Lessons Learned while Living in Community
Saint John’s Shapes a Life and Career
Bob Wicker ‘60
“Living in community teaches you that others are just as important as you are.” Arriving at Saint John’s Prep in the fall of 1958, Bob immediately knew something was different, but different in a good way. Born in Los Angeles, Bob’s family moved to Sacramento and on to Kansas City before settling in Edina, Minnesota. “I wasn’t a jock. I wasn’t a brain. I wasn’t a misfit. I was an ordinary student. I just didn’t fit in at Edina. When I arrived at the Prep School as a junior, I was immediately welcomed into a brotherhood. The students immediately welcomed me into the Prep family.” Bob’s experience of community at Prep and Saint John’s University where he would graduate with a degree in English undoubtedly shaped his career and the manner in which he has lived his life.
With an English degree in hand, Bob had his eyes set on a career in marketing or advertising. When an internship at an advertising agency in Minneapolis failed to produce what he had hoped, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 7, 1965, joining many of his fellow Johnnies in the armed forces. For the next two years, he would proudly serve on the USS Boston. While hoping to find his way into a public relations role, he would first serve as yeoman to the ship’s chaplain, who happened to be a Catholic priest, before moving to the deck force and ultimately a position in the public affairs office aboard the ship. While these roles were not always pleasant, Bob was quick to point out, “If there is a theme in my life, it has been to look for the Holy Spirit in action. I would have never had the chance to experience some of the cultural travels I was able to experience while in port had I not been on the deck force. I took full advantage of the opportunities and saw parts or world I could have only imagined at that time in my life.” These experiences ultimately led to him securing a position in the public affairs where he would utilize his English degree and his talents for developing effective communications.
After two years of military service, Bob returned to civilian life on June 6, 1967. His public affairs work assisted him in landing a corporate communications position at H.B. Fuller where he spent fifteen years before embarking on a nearly thirty-year career as an independent marketing services consultant. While at H.B. Fuller, he met fellow Prep Dave Durenberger ’51 who was serving as corporate counsel before Dave ran for a seat in the United States Senate. In fact, after complaining about how his neighborhood was getting tired and needing some improvements, Dave challenged him, “Instead of complaining about it, why don’t you do something about it.” Dave invited him to attend a national conference for the Back to the Cities movement, which was the beginning to Bob’s involvement in his local community. With others, he began a non-profit housing group, became engaged in the Midway Chamber and Community District Council, and wrote a monthly column in the community’s newsletter. Once again, utilizing those excellent writing skills he had acquired as a student at Saint John’s!
After rattling off the Benedictine Values, Bob stated that the Awareness of God and Community Living really resonated with him and took hold in his life both while a student and after graduation from the University. Bob recalled that, “The monks were mentors, role models, and friends. These men were walking their talk and encouraging us to do the same thing, which I took with me as I left Prep.” In addition, for Bob, there was a brotherhood for which he is eternally grateful. “My best friends, and I have been blessed to have a lot of them, are Johnnies, Preps and University. Johnnie Preps are pretty special. They have a lot invested in Saint John’s and are really good people.”
Perhaps the greatest sign of Bob’s commitment to creating a sense of community can be found in his nearly twenty years of producing the much-anticipated weekly publication of the Unofficial Underground Newsletter. This cheeky publication filled with all things Johnnie football, happenings on campus, alumni news and updates, and always a few good jokes and jabs started out small, but up until COVID and the delay of the 2020-21 football season, had several thousand subscribers who ultimately passed it on to hundreds more each and every week. Bob’s dedication to keeping the Johnnie faithful informed and engaged, not only allowed him to use his God-given talents, but has also allowed him to perpetuate the value and importance of the community not only at Saint John’s but in our greater world.
“Prep School started everything for me and steered me toward the type of life I wanted to live. The lesson of going out to make the world a better place in the way you were capable of doing so was always stressed. I was able to identify my gifts and use them in ways to make a difference in the lives of others. We were encouraged to keep on learning. To keep on giving. Become involved. In doing so, you become a servant leader. This message permeated everything from math, to science, to English, and everything else while at Prep.”
We are proud to call Bob Wicker ’60 a Prep.