St. John's College
PO Box 376
1502 E. 6th Ave
Winfield, KS 67156
Tuesday - Thursday
8:00am - 3:00pm
Larry Junker, Executive Director
Wallace Behrhorst, Reporter Editor
Beth Smith, Administrative Assistant
Sixteen years ago, I was convinced by Board President Julie Utt that I should accept the position of Executive Director of your Alumni Association. A lot of things have taken place at SJCAA these past 16 years. I have written 64 articles for The Reporter and probably as many Annual Fund letters. You will be receiving, or may have already received, the Mid-Year Financial Report which was shared with those attending the 2022 Winfield Johnnie Reunion. This letter also asks for your continued support. The success of the Alumni Association can be attributed in large part to the Johnnie Spirit. But what is it? The following is what former President of St. John’s College, M.J. Stelmachowicz, A’45,M’47, wrote in explaining the “Johnnie Spirit.”
The Tradition of “THE JOHNNIE SPIRIT” What Is It?
One person wrote, “It is that intangible something that causes a common bond between persons who have attended St. John’s - a happy feeling about the school and those people who are ‘Johnnies’, an atmosphere of camaraderie, a feeling of belonging together in fellowship in the cause of Christ and His Church.” Many have tried to define it in many ways. Few agree on a precise definition. What’s more important is that so many people have experienced the reality of it on the St. John’s College campus and have retained the spirit through the years as alumni.
Some institutions speak about their “school spirit” but Johnnie Spirit is more than just school spirit. Johnnie Spirit is not institution centered, it is people centered. It is “Johnnie” centered and that means it is student centered.
It is a spirit of friendliness, it is concern for every individual, it is caring about every person and every person’s feelings, it is being helpful, it is listening to the other guy’s opinion, it is wanting to get to know the other person better so you can appreciate his point of view. It is a spirit of service, a willingness to help one another, to pray with and for one another, it is a genuine spirit of enthusiasm, optimism, and forgiveness. It is the sincere spirit of Christian love.
The Johnnie Spirit cannot be separated from the context of the Christian faith that grows and develops in a Christian community of believers and followers of Jesus Christ. While it includes a spirit of loyalty to St. John’s as a place, that place is precious primarily because it is remembered as a place where our Christian faith was nurtured. A place where our spiritual maturation accelerated, a place where the love of God in Christ Jesus began to be more real, a place where the Gospel came alive, where Christian love was practiced more openly and unashamedly than many of us had ever before experienced. Without the working of the Holy Spirit, there could be no Johnnie Spirit as we know it.
Some say that Johnnie Spirit is really like family spirit. Children of a family grow together, then grow up and separate. But whenever they come together thereafter, it is a time for rejoicing, celebrating and remembering their days of growing up together - days of joy, sorrow, mistakes, forgiveness, failures and triumphs. In this analogy, the campus is a symbol of home. The unusually long tenure of so many of the venerable faculty has also contributed much to the image of a father’s house where we can return, visit and talk to the same people who nurtured our faith so many years ago as youth in the church.
From the faculty and staff point of view, the Johnnie Spirit expresses itself in teamwork and mutual respect, in dogged determination to reach personal and institutional goals, yet is tempered by patience and a willingness to bow to the Word of God. It is accepting the will of God, and accepting and preferring one another in love. It is receiving and giving Christian admonition in the spirit of meekness. It is a daily striving against the flesh; it is striving to live after the Spirit of God, which gives life.
More important than trying to define Johnnie Spirit is the need to acknowledge it, appreciate it and thank God for it. For I believe that the spirit, which has characterized Johnnie alumni for so many decades, is a special gift of God. Even as God chooses to bestow varying gifts and talents on individual members of His body, the Church, I believe He also showers distinctive blessings on various Christian schools as He chooses. St. John’s has become known as a school whose students and graduates are characterized by an unusual measure of zeal and loyalty. We do not believe that this gift is any greater (or lesser) than other good gifts which He chooses to give to other Christian schools. We know that this blessing, like all others, is undeserved, an example of His pure grace.
But, Johnnies cherish this gift because it is ours and we believe that it, like all other good gifts, comes from a gracious God. He has given it to us to use in His service, for His people, to His glory. May we be faithful stewards of this blessing of “Johnnie Spirit” and pass it along to the rising generation even as we received it from others: joyfully, humbly, gratefully. In the name of Jesus Christ our only Lord and Savior.
The St. John’s College Alumni Association - Keeping the “Johnnie Spirit” Alive and Well.
Larry R. Junker