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Standup: The History of a Johnnie Tradition


1915 Fr. Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, back in 1915 and six years before becoming Saint John's abbot and University president, launched the tradition.

1915 Alumni from around the country and as far away as the Bahamas returned to Collegeville in 1915 for a reunion. The Record account of the June 23 event reported:

Rev. Alcuin Deustch, OSB 1896, made an earnest eloquent speech. He dwelt on the fact that the Catholic graduates were the leaven of society, which to stand up for God and His commandments was to "stand up for Saint John's." The deep attention paid his remarks showed that he had struck a responsive chord in the hearts of all present.

Joseph Mathey 1900 was struck by Deustch's speech. According to the Record, later that day he suggested "we adopt some distinctive slogan for the Alumni Association and call it ‘Stand Up for Saint John's.' He furthermore moved that a date be set apart for the observance of one day in the year, the purpose of which should be to hold an annual meeting to talk over matters pertaining to the Alumni Association."
The last Tuesday in January was selected for the annual Standup.

1916 F.A. Gross '89, president of the Alumni Association in 1916, wrote to the editor of the Record on March 21:

"The success of the FIRST (his emphasis) ‘Stand Up for Saint John's Day' is more than gratifying. It was not expected that other than the principal cities of Minnesota would celebrate the first occasion. However, we find that six of such celebrations were held, one of them in far away Missouri where three of the "old boys" gathered to toast their alma mater... We have good reason to hope that the number of such celebrations be multiplied next year and that before many years, on the last Tuesday of January each year, from every section of our beloved country, there will simultaneously arise an expression of good will, love, co-operation and allegiance to the ideals of Saint John's."

1916 The menu for the initial "Stand Up Day" for the "Eastern Branch of the Alumni Association" in New York City on March 26, 1916, included "Black Bread a la Saint John's."

1919 A call for more frequent alumni meetings was strongly advocated. The "Stand Up for St. John's Day" in Minneapolis in 1919 was cancelled due to concerns about attendance: many alumni were still in the service. The rector responded to an alumnus's letter dated eight days after the Nov. 11, 1918, armistice. "(it's) Hardly possible to my mind," he wrote, "that the boys will all be home again by that time (January 1919). Those still in the camps may be disbanded, but those that went across the pond will still be on the job at that time."

1920 On January 22, 1920, Al Knaeble ‘00 wrote on Knaeble and Scherer company letterhead (home furnishers and undertakers) to Saint John's rector Chas. Conner, OSB,

"Mpls Branch intends to celebrate the ‘Stand up for Saint John's Day' on the last Tuesday in Jan. ...We anticipate a large attendance and will hold same at the M.B.C. clubrooms."

1920's Officers of the St. Paul branch, in an undated letter likely from the 1920s, sent out the following Standup invitation:

Stand UP DAY, January 29th, the smoker of Saint John's boys, will be a day you will remember - for a long time. There are altogether too few such events in this hurried and harried life. ...The Grill Room Athletic Club - COME. The nationally famous T.K. Kelly will give us an inspirational talk you will never forget. Fr. David has an important message for us. Don't miss it. Music by the Cretin Junior Orchestra.

This meeting will do for you what perhaps your intimate friend cannot do - it will make you a broader, unselfish man.

You may be sure that the clasp of the hand, the gleam of the eye, and the warm greetings of your school day friends (and after all, in later life, we never make as genuine friends as we did at school), will enrich your memories in the years to come as few things can.

The committee members closed the letter, "Yours for Saint John's, the School with Heart and Soul."

1940s In the late 1940s, alumni in Seattle wired Fr. Walter Reger, OSB, Alumni Association secretary, to send some Johnnie Bread for their upcoming alumni event.

1970s By the 1970s, one metro-wide Twin Cities Standup was held at the Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul (and later at the Stroh's Brewery). Guest speakers included Johnnie coaches, professional athletes and sports writers.

1980-1990s The Central Minnesota Standups in the 1980s and ‘90s were on campus and featured the Killer B menu: Johnnie Bread, brats, beans, brownies and beer. Speakers included National Football League Hall of Famers Johnny Blood McNally '23, Bud Grant and Jim Langer; Olympic gold medal hockey player and coach John Harrington; sports writers Mike Augustin '61 and Don Riley; John Gagliardi and other Johnnie coaches; and noted alumni. One Standup was held in the Old Gym with rival basketball coaches Jim Smith from Saint John's and Tom Feely from St. Thomas swapping stories. Another Central Minnesota Standup saw chapter leaders join with University President Hilary Thimmesh, OSB '48, to plant and dedicated a tree outside Engel (now Simons) Hall.

1996 The 1996 T.C. Standup was broadcast live from Jax in Minneapolis as part of a WCCO Radio weeknight sports show.

2000 Harrington brought Olympic buddies to the Twin Cities Standup in 2000.

Tours by the Saint John's Men's Chorus and pianists Willem Ibes '49 and Fr. Bob Koopmann, OSB '68, lent themselves as Standup programs from New York to Texas to the Far West to the Bahamas. University presidents, deans and faculty members have been featured Standup speakers throughout the years at various chapters. Some Standups have been sponsored by both Saint John's and College of Saint Benedict alumni groups.

2004 There was one main SJU Minnesota Standup in 2004 to celebrate Saint John's national football championship from the previous fall, and to present the Gagliardi Trophy to Blake Elliott '03 as most outstanding NCAA Division III football player.

2010 The SJU Alumni Association Board of Directors, after a few years hiatus, brought the Standup back to the Twin Cities, on April 28, 2010 at Target Field, new home of the Minnesota Twins.

2016 Join us March 3 at CHS Field as we celebrate 100 years of Johnnie Standups! 

For more information:

Adam Herbst '99
Director of Alumni Relations
Saint John's University