SJU alumni to receive first Eugene McCarthy Distinguished Public Service Award

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September 8, 2009

Two distinguished alumni from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, will receive the first Eugene McCarthy Distinguished Public Service Award Sept. 23 for their outstanding public service.

John Brandl ’59 and Gerald Christenson ’53 will be honored posthumously during the third annual McCarthy Lecture and Dinner.

"Jerry Christenson's and John Brandl's contributions to public policy and their years of dedicated service to the public best exemplifies the Benedictine values of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University and pays honor to the memory of Eugene McCarthy,” said Vic Moore, co-chair of the board of directors of the CSB and SJU Policy and Politics Alumnae/i Chapters. The chapters are co-sponsoring the award, along with the Eugene J. McCarthy for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

Brandl graduated cum laude from Saint John’s with a degree in economics and went on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in economics from Harvard University. He served as a Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, and was a professor and former dean of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

He had his highest profile jobs in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s, first as an analyst with the Defense Department and later as a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Brandl later served 12 years in the Minnesota Legislature – eight years in the Minnesota House and four years in the Minnesota Senate – representing parts of south Minneapolis.

Brandl, who served as a regent at Saint John’s from 1991-2000, was instrumental in the establishment of the Eugene J. McCarthy for Public Policy and Civic Engagement. In July of 2008, less than a month before his passing, the John Brandl Scholars program was endowed at SJU thanks to a generous gift from Dan and Katharine Whalen.

Christenson, a native of Litchfield, Minn., helped design Minnesota’s school funding system. It was called the “Minnesota Miracle” because it shifted most of the responsibility of funding public education to the state. He also helped create a federal youth employment program during the 1960s, thanks to an appointment from then-Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

His long public service career included being chancellor of the Minnesota Community College system. He was also the first commissioner of the state’s Department of Finance, where Christenson instituted the revenue forecast, which is now the basis for state budget preparations.

Christenson served as a chief of staff for Fourth District Congressman Joe Karth, and was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 1966 under Sandy Keith. He passed away in 2005.

“I believe Jerry has had a greater impact on important public policy in Minnesota policy than any other elected or appointed official in the last 40 years,” wrote former Gov. and Sen. Wendell Anderson in a forward to Christenson’s biography, A Minnesota Citizen.