History Column: A look back in time at Alcuin’s beginnings

COURTESY OF ALCUIN ARCHIVES • Alcuin’s supporting beams being built. Construction required exact effort by workers.

COURTESY OF ALCUIN ARCHIVES • Librarians pictured helped students at Alcuin’s reference desk. Today, librarians continue to assist students with new technology.

By Stephanie Haeg
[email protected]

With Alcuin Library reopened, and with the exciting new redecoration and expansion, I thought it might be time to examine the history of this important building on campus. It’s home to a great many things: great concrete pillars, the St. John’s Bible Gallery (which will be opening next Thursday), various new classrooms, the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, the new coffee shop and of course the SJU Archives, where the history of the university can be uncovered.

Alcuin Library, named after St. Alcuin of York and dedicated in 1966, was part of a design that the SJU alumni magazine in 1964 described as “a comprehensive 100-year building plan.” This plan also led to the building of the Abbey Church and its famous bell banner, Tommy Hall, the Liturgical Press and the Prep School. The Alcuin Library was part of the second phase.

Marcel Breuer was the architect behind the Alcuin Library, and it can show if you’re looking; the Trees of Knowledge, as they are colloquially called, are reminiscent of the concrete grandeur that’s characteristic of the Abbey Church. Breuer designed Alcuin to be flexible and open with very few set rooms. This was meant to be an acknowledgement of the already changing technology, and the intention with Alcuin, like the rest of Breuer’s buildings, was to last for centuries to come.

The library was not free of controversy, however. Students picketed the dedication ceremony because of United States Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s attendance (they were protesting the war in Vietnam), and some students wrote letters to the editor in The Record declaring “Marcel Breuer must be starving to death. Everything he touches turns to concrete,” and dubbed him a “Twentieth Century Midas.”

But others were delighted by Alcuin’s various amenities, which the previous library at SJU lacked. These features might seem like common sense now, but they were points of awe for the students of 1966. They included things like air-conditioning, full carpet and state of the art equipment in the “listening room.”

It’s strange to think about SJU without the Alcuin Library these days, but it was a
huge change for the students during the 1960s. But I, for one, am just glad we’ve got air-conditioning in the building now.

Folk music legend revisits campus

Folk music legend revisits campus

By George Dornbach
[email protected]

The first fiddle John McCutcheon learned to play was salvaged from a trashcan on campus in 1970. He’s since rebuilt it, been a yearly headliner at the university’s former Swayed Pines Folk Festival, recorded 36 albums and has six
Grammy nominations. He’ll have the chance to share the fiddle’s sound and his
other musical talents when he returns to campus for a performance at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30 in the Escher Auditorium at CSB.

Born and raised in Wausau, Wisconsin, McCutcheon came to St. John’s by luck. It was the only school he applied to and after receiving a scholarship, McCutcheon thought he’d give it a shot.

While on campus, he took his wide-ranging idea of his liberal arts education to the next level. He wanted to create his own individualized major focused on folk music, but since there was no formal coursework on campus to help him hone his craft, he approached Fr. Hillary Thimmesh, who then headed the individualized major program. McCutcheon proposed the idea of learning through lived experience.

“It’s amazing what people will let you do if you just ask,” McCutcheon said.

In the fall of his junior year, he headed into the Appalachian Mountains where he spent the rest of his time as a Johnnie immersing himself into a community of musicians, storytellers and keepers of American folk-music history.

McCutcheon will showcase his studies, stories and talents when he comes back to play a show this Saturday. In addition, he tries to come back yearly to visit good friend and artist in residence Richard Bresnahan.

“Coming back to campus is always exciting for me,” McCutcheon said. “St. John’s taught me how to begin learning and introduced me to the rest of my life; my life as an eternal student.”

For six songs on his set list, he’ll be accompanied by students in the CSB/SJU
Orchestra, Chamber Choir and his former director, Axel Theimer. Theimer, a professor of music at CSB/SJU began teaching in 1969 and directed McCutcheon when he joined the Chamber Choir in 1970. He remembers John as “very much an individualist” and a “phenomenal musician” while he was in school.

When Theimer was approached by orchestra director Dr. David Arnott three weeks ago about the possibility of working with McCutcheon, he couldn’t pass up theopportunity.

“Having the chance to collaborate with John is a wonderful way to create a
different sense of community,” Themier said, who used to perform Peter, Paul and Mary tunes with John McCutcheon in the middle of choir concerts back in the day. “By making music together and learning from someone like John, the choir gets the chance to perform music that traditionally isn’t apart of our repertoire.”

McCutcheon is also looking forward to further defining and creating community by collaborating with students.

“One of the great things about music is that you’re not segregated by generation,” McCutchen said. “You always have the elders who are there who have paved the way, and you have the young people who bring the enthusiasm and energy that’s so vital to making guys like me be a life long learner.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN MCCUTCHEN • John McCutcheon, an SJU alumnus, will be playing at Escher Auditorium this Saturday, Sept. 30. After elevating himself in music, he still makes time to visit home at CSB/SJU.

History Column: Johnnie/Tommie: over a century of rivalry


By Stephanie Haeg
[email protected]

Any time spent in the CSB/SJU Archives can tell you one thing very quickly: sports are a major part of our institutional history.

And at this time of year, when our emails and Facebook feeds are inundated with only one topic, you know there’s one particular event that always plays an important role in the hearts and minds of the students here: the Johnnie/Tommie rivalry.

The Johnnie/Tommie rivalry starts the 20th century with the first game happening on Thanksgiving Day, 1901. The records I have found indicate that 2017 is the 87th overall match between the football teams and the 66th straight year of this reoccurring face-off.

The rivalry is intense and real. Often good-natured, it also can occasionally get vicious. It spans well over a century, and is deeply tied to the history of both institutions.

Articles I’ve uncovered from Tommie alumni magazines echo the phrases I’ve heard in classrooms on our campuses. Every fall, t-shirts with slogans of all sorts are sold on both campuses. The memorabilia runs on their side too; I discovered a photo of a button that Johnnies wore, featuring a Johnnie smashing a club into a Tommie player’s face.

Even the slogans have history. “Go back to the woods” vs “go back to the city” was clearly a slogan which spanned decades. The games aired on national TV regularly, and in 2015, ESPN did a segment on the rivalry airing “SportsCenter on the Road” from Collegeville. The teams have faced off everywhere from the Metrodome to Clemens Stadium, and they’re about to become the first football game to ever be held at Target Field.

But why is the rivalry so intense?

Many people tie it to the similar nature of the institutions. They are located less than two hours apart, both Catholic institutions. St. Thomas is the younger of the two, being founded in 1885 to SJU’s 1857. It also offers Masters degrees; theirs are in Education and Business instead of Theology. While CSB and SJU have their historic ties mainly in the German-American community, St.Thomas’s lineage leaned more towards Irish-Americans.

Unlike some rivalries, there’s no blood feud, no stolen mascots hidden in the history (that I can find, at least) to explain why exactly students hiss and boo when they find out someone has attended St. Thomas, or why Tommie alums whose children go to CSB/SJU shake their heads and claim the grades weren’t high enough to get into St. Thomas. Instead, all we have is a relationship that spans a century, and as many similarities as we have differences.

Of course, that being said: Go Johnnies!

Summertime experiences of fellow students

Before classes started, many students had fun and educational opportunities over the summer. These included internships, volunteer opportunities and more.


Megan Anderson

“I went on a Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic where we laid the foundation for a three story youth ministry building. We also spent the afternoons in various villages with children. We played sports with them as well as encouraged them to participate in our vacation bible school activities. The trip was from July 1-8 in Santiago, Chile. We dug six foot trenches and began to lay the cement foundation for a youth ministry building. It had been a dream for the Dominican government for over 30 years but they never had the funds, work or resources to begin to build this building. Our church group went down to the Dominican Republic to assist them with this ongoing struggle.

“After construction in the morning, our big group separated into smaller ones. We dispersed to various villages and ran sport camps as well as vacation bible school with the children. The culture in the Dominican Republic is a very happy one, despite the extreme poverty many of the people live in. They knew nothing other than what they have. I was very fortunate to go on this trip and will forever cherish the experiences I had and the people I met.”

PHOTOS BY JILLIAN SCHULZ • [email protected]

James Macias

“I’m a political science major. I worked for Congressman Dan Lipinski of IL’s 3rd district. I was in Washington D.C. from June until August. My day to day tasks varied; some days I’d be sending flags to people, other days I would find myself in the Senate buildings looking for signatures on a bill. It was crazy to be in the same buildings of big-name politicians who ran for President of the United States. I had a great experience in that office and I made lifelong friends with the other interns and staff members I worked with.”

Daniel Yang

“I am a senior at St. John’s University pursuing a degree in communication with minors in Asian studies and political science and this summer I had the wonderful privilege to return as a second-year scholar for the Urban Scholars Program. The program is a leadership and professional development internship that provides students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with distinctive professional experience.

“For 12 weeks over the summer, scholars are placed with partner organizations such as the State of Minnesota, City of Minneapolis, United Way and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. Scholars spend four days a week working on meaningful projects and work in collaboration with organizational leaders at their host sites. Scholars also participate one day a week as a cohort to learn and apply skills in leadership, professional development and public speaking.

“This summer as an Urban Scholar I was at Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). My main project this summer was creating a central and accessible database for retention records for all MMB agencies. My time at MMB was a very meaningful experience, I got to be a part of a project that was crucial to the agency and created genuine relationships with people in my workplace.

“I strongly believe that this internship has helped me both on a personal and professional level. As an Urban Scholar, I have established and enhanced my professional network, strengthened knowledge in my areas of interest and fueled some change to advance social justice and equity in the workplace and communities. All in all, I am incredibly thankful for the memories I have made as an Urban Scholar; I feel humbled and at peace to have a loving community, with whom I wish to create safer, inclusive and compassionate communities.”

Aimee Hanson

“I am a senior this year, and spent six weeks in Israel on an archaeological dig with one of my professors, which was funded by a grant from the college. This is the second summer that I’ve dug in Israel.”

CSB’s recording studio, an unknown resource for student use

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA AKKERMAN • Tools like the standing mic and keyboard pictured above are able to be used for free.

By Anna Smisek
[email protected]

The recording studio at the CSB campus is a resource most students may not be aware of. Tucked away in the Music Library of the Benedictine Arts Center are three rooms that allow for professional vocal and instrumental recordings. These services are offered for free to faculty and students.

The first room is the main space that contains a desk microphone and a 20-channel audio mixer. This mixer runs into a recorder that will hook up to a USB flash drive, SD card, CF card or directly to a personal laptop. This means that after a recording is finished, it can be saved on alternate media. Also in this room are multiple kinds of instrument and vocal microphones, along with any kind of cable one might need.

Beyond the main space are two sound proof isolation rooms. This way, two sets of recordings can be done separately. For example, one room could have someone playing an instrument while the other could have a vocal artist. Users can hear the sound from the other rooms through headphones, but each room will be registered independently. Then, both recordings will be sent to the main board and can be put together.

The recording studio can be booked online through the
campus website. To help get new users started, there are
step-by-step instructions provided, and a training session can be scheduled with Media Services. While the equipment is beginner-friendly, it is also advanced enough to handle larger recording sessions.

Before the recording studio was installed, musicians had no place to practice. Instead, they had to find empty classrooms or work in their apartments and dorms.

“Students have limited resources, so this addition provides a great opportunity,”
English professor Mike Opitz said. He also emphasizes how having a musical outlet can be beneficial to a student.

With the studio present, Media Services and the library have worked with instructors to help integrate media literacy projects into a variety of classes. Most of these projects are video and audio based.

One misconception is that the recording studio is only used by music majors; however, a wide range of majors use this type of media technology. People have set up interviews, recorded podcasts, recorded speeches and produced video with this professional sound system. One example is the campus radio
station KGNB.

“I always enjoy seeing the Recording Studio get utilized, and I’d highly encourage anyone who has an interest in doing audio recording, voiceovers, music, podcasts or any multimedia project to try it out. We have many talented people on campus and it’s amazing to see what’s been created in that room,” multimedia technician Aaron Utke said via email.

Other schools are also developing their own recording mechanisms.
In addition, Alcuin has added more advanced rooms and audio features to its Learning Commons for student use too.

Student “stands-up” for new opportunity

Student “stands-up” for new opportunity

JILLIAN SCHULZ• [email protected] • Zach Eichten performed stand-up during his Washignton, D.C. internship. He had no previous experience before, but felt that the trip allowed for him the ability to try stand-up.

By Katarina Podewils
[email protected]

This past summer, students from CSB/SJU participated in a Washington, D.C. internship program run through the Political Science Department. During this time, one student decided that this would be an opportune time for him to try his hand at stand-up comedy. SJU senior Zach Eichten was this same student.

Eichten performed at a bar called the Chinese Disco in Georgetown. The venue hosted weekly stand-up shows, and Eichten performed five weeks during his 12 week stay in D.C.

He discovered the venue by first watching an open mic-night.

“I saw that some of the comics were really good, and some were okay,” Eichten said. “I told myself at the time, ‘I can do that. I can be okay at this. If these guys can do it, I can do it too.’”

In order to participate, Eichten had to bring a minimum of ten guests to see his first show. Before his first gig, Eichten extended an invitation to other CSB/SJU students on his trip, and they came to watch.

During his shows, Eichten described how it was hard to judge how well he was doing.

“What you don’t think about is once you get on stage, you can’t see the audience because the lights are right in your eyes,” Eichten said. “I could see the front row of people, and that was it. So I used those people as my metric to see how I was doing.”

Eichten stated that he has always enjoyed comedy, but he needed a change of scene in order to have the confidence to try stand-up.

“Two summers ago when I was working in St. Paul, I wrote a bunch of material and never did anything with it because I lived there and I was nervous to run into someone I knew,” Eichten said. “By going out to D.C., this seemed like the opportunity to try it out.”

In addition, Eichten attributes his story-like comedic bits to comics like John Mulaney, T.J. Miller and Pete Holms.

“I especially like story-like bits,” Eichten said. “I don’t do shock value jokes.”Eichten states that he hopes to continue performing stand-up on campus if given the opportunity. He also hopes to try stand-up at one of the open mic-nights available in St. Cloud.

Lastly, Eichten offers advice to other students interested in stand-up on campus.

“If you have jokes, you can always try,” Eichten said. “If you fail, who cares. Those twenty people who saw you are not going to care two days from now.”