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A look back at CSB and SJU in 2023

In the tapestry of academic and student life at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, the year 2023 unfolded as a rich mosaic of achievement, milestones and poignant moments. 

In September, the community highlighted the inauguration of Brian Bruess as the first joint president in the schools’ history, emphasizing unity and togetherness. 

CSB’s Fiona Smith secured two indoor track national titles in March and added a cross country national title in November, showcasing the dedication and excellence of Bennie athletic endeavors. 

In the same month, Jervon Sands of SJU achieved the remarkable distinction of becoming only the second Rhodes Scholar in Johnnie history. 

The year culminated in a global perspective, with students attending the UN climate conference in Dubai and the Bahamian Prime Minister delivering the 17th annual McCarthy Lecture.

Here’s a look at some of the other top stories at CSB and SJU in 2023:


Pope Francis named an SJU alum as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis … events marked MLK week on campus … CSB dance team placed seventh at nationals in jazz, pom … CSB and SJU hired Kara Kolomitz to be inaugural COO for both schools … SJU hockey team played outdoors as part of Hockey Day in Minnesota weekend … Saint John’s sadly noted the passing of former U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger ’55The Record won three awards at Minnesota Newspaper Association convention.


Fifty-two Bennies and Johnnies earned internships through Summer Leadership Fellows Program … 13 SJU grads committed to working for Benedictine Volunteer Corps … national honors again for Wind Ensemble … CSB and SJU celebrated 25 years of sending students to University College Cork in Ireland … CSB landed higher than ever among top producing schools for Fulbright U.S. Students … CSB and SJU announced Dean’s List for 2022 fall semester … students presented research at Minnesota State CapitolSister Karen Rose named 18th prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery.


CSB’s Fiona Smith earned two indoor track national titles … three track and field athletes headed to indoor nationals … student team won International Collegiate Business Skills Competition … students presented Innovation Scholars experiential research project findings … CSB lacrosse opened play as a varsity program … Bennies and Johnnies collaborated on spring break service trip to Colorado.


Students honored at Upper Midwest Emmy Student Production Awards Ceremony … the Barry Family/Best Buy Scholars program offered new opportunities for inspired Bennies … students named Newman Civic Fellows … more than 700 students presented research at Celebrating Scholarship & Creativity DayThe Study provided students with additional academic resources … Bennies and Johnnies competed in computer science problem-solving … 25 CSB students accepted into elite Catholic honor societyCampus Compact honored three individuals and one organization for civic impact … 16 students honored with CSB, SJU and team employment awardsPhi Beta Kappa recognized 43 students for academic excellence … CSB and SJU chapter of Tri-Alpha inducted first class of national honor society students … Extending the Link documentary explored impact of climate change on The Bahamas … Scott Becker ’77 received Fr. Walter Reger Award … alums across the country pitched in on Benedictine Day of Service.


Inaugural white coat ceremony signified departure of 11 DNP candidates to clinical rotations … 395 Bennies closed one chapter with commencement, opened another with the start of their impact on the world … SJU’s Class of 2023 was called upon to be forces for good in the world … three Johnnies received Extraordinary Service AwardsSJU golf team finished fifth at Division III national meet … Autumn Ayer ’23 wrote her ticket to a Fulbright award, with guidance and help from her mom and dad … nine inducted into Pi Delta Phi while four earned senior awards and two headed to France for 2023-24 … CSB’s Fiona Smith, three SJU athletes headed to Division III outdoor track and field meetHonors Scholars uncover history of racial covenants in Central Minnesota … Academic Affairs Awards and Recognition ceremony honored faculty.


CSB, SJU and OSB employees honored at year-end eventCSB Campus Ministry honored for bringing students from different religions together … publication named Saint Elizabeth Seton Village townhomes and Nicol Bridge as one of state’s top projects … CSB and SJU recognized graduates with awards during Reunion … alums returned to CSB and SJU for Reunion Weekend 2023.


New finance major offered opportunities and flexibility beginning in fall 2023 … CSB and SJU announced Dean’s List for 2023 spring semester … new members named to Boards of Trustees … new Abbey Woodworking facility made room for organ building … group of students and staff participated in National Conference on Race and Ethnicity … Bonner Leaders from the class of 2026 benefited from immersion service retreat in Chicago.


Residence hall improvements highlighted millions of dollars in renovations heading into academic year … new students urged to build their homes during All-College Convocation … CSB and SJU first schools in Minnesota to be featured on Amazon Prime TV series ‘The College Tour’Denise Christie ’00 became 1st DNP graduate in CSB history … nursing program recognized for diabetes prevention training by the National Institute of Senior Centers … short-term study abroad program brings Pax Christi Award home to Chiapas, Mexico … Mark Flynn’s innovative career recognized with Bob Basten Award.


Community and togetherness highlighted inauguration week festivities … Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s sealed installation of Brian Bruess as first joint president in schools’ history … research on Indigenous-harvested wild rice, presentation on environmental art highlighted scholarship event to start Inauguration Week … CSB and SJU featured 17 new full-time faculty members for academic year … community mourned the passing of Tom McKeown ’52 … Harvard education professor presented Clemens LectureComputer science and nursing departments continued to collaborate on latest technologies … chief information officer named CIO of the Year at Minnesota ORBIE awards.


Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship presented Entrepreneur of the Year Awards to three graduates … Integrations course for College Success proved a popular innovation … Students past and present lauded more than two decades of study abroad program in South Africa.


Jervon Sands ’23 became the second Rhodes Scholar in SJU history … CSB’s Fiona Smith won cross country national title … The Saint John’s Bible 25th Anniversary Dedication Tour in England… report found study abroad rates near top of national ranking … celebrity chef take over began at SJU’s Refectory … tradition continued as students gathered for annual Thanksgiving mealGive CSB Day and Give SJU Day yielded record-setting totals … two runners from CSB, one from SJU went to Division III national meet … CSB played host to first modern powwow … CSB and SJU celebrated First-Generation College Celebration Day … CSB and SJU among national finalists for Award for Undergraduate Research Accomplishments.


Bahamian Prime Minister lays climate truth on the line in 17th annual McCarthy Lecture … first of two student groups visited Dubai for UN climate conference … second group witnessed COP28 leading up to potentially ground-breaking deal to phase out fossil fuels … annual Christmas concerts returned to Great Hall and Basilica of Saint Mary … Patty Wetterling and co-author Joy Baker spoke at the Benedicta Arts Center.

PM Philip Davis

Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis was the featured speaker at the 17th annual McCarthy Lecture on Dec. 11.

Jervon Sands

Jervon Sands ’23 became the second Rhodes Scholar in Saint John’s history.

Students at COP28

Troy Knight (left), an associate professor of environmental studies, led two groups of students to COP28, the UN climate conference, in Dubai.

Fiona Smith

Fiona Smith raced to national titles in track and cross country.

Wind ensemble

The CSB and SJU wind ensemble made it to national recognition again in February.

Autumn Ayer

Autumn Ayer ’23 became the latest in a long line of U.S. Fulbright Scholars.

Brian Bruess

Brian Bruess became the first joint president of CSB and SJU.