Brian Bruess was inaugurated Sept. 22 as the first joint president of The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University during a weeklong celebration that included campus tours, a medallion hunt and other student and family activities.
Bruess was named to his position in March 2022 and began on July 1 of that year. He is the first person in Minnesota to serve simultaneously as president of two four-year private colleges.
His appointment marked an important step in the implementation of a new governance and leadership structure for the two colleges. With a joint curriculum on separate campuses located six miles apart, the two schools have historically operated under separate governance boards. To reflect the student experience of unity between two schools, they now operate under a “Strong Integration” governance structure.
St. Cloud Bishop Patrick Neary, C.S.C., celebrated Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Saint Benedict’s Monastery to launch the inauguration day festivities.
“It was wonderful starting with the Eucharist … it’s always good to start something with prayer and I think we did that in a very amazing way,” said Benedictine Sister Karen Rose, prioress of the monastery.
The inauguration ceremony was held at Saint John’s Abbey Church. It began with an academic procession led by the ROTC Color Guard, which included members of the monastic community, flags of nations represented in the student body, student choirs, clubs and organizations, student athletes, faculty and staff, delegates from other colleges and universities and CSBSJU board members.
During the ceremony, representatives of several organizations greeted the new president, including Bishop Neary on behalf of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Bruess was then presented with presidential medals from each institution by past and interim presidents.
During his inauguration speech, titled “Together We Flourish,” Bruess referenced the honeycomb pattern in the Abbey Church window and in the windows of Sacred Heart Chapel, asking those present to turn and look at the 178-foot-wide, 65-foot-tall window made up of 430 glass and concrete hexagons.
“Standing alone, a hexagon makes a nice road sign,” Bruess said. “It creates attractive designs on a soccer ball. But together, a series of hexagons creates so much more than the sum of its individual parts. It becomes a system of sheer strength … a structure of awe, beauty and remarkable efficiency,” he said.
“The interconnectedness of the honeycomb and the unifying architectural detail of the hexagonal pattern in the glass windows of our two most sacred spaces is a beautiful metaphor for what we, together as two college and monastic communities, are and can be — integrated, enduring communities, flourishing today and far into the future, ever mindful that ‘nothing living, lives alone,’” Bruess said.
Following the ceremony, guests were invited to a champagne reception and toast in the courtyard of the Stephen B. Humphrey theatre on campus.
“It was a wonderful, joyous, very fulfilling celebration because it represents a signature moment in the history of these two institutions,” said Benedictine Abbot John Klassen of Saint John’s Abbey. “This is a relationship that has been growing and changing and adapting over a period of 50 to 60 years, so this is really special.”
Bishop Neary also enjoyed being a part of the celebratory day.
“Having Brian Bruess here is a blessing by God,” he said. “He has so much experience and a deep profound faith, a heart for service, a heart for others. You could see by the cheers of the students how much they already love him. It has been such a joyful day and I know the Benedictine community of men and women are just thrilled that he’s been chosen as the first president of both institutions.”