A Marriage of Science and Music

Not a few people have pointed out the affinity between science and music, and that best explains why so many science majors show up in choirs and musical ensembles. But if that’s true in academia, it can also be true in life, as was the case with Saint John’s alumnus John Drahmann and his wife Jean.

John graduated as a physics major from Saint John’s University in 1943. After a two-year stint in the navy, he felt the gravitational pull of physics, and he earned his Ph.D. at Saint Louis University. For two years he taught at Seattle University; and then in 1952 he settled in at Santa Clara University, where he taught physics and astronomy for over forty years. He also served as dean and was a mentor to two generations of students. Fittingly, the Drahmann Center at Santa Clara honors him for his work as advisor and surrogate father to so many.

Jean, by contrast, brought music to their long and wonderful marriage.  A graduate of the Catholic University School of Nursing in Washington, DC, Jean later received a degree in nursing education at Saint Louis University, where they met. When they eventually ended up in California, with John teaching at Santa Clara, Jean developed her love for music and earned an MA in music theory and composition at San Jose State University. For forty years she served as a church organist and has published twelve of her compositions. In between all this, with two busy careers going on, John and Jean managed to find the time to raise five children.

One of my personal regrets is that I never had the chance to meet John before his passing. But I have learned a lot about him through many wonderful visits with Jean during the past twelve years. From Jean I also learned about John’s abiding love for Saint John’s, and it’s something that Jean now shares, despite never having made a single visit to Collegeville!

In 1999, after John’s passing, Jean established The John Drahmann Endowed Scholarship at Saint John’s. Consistent with John’s interests, it supports a physics major at Saint John’s. But as her own affection for Saint John’s grew, Jean followed up in 2006 with The John & Jean Drahmann Research Fund. Meant to support student research in science and to encourage students who might be considering careers in science, the annual awards are available first to physics majors, and secondarily to students majoring in astronomy, biology or chemistry.

This year’s research grant was awarded to support the work of Benjamin Nault-Maurer, a physics major who will graduate in 2016.  True to the hopes of The John & Jean Drahmann Research Fund, Benjamin plans to pursue graduate work in physics. When he does, he will take with him invaluable research experience gained under the tutelage of Adam Whitten, adjunct professor of Physics.

For more than forty years Professor John Drahmann dedicated himself to students at Saint Clara University, and he did so with distinction.  Near the end of his life, one of his former students wrote to share with him this sentiment:  “I simply wanted to convey some measure of how much I feel you have done for me over the past four years. Coming in, a confused kid off the farm, you offered me the guidance and respect that no one else did at a crucial point in my life. More than anyone, you gave me the advice and support that I needed;  it is because of you that I am going to become a successful doctor.”

Should we expect anything less from an alumnus of Saint John’s University?  Happily, John Drahmann had a major impact on two generations of students at Santa Clara.  Fortunately, John and Jean are now building a new legacy at Saint John’s through their two endowed funds. There’s no doubt that at Collegeville they will continue their great work for generations to come.

[Editor’s note:  The picture in today’s post is of Benjamin Nault-Maurer, ’16, the most recent recipient of a grant from The John & Jean Drahmann Research Fund at Saint John’s University.]