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In Service to SLUH: John Schaefer '70

In Service to SLUH: John Schaefer '70


“Everybody’s got an ego, but I need this like I need a hole in the head.”

John Schaefer ‘70 delivered the line with a glint in his eye, like he had practiced for hours and was proud of his delivery. Beneath his sardonic candor, there was bashfulness.

All John knew was that he was to be featured in the upcoming SLUH Gratitude Report from the President. He had recently been honored with the Divine Award — the fifth member of the SLUH Class of 1970 to do so. He had also just concluded nine years of service on the SLUH Board of Trustees. By all accounts, John would be the quintessential alumni feature.

Still, he insisted, “I think this is the most uninteresting story you could tell.”

This man had single-handedly funded scholarships for students in need; had created numerous annual challenge gifts to drive fundraising results; and had been the only non-local member of the Board of Trustees during his tenure.

On the contrary, I was interested — interested to know why, 53 years after graduating and decades since living in St. Louis, John was so determined to see his high school thrive.

“OK,” John forfeited, resigned to talk about himself. “I’ll do whatever is in service to St. Louis U. High.” I believed him. John was a North County kid. He grew up in Jennings and attended St. Louise de Marillac. No one from John's grade school class was going to SLUH. His mother decided he would be the one.

John (second from left) with SLUH classmates during their senior year.


“My mom decided I would be the first on either side of my family to go to college,” said John. “Her plan: I was going to SLUH—not McBride, not anywhere else. She took a job as a short order cook flipping burgers at Famous Barr to begin to save for my tuition. Next thing I know I’m on the Kingshighway bus headed south.”

In February of his freshman year at SLUH, John’s mother died. In his grief, John turned to the SLUH community for support. There, he found Matt Sciuto ‘70. “The bond between us, I think, was I lost my dad when I was in 7th grade and John lost his Mom during his freshman year,” Matt remembered.

“Matt and I became kindred spirits—neither really wanting to go home at night,” John said. “We spent many, many nights just hanging out at 4970 Oakland. That place, that community kept me sane during very tough times... So John launched into his memories of SLUH in the late ‘60s, then moved through his life. From Notre Dame to Harvard Business School to Wall Street, John had been successful—wildly so. He traced all of his success back to being a member of the SLUH class of ‘70.

“The Class of ‘70 is just special,” said John. Statistically, it’s true. The SLUH Class of 1970 has topped all other classes in dollars raised, number of donations and reunion attendance over the last half-century.

What’s more, they welcomed a lone North County kid. They provided a community for a young, grieving John Schaefer when he needed it most. They helped him on his way to becoming a first-generation college graduate and beyond. Like Jr. Bills before and after, they supported each other.

“You get to my age and you look down at the ladder you climbed to get here. SLUH is helping people get onto that first wrung,” John said. “At the end of a lifetime of success, you want to give back. You start thinking about where your gift or your time can make the biggest difference. SLUH is that place. SLUH is clearly making a difference in peoples’ lives, and I think that’s worth supporting.”