The very first time I came to Saint John’s University as a freshman was drastically different from my previous visits to the campus. The future class of 1970 had been invited to attend a late summer social before the official beginning of classes, and I was eager to attend. I had been to Saint John’s many times before due to my uncle being a monk. As a result, I visited him in the Great Hall quite frequently. I had also been to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, and I had worked on the university grounds crew during the summer after high school. But this time it was different — I was part of the community. I was a Johnnie.
For the entirety of my freshman year, and the first couple of months of my sophomore year, I was a “day-hop”. This meant I lived with my family in St. Cloud and I carpooled out to Saint John’s in the morning, only to return after classes sometime later in the day. I envied those who were fortunate enough to live on campus. They were able to participate in all of the campus life that takes place during the evenings and on weekends. I really wanted to have the on-campus living experience. Two months into my sophomore year, a financial aid package came through that made it possible for me to move into Patrick Hall.
I relished living at Saint John’s. My family home was only a mere thirteen miles away, but I did not go home on the weekends. Campus living made it possible for me to study without the distractions of a large family in a small house. I could study in my dorm room or retreat to a spot in the library if I needed to. Small groups of us had the chance to engage our professors in discussions outside of the classroom. I had many impromptu opportunities to examine “the great issues” with others on my floor. (Dorm life is an education in itself.) Arts and cultural programming were regularly available as well. So much was happening at Saint John’s and at the College of Saint Benedict, and I did not want to miss out.
Thankfully, I didn’t miss a thing. Those years at Saint John’s are so precious to me. They were peaceful, intellectual, spiritual, wild and crazy, full of memorable people and events. We members of the class of 1970 thought the campus belonged to us and that we were the greatest class ever. That’s a description we re-affirmed when we established a class scholarship for our 45th reunion last year.
My experience at Saint John’s and the sense of community I carry with me to this day continue to inspire me, and I want others to have the opportunities I had. As financial aid made it possible for me to become a fully-participating member of the Saint John’s community, and because education and experiences at Saint John’s helped launch me on a successful career, my wife Suzan-Oda and I have set up an endowed scholarship at Saint John’s. We’ve also set up a comparable scholarship at the College of Saint Benedict, where Suzan-Oda received a great education, which was also made possible by financial aid. We are thrilled to be in a position to help others as we were helped.
Through the years, I have taken the opportunity to visit Saint John’s whenever possible. Sometimes those visits have been for big occasions like Homecoming, Saint John’s Day, or the inauguration of a new president. Sometimes I happened to be traveling by, and I’ve swung off the highway just to drive through the campus. Ultimately, though, it was the day I first came to Saint John’s as a freshman that remains with me. The ensuing years have only served to strengthen the bond I felt that day, and as I continue to enjoy it, Saint John’s will forever be an important part of me.