This week a large, white, rounded structure appeared on our campus, to my delight. It’s Gagliardi Field, and I thought I’d pass along some info. The inflatable dome, and the multipurpose field under it, is located in the old football practice field north of the Palaestra. It cost about $5 million to construct, and another $1 million is being raised to fund ongoing operating costs. A large amount of these funds were donated by individuals who otherwise might not have given to Saint John’s, but who did so for this project because John Gagliardi inspired them. The dome will go up each fall around October 15 and come down around April 1. In the winter months, I predict, the dome will look like another snow-covered hill in the Saint John’s landscape. On Saturday, November 5, we blessed and dedicated the new facility and named it in honor of the Gagliardi Family.
Gagliardi Field will have significant benefits for our entire community. It will be used by varsity, club, and intramural teams. I believe that about 90 percent of Johnnies and a significant number of Bennies participate in those organized activities. It will significantly help in the recruiting of athletes and non-athletes alike. And when we recruit better, we don’t just get better athletes, we get better student-athletes. A wonderful example is our athletic program’s strong history of recruiting biology majors who have gone on to great careers in medicine. During my senior football season at SJU, at least five of our top players were biology majors. Today one is an anesthesiologist. One is an emergency medicine MD at North Memorial Hospital. One is an emergency medicine MD at St. Cloud Hospital. One is an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. And my best friend is a dentist in Saint Paul who does a lot of pro bono dentistry for and donates a significant amount of money to Common Hope in Guatemala.
You see, sports can really help get people in the door. And as our President Emeritus Fr. Bob Koopmann has put it, “Athletics are the front porch of our university.” And then our wonderful faculty and staff members provide the top-notch liberal arts education to develop these student-athletes into the great leaders in society who go on to inspire others.
Last Tuesday was John Gagliardi’s 90th birthday, and he actually taught class. He and I co-teach a one credit course entitled Leadership Lessons. He has taught that course (and its predecessor course Theory of Coaching Football) at CSB/SJU for 63 straight years. It is a course that focuses heavily on discussion and effective communication. A few days ago, 30 seniors signed up to take the course in the spring. Students from the following 16 majors are taking the course this fall or are enrolled for the spring course: accounting and finance, applied physics, biochemistry, biology, communication, computer science, economics, elementary education, English, global business leadership, Hispanic studies, mathematics, nutrition, political science, psychology and sociology. One of his former players, a 2000 political science major, took a red eye flight in from California to guest speak in last week’s class, because he feels forever indebted to John for John’s influence on his life.
John was, in the view of many, the best educator in the history of our institutions - not because he compiled the most wins of any college football coach ever - but because he taught more than 3,000 young men and hundreds of young women how to become better people and leaders in society. My faculty colleagues and I should take the time to reflect on how we can become the type of educators who will touch our community so much that one day those we influence will donate several millions of dollars to the schools in our honor. I hope that someday we will have on our campuses even more extraordinary buildings, built in honor of these faculty. And I hope that those buildings will be here because of all the good we will have inspired our alumni to do in the world.
[Editor’s note: Warren “Boz” Bostrom ’95 is associate professor of accounting and finance at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict. While a student at Saint John's, Boz majored in accounting and minored in Spanish, played varsity football and studied abroad in Seville, Spain. Boz has a master's degree in business taxation from the University of Minnesota. Boz is author of A Legacy Unrivaled: The Story of John Gagliardi, recently published by The Minnesota Historical Society Press. More information may be found at www.legacyunrivaled.com.]