Embracing community, serving others and the pursuit of justice are among the values that serve as bedrocks of the education and experience students receive at Saint John’s University.
And the three Johnnies selected as this year’s Extraordinary Service Award winners – Benjamin Epper ’23, Ethan Huber ’23 and Durran Thompson ‘23 - exemplify those traits.
The Extraordinary Service Award annually recognizes the work of SJU students who are characterized by their personal commitment to service, and whose efforts promote community, justice, working with others to accomplish a greater good and thoughtful reflection through the lens of Benedictine Values and/or Catholic social teaching.
Epper is from St. Peter, Minnesota, and is studying theology and psychology. On campus, he plays integral roles on the MagisMinistries leadership team and has volunteered with Saint John’s Campus Ministry as a leader for both the FYRE and Trails retreats. Along with other leadership opportunities, these experiences have oriented his undergraduate years toward service.
Additional communities in which Epper serves include St. Joseph faith formation and the various parish communities in which he ministered to while working as a TOTUS TUUS missionary.
"Service begins with intentional opportunities for encounter," Epper said. "Most importantly, it means embracing all aspects of identity through creating and sustaining meaningful relationships with all members of a community."
Huber is from Mitchell, South Dakota, and is studying biochemistry and theology on the pre-medicine track. Huber’s service opportunities place emphasis on empathetically serving the most vulnerable people of our community and beyond. He believes any meaningful pursuit of service requires overcoming difficult situations, active listening and genuine authenticity.
Huber has served four years on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as an advocate for campus events including the Kids Fighting Hunger packing event and the Special Olympics regional swim meet. As the captain of the SJU swim and diving team, he understands the importance of leaders inspiring other leaders to create an atmosphere welcoming to those in dire need of our help. He also spends time volunteering at St. Cloud Hospital as a STEP Force volunteer, welcoming patients and their family for visits. Most recently, Huber was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honors Society.
“The Extraordinary Service Award reminds me of how fortunate I am to be a part of the Bennie and Johnnie family,” Huber said. “I owe an incredible debt to this community for taking a chance on me four years ago, and while this award is a great reminder of what we have accomplished together during my time on campus, I understand the journey has only begun. A Johnnie is a lifelong commitment, and for that, I am eternally grateful.”
Thompson is from Nassau, The Bahamas, and is studying accounting and finance with a minor in communication. His community service includes his role as president of the Saint John’s Senate, former vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi, treasurer of the Archipelago Club Association, residential assistant, entrepreneur scholar and opera workshop performer. Most recently, Thompson was inducted into Sigma Beta Delta and he will be the student speaker at Saint John’s commencement ceremony on May 14.
Thompson is excited to see what's next as he enters this new chapter of his life. He aims to set an example for other people to rise up and be the change our society needs.
“Service has never felt like a mundane task,” Thompson said. “It's always been an obligation and commitment to better the society we all live in. The future is in our hands, and we must keep in mind how our decisions will impact the lives of the people around us; either near or far.”
The award recipients were honored during a May 1 banquet. Each winner receives a $2,000 award made possible by an anonymous donor.
Candidates for the award are nominated by other students, faculty and staff at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, but can only win the award once during their time at SJU. Nominations are open to sophomores, juniors and seniors at SJU.