Every Johnnie has his own story, and I am no different. I have a somewhat unique perspective, however, because for nearly thirty years I have been blessed to work closely with alumni who span generations. As individuals, Johnnies are passionate and naturally driven to lead with a sense of purpose. Yet they are also respected for their humility as they work to make positive contributions to the communities in which they live.
As powerful as Johnnies are individually, something quite special happens when they share a common bond. Classes have, for generations, rallied to help advance alma mater. We should never underestimate the value of such strength in numbers, as I have witnessed in my own experience with the class of 1983.
Our Saint John's story began in September of 1979, and we were typical of Saint John's in every respect. As freshmen we occupied six floors on campus: 3rd and 4th Benet; 2nd and 3rd Mary; and 3rd and 4th Tommie -- with a few guys out in Bernie. While we naturally built strong friendships with our floor mates that endure to this day, we also established rivalries that often brought us together socially. Snow football games in the natural bowl, to cite but one example, were epic.
There is no doubt that every class experiences this kind of camaraderie. Early on, then, we embraced what has always been an outstanding trait of Johnnies: expect to excel at whatever you do, but don't expect to be treated as exceptional. Hanging out with great athletes, some of whom earned All-American honors, and socializing with gifted scholars, musicians and artists made the experience meaningful. We were a bunch of Johnnies who cared about each other and celebrated each other's success.
Thanking these guys for being great classmates is long overdue. But today I most admire them for the men they have become. They are exceptional individuals who, collectively, have kept Saint John's relevant in their lives. They regularly attend events on and off campus, and they willingly reach out to current and prospective students. On the occasion of our 30th reunion they launched a mentorship program for current Johnnies, and it is evolving into a model program for other classes to adopt. They also challenge and inspire one another to be proud ambassadors of Saint John's. Nearly 90 of them have continued the legacy with their immediate families by sending ninety-three sons to Saint John's and fifty-eight daughters to Saint Ben's. And there are many yet to come. Roughly 330 have made a gift to Saint John's at some point over the years, and our Fellows chair has set the bar high for the Student Fund Fellows Society, beginning with the 30 For 30 challenge.
This year most of us are turning fifty-five years old. Already the collective impact of their generosity in support of annual scholarships, endowment and academic and athletic facilities exceeds $2.6 million in lifetime support. An additional $3 million of documented estate gift commitments will only enhance this legacy. And who knows what will happen over the next thirty years?
Much like when we were students, everyone has been contributing something important to the cause, and our cause is advancing Saint John's. Today classmates serve as admissions volunteers, gatekeepers in high schools, athletic recruitment ambassadors, trustees and capital campaign leaders, to name but some. In all those ways the class of '83 simply models what we have observed from decades of classes that preceded us, and together we prove one point. Success is inevitable when enough class leaders are willing to lead by example, and lead humbly. Well done '83! And thanks for making Saint John's such a special place.