Learning to Learn at Saint John's University

A Fine Arts major and English minor, Fred Senn ’64 “dabbled in many things” at Saint John’s University. Missile site management was not one of them.

Amid Cold War tensions and rapidly escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam, Fred graduated from Saint John’s armed with a liberal arts education, which he took to the U.S. Army. Put in charge of a missile site and 144 men in West Germany, Fred was far from Stephen B. Humphrey’s literature class and the legendary professor’s prediction that Fred would one day work on New York’s Madison Avenue—then the mecca of advertising.

“I shouldn’t have been comfortable,” said Fred. “What did I know about running a missile site or leading all these guys? Yet, I found myself very much at ease. I began to realize I learned to learn at Saint John’s.”

Following his military service, Fred returned to Minnesota, where Saint John’s continued showing up in his life. Justin O’Connell ’39 hired Fred as a graphic designer in the Honeywell marketing department. Seeing Fred’s leadership penchant, Justin moved Fred into management, which Fred calls “life shaping.” Later, while managing advertising at First Bank System, Pat Fallon recruited Fred to the Minneapolis advertising firm Martin/Williams. Fred later joined Pat as a founding partner of Fallon, which grew into a global advertising and branding heavyweight.

In Fred’s marketing work with businesses, nonprofits and civic ventures, Saint John’s kept popping up.

“It seemed everywhere I turned, a Johnnie was involved in a substantial way, whether on a board, holding public office, volunteering, or other ways of contributing and leading,” said Fred.

In the late 1990s, Fred’s classmate Bob Wicker recruited him to serve on the Saint John’s Alumni Association Board. It was there – while serving – that the meaning and impact of a Saint John’s education and its Benedictine values crystallized for Fred.

“Those of us who have been part of this Benedictine experience are very fortunate,” said Fred. “In this complex world, Saint John’s is more important and more relevant than ever for its skill and commitment in helping young men learn and use their knowledge for practical, ethical and moral purposes. I see Saint John’s do for them what it did for my classmates and me. It nourishes people to become something bigger and to contribute to something much larger than themselves.”

Fred recently began a new term on Saint John’s University’s Board of Trustees, where he also served from 2005 to 2014. A former member of the Board of Overseers of Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary, Fred generously shares time, talent and treasure in his volunteer roles and as a longtime financial contributor to Saint John’s student fund.

“Support of Saint John’s is an investment in the power of human potential to learn, grow and thrive amid ambiguity, and go beyond oneself to make our world better,” Fred said. “I have seen many times what Saint John’s does and what Johnnies do. I’m a believer.”