fans and Johnnie parents, but the University of St. Thomas has over three times as many undergraduates as Saint John’s (I am assuming that most grad students are not so likely to be football fans) with a proportionate alumni base, with their own spouses, children etc.

So the outpouring of support for Saint John’s and the evident pleasure we took in being together, in community, was truly stunning.

It was a combination of pride, respect and joy that Johnnie fans brought to downtown Minneapolis and Target Field.  From early in the morning, red clad visitors filled venues around the stadium.  Fulton Brewery, a place with some Johnnie connections, was so full they had to close the doors.  Yet we did not have a single incident with the law, according to our VP for Student Development.  A Minneapolis police officer told him that “the Red fans were very well-behaved.”  A group of monks (sadly without Fr. Wilfred) came down to be part of the crowd.  Past parents from California and Illinois, among other places, traveled to watch a game in which their now alumni sons would not be playing—just to be back in the Saint John’s atmosphere.  An SJU staff person working at the game was told by three separate Twins employees that the Saint John’s fans were exceptionally polite and respectful.  Long after the game was over, Johnnies were fist bumping with other random Johnnies they had just met in bars and restaurants throughout downtown.  And the smiles continue into the workweek.

It was simply a great day to be a fan of Saint John’s University.

By |September 27th, 2017|Categories: Alumni, Kudos|0 Comments

Saint John’s: A Thin Place

The sense of place at Saint John’s is what drew many of us here.  I have had dozens of alumni tell me that they got on campus and just knew this was the right place for them to live and study.

We still consider a campus visit an essential part of recruiting Johnnies (and no small number of Bennies).  Alumni and parents come back to campus often simply to re-visit the beauty and experience the reinvigorating ethos of this place.

It is always a pleasure to welcome visitors to campus, especially those who have not visited before.  Invariably they comment on the beauty of the place—both natural and manmade—and how well-maintained the grounds and buildings are.

As someone lucky enough to live and work here, I thought I had a very good sense of Saint John’s and its beauty, but this summer a guest to campus offered an insight that made me look at this place with new eyes.

Dennis Turner, Wikimedia Commons

A non-alum friend of one of the monks was here for an event in June.  He told the monk how much he always enjoyed visiting because he considered Saint John’s to be “a thin place.”  The monk was not immediately familiar with the reference.  His friend said the term came from Celtic spirituality and “described a place where heaven and earth are very close, where the veil between here and above is thin.”  The Celts used it to describe, among other places, the western Scottish isle of Iona, where St. Columba brought Christianity from his native Ireland.

I liked the description and did a little more searching and found the following description of a thin place:

In the Celtic tradition, a “thin pace” is the place where the veil that separates heaven and
earth is nearly transparent. It is a place where we experience a deep sense of God’s presence
in our everyday world. A thin place is where, for a moment, the spiritual world and the natural
world intersect.

I trust for many alumni and friends of Saint John’s, this is one of their thin places.

Courtesy: An Oblate of Saint John’s Abbey, June 2016

By |August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Alumni, History|0 Comments

Across Generations: Mike and Ramond

Most Johnnies naturally have their closest relationships with classmates and those within a couple years either side of their graduation year.  Yet it is also true that many Johnnies have found that the Saint John’s experience is powerfully transferable across time.  Whether they meet a current student or an older alum, the typical Johnnie finds an almost immediate connection with current students or other alumni because of the shared connection to Collegeville and the educational experience here.  It can be knowledge of the same professors, the shared Benedictine values, a connection to a favorite monk, love of Johnnie athletics, a shared love of the natural beauty of the campus or any one of a dozen other things that make the Johnnie experience unique.

I was reminded of this powerful intergenerational connection between Johnnies as I observed the relationship between an alumnus coming up on his 50th Reunion and a 2017 graduate.  Mike Scherer will celebrate Reunion with his 1967 classmates this June 23-25, and Ramond Mitchell received his Bachelor’s Degree in Theology a few weeks ago.

They met initially when Ramond served as the student representative on the Building and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees.  Mike was Chair of that committee, and he took Ramond under his wing, orienting him regarding B&G Committee issues and serving as a mentor.  Coincidentally, around the time they met, Ramond served as a student host when Mike’s grandson, Sam, visited campus.  (Ramond must have done a good job, as Sam is now a junior at SJU.)

But the relationship grew deeper as these two men came to enjoy time together beyond committee meetings.  Ramond is from the Bahamas and was not always able to travel home on breaks.  Mike and his wife, Sue, invited Ramond to spend time with them at their home in Wayzata.  Coincidentally, Sue had connections to the Bahamas from her time serving as a volunteer nurse, so she and Ramond had a shared love of the islands and their culture.  This year during the annual CSB and SJU alumni visit to the Bahamas, Mike and Sue went along, and Ramond arranged for them to meet and spend time with his mother and sister.

Earlier this spring Mike and Sue ensured that Ramond’s mom was in Collegeville for Mom Prom.  When Commencement Week rolled around, Mike and Sue hosted Ramond’s mom, sister, grandmother and a close family friend for a week—introducing them to the delights of Minnesota, like the Twin Cities and the Mall of America, and providing transportation to Collegeville where they all witnessed Ramond’s graduation together.

Though Mike and Ramond’s friendship may be slightly atypical given their ages and places of origin, it is but one example of the relationships that have grown out of a shared Johnnie experience.  If you have other stories of the power of Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s to build unique friendships, I’d enjoy hearing about them.

Mike Scherer will receive the 2017 Walter Reger Distinguished Alumnus Award at Reunion this summer, June 23-25.

Ramond Mitchell gave the 2017 Saint John’s University Student Commencement address.

By |May 31st, 2017|Categories: Alumni|0 Comments