Year in review: A look back at 2019 at CSB and SJU

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December 19, 2019

Compiled by Mike Killeen

Columba Stewart, OSB

Jessie Thwaites

Jessie Thwaites (photo by Shannon Govern ’19)

2019 Fulbrights

Five students received Fulbright English Teaching Assistants awards. They are (front row, left to right) Marisela Weber, Jackson Erdmann and Danica Simonet, and (back row, left to right) Michael Thompson and Ali McGraw. (Photo by Tommy O’Laughlin ’13).

Niesha Ford

Niesha Ford

Tracy sitting in the grass

Tracy Magooba

sju football team

Members of the SJU football celebrate their 38-20 win over St. Thomas Oct. 19 at Allianz Field, St. Paul. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn ’12)

Here’s a look at some of the top stories at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University for 2019.


Classes resume for spring semester … CSB and SJU honored the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a number of events Jan. 19-26 … The CSB Dance Team finished sixth in the Open Pom and ninth in the Open Jazz categories Jan. 20 at the UDA College Nationals in Orlando … CSB’s Abigail Borgmeier and Rachel Nelson and SJU’s Michael McGill and Nathan Williams displayed their undergraduate research at the 2019 Minnesota Private College Scholars at the Capitol event Jan. 23 at the Minnesota State Capitol.


Media host and author Lino Rulli ’93 was in residence Feb. 18-21 at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement … CSB was named one of the top producers of 2018-19 Fulbright U.S. students for the fourth time in five years by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs … The Record, the student newspaper at CSB and SJU, captured a second-place award for overall excellence in the Four-Year Newspaper Weekly category at the Associated Collegiate Press Best of the Midwest College Journalism Convention … The CSB and SJU Wind Ensemble received national recognition and performed via recording at the Small Band Program Showcase at the College Band Directors National Association meeting Feb. 20-23 … A five-member team from the Fighting Saints ROTC Battalion captured first place in the Northern Warfare Challenge on Feb. 23 … The SJU basketball team received its second consecutive berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.


CSB diver Mallory Jarvi qualified for the NCAA Central Zone diving meet March 2 on both the 1- and 3-meter boards … The Rev. Columba Stewart, OSB, professor of theology at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary and executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, was named a Phi Beta Kappa Society Visiting Scholar for 2019-20. Stewart was also named the 2019-20 Phi Beta Kappa-Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar … CSB’s Lesly Gonzalez-Barragan and SJU’s Michael Syverud were named Newman Civic Fellows for 2019-20 … Saint John’s Pottery began its celebration of its 40th anniversary with an exhibition at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis, an accompanying book highlighting artists and essays from four decades of work and participation in the National Council on Education in the Ceramic Arts annual conference in Minneapolis Convention Center … Four students from CSB and SJU concluded their work in the Mayo Innovation Scholars Program. CSB seniors Ellen Arnold, Mary Gaytko and Madelyn Zinken and SJU senior Will Gillach presented project research on a biomarker approach to predicting cancer.


The local chapter Sigma Beta Delta, the highest national recognition a business or accounting major can receive, inducted 21 CSB and SJU students April 8 … 57 students from CSB and SJU were inducted into the Theta of Minnesota Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at CSB and SJU April 24 … Extending the Link debuted its latest documentary “Bayt Jadeed: Seeking Home” (Bayt jadeed means “new house” in Arabic). It looked at Germany’s efforts to settle over 1 million forced migrants who arrived in the country in 2015, then compared and contrasted that with local efforts in St. Cloud, Minnesota … Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day was April 25 … Tim Marx ‘79 received the Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society from SJU on April 26.


Six CSB and SJU students received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, sponsored by the Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. CSB senior Jessie Thwaites received an Austrian Fulbright-Marshall Plan Award for research in Graz, Austria. CSB’s Ali McGraw, Danica Simonet and Marisela Weber and SJU’s Jackson Erdmann and Michael Thompson received Fulbright English Teaching Assistants awards … Mary Thompson, current Trustee for CSB and adviser to G100 Network, delivered the commencement address May 11 in Clemens Field House. Maren Koester, a senior psychology major from Bloomington, Minnesota, was the student commencement speaker … NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei ’89 delivered the SJU commencement address May 12 in Saint John's Abbey and University Church. Luke Olley, a graduating English major from Woodbury, Minnesota, was the student commencement speaker … SJU President Michael Hemesath ’81 stepped down as president, effective on Aug. 1. He was the first layperson to be appointed to a full presidential term at SJU and had served since 2012 … The SJU baseball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last eight seasons … The CSB softball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season … CSB’s Jenna Degen finished 22nd in the heptathlon at the NCAA National Championships. It was her fourth national meet …  The SJU 4x100-meter relay team won the national championship at the 2019 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships May 25. The team consisted of sophomore Nick Gannon, senior Drew Schoenbauer, sophomore Brady Labine and sophomore Ryan Miller. Miller also finished second in the 100-meter dash, and Kai Barber placed ninth in the shot put following a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championship … The SJU golf team qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship, and junior David Schneider finished 21st out of 216 golfers at the Champion Trace Course in Nicholasville, Ky.


CSB graduate Corie Barry ’97 became the first female chief executive officer of Best Buy Company. She is the fifth CEO of Best Buy in the 53-year history of the company … CSB students Kyla Porter and Caroline Desert were named to the Teaching Assistant Program in France, teaching English to French students … Reunion was held June 21-23. Both CSB and SJU honored graduates with awards … For the second time in three years, SJU was named the best college for employment placement in Minnesota by Zippia, a career website. CSB was ranked No. 2 in the Minnesota employment placement percentage rate.


Niesha Ford, a 2017 CSB graduate, was one of 10 people to receive a Donald M. Payne International Development Graduate Fellowship for 2019 … The National Endowment for the Humanities named Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at SJU, as the NEH 2019 Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities. It was the first time the award had been given to a Minnesotan, a member of the clergy or a Benedictine monk … Dr. Eugene McAllister was named interim president of SJU. McAllister served as president of the University of Great Falls (Montana) from 2003-16.


Four students from CSB and SJU presented their research at the annual Mathematical Association of America MathFest in Cincinnati. Andrea Doty, Max Hennen, Andrew Schmelzer and Emily Twardy gave presentations. Doty and Hennen each received MAA Outstanding Student Paper Session Presentation Awards … SJU President Emeritus Fr. Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, passed away Aug. 11. His tenure at SJU and Saint John’s Abbey spanned more than seven decades and he served as president from 1982-91 … Orientation at CSB and SJU began Aug. 22, with the first day of classes Aug. 26.


Corrie Grosse, an assistant professor of environmental studies at CSB and SJU, was selected to the fourth class of Environmental Education 30 Under 30 program by the North American Association for Environmental Education. She joins a group of 120 leaders who are harnessing the power of education to create a sustainable future.


Give CSB Day produced the largest single day of giving in school history with $518,829 raised with the money being used toward initiatives including scholarships … Six persons were recognized by the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship during its ninth annual Entrepreneur of the Year Awards celebration Oct. 2. Sandy Pfefferle Forster ’82 received the CSB Entrepreneur of the Year award; Russ Sherlock ’83 received the SJU Entrepreneur of the Year award; and the CSB and SJU Social Entrepreneurs of the Year was awarded to Tim Wensman ’79, John Bodette ’72, Steve Bresnahan ’75 and Bill Maney … The newly established J-Club Hall of Honor at SJU inducted 12 individuals and one team Oct. 5 during Homecoming … The Johanna Kiln at the Saint John’s Pottery was lit Oct. 18 and continued through Oct. 27 … The SJU football team beat St. Thomas 38-20 Oct. 19 before a sold-out crowd of 19,508 at St. Paul's Allianz Field, home of the Minnesota United soccer team.


CSB senior Tracy Magooba, a political science major, received a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellowship from the U.S. Department of State … CSB and SJU were ranked No. 5 among baccalaureate schools with 318 students who studied abroad in mid-length study abroad programs during 2017-18 and No. 10 among baccalaureate schools with 443 students who studied abroad during according to Open Doors 2019, the annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs … The CSB volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Division III Elite Eight, falling to eventual national champion Johns Hopkins University … A total of 1,548 donors contributed $647,981 during Give SJU Day. The money raised will be used to fund student scholarships at SJU … Members of the Fighting Saints ROTC Battalion’s nine-person team won the Third Brigade Ranger Challenge Nov. 1-3 at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to qualify for the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition in April at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York … CSB was honored with three awards by the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge for voter engagement during the 2018 midterm election. CSB was one of five schools in the nation to receive the ALL IN Challenge's Champion Award for having the most improved undergraduate voting rate among over 560 participating campuses. CSB was also presented a Best in Class Award for having the overall most improved undergraduate voting rate at a small, private, participating institution. In addition, both CSB and SJU received the top “Platinum” level for exceeding a 50% voting rate.


The SJU football team advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Division III Championships before falling to Wisconsin-Whitewater 35-32 Dec. 14 … SJU graduate Joe Mailander ’08 and his band the Okee Dokee Brothers were nominated for a Grammy for the fourth time in the children’s music category.