St John’s College closed its doors for good thirty-two years ago following the last spring semester in 1986.  The alumni, however, still make the trek back to Winfield for the reunion held every year.  Some come every year, others—due to their distance—only make it back intermittently.  They are all getting older—that much cannot be denied—but their ties to St. John’s College are lifelong.
    There was an influx of former faculty and alumni last Friday as they checked in at registration before having their Johnnie Picnic at the Winfield Community Center.  The former Centennial Center was the campus eating facility for the students and faculty when St. John’s was in operation.
    Scott Williams, who managed the Winfield Municipal Band, said, “The St John's alums gathered at Friday's City Band concert, like they do every year. We played Hail St John's College and they all sang.”  The green benches where they were sitting were out front of Meyer Hall, the former administration building.  
    Last Saturday, the alumni took time to have class pictures taken from the years they were at St. John’s.  The pictures were taken out on the south steps of Meyer Hall.  
Laura Marrs lives in St. Louis, Mo, but was a student at St. John’s from 1983-1986.  “I would have graduated, but the college closed.  I come back every five years.  I have family that live nearby.  I love the Johnnie spirit, there’s nothing like it.”
    Teri Griffiths lives in Topeka, but made it back to Winfield for the reunion, which she claims to do every year.  She graduated in 1979, and spoke of the Spanish and Watercolors classes she took at Southwestern College, which were the reasons she always got back late from to the St. John’s campus.  
    Pastor Ted Cook brought his mother to the reunion.  His mother met Ted’s father on her first day at the college, but she did not finish at the college since she married him shortly thereafter.  Ted has the distinction of graduating twice from St. John’s, once in 1979, and then coming back in 1981 with a Bachelor’s Degree when the college briefly went with a four-year program.  He now lives in Pittsburg.  
“I made really close friends here,” Cook said.  “I was last here in 2016, having been back a couple of times prior to that.”  He pointed out that when he returned to get his Bachelor’s Degree, “it felt like home, coming back again because I knew everybody.”
    Fred Wippich was on the faculty from 1956-1986, having taught Latin and Greek.  He also worked as the Registrar in Meyer Hall.  Even though he now lives in Lake Park, Minnesota, he still returns to Winfield every year for the reunion.  
    Charles Jedele graduated from the Academy High School in 1954 and then again from the college in 1956.  He said he “liked that this (Winfield) wasn’t Iowa.  The weather is so much better here.  I loved the fact we had people who knew us and cared about us.  Back then, there were 450 people on this campus.”
    His wife, Ann, met Charles on her first day at the college.  She recalled going to Bernie’s Bookstore downtown, which is now a bar.  She graduated in 1956 and went into teaching.  She said she “loved the friendships I developed, and the good times I had.  It strengthened my faith.  I came from a Christian family.”
    Kenneth Haskell still lives in Winfield, having graduated in 1956.  He was the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Winfield from 1985-1989.  He loved the people, the faculty, and the friendly atmosphere at St. John’s.  
    The banquet was then held in the community center for which “120 people had shown up for,” according to Wallace Behrhorst, editor of the alumni newsletter.  Last year, he said, there were 150.  Wallace comes back often to the old campus.  He said,“It is humbling.  I am very well-pleased to see the old campus building being re-purposed by the city.”  
    Still, he acknowledged that the numbers of alumni and faculty will inevitably dwindle as time goes on.  He again brings up the fact that the college closed over three decades ago.  
Wallace graduated from St. John’s College in 1945, and served an internship from 1947-1948.  He then went on to join the faculty, teaching English and Latin, and being Director of Admissions until the closing of the college in 1986.  He now lives in Texas, but makes it back when he can.  
Cynthia Walker lives in Wellington, but graduated in 1980 with a nursing degree.  Although she does not go back for the reunions, she still looks back fondly on her time at St. John’s.  She misses “the family feel” of the college, saying, “Mrs. Mettler was the best mentor.  She was the first director of the nursing department.  Mr. Connor in speech, and Mr. Miller in literature, were my favorites, too.”  
Following her graduation from St. John’s, she said she  “spent most of my 35 years working at William Newton in Winfield.”  
    The alumni and former faculty spent last Saturday evening catching up before reuniting the following morning for church services at Trinity Lutheran in Winfield.  It marked the end of another weekend for this group of people until next year.  
    With the closure of the college in 1986, the old campus was left empty and the City of Winfield scrambled to make use of the buildings.  The former Academy Building--which acted as a high school-- was bought by Cowley College and is now used as a part of its EMS program.  Rehwinkel and Mundinger Halls—the former boys and girls dormitories— are both now apartment complexes.  Meyer Hall is now the home of the Easter Seals Capper Foundation, which shares the building with the Winfield Community Theater.  The former chapel inside the building is used for community theater productions.  
    Baden Hall, the oldest building on campus, was the last structure to be rehabilitated.  In 2010, it was purchased by Metroplains Management, which also owns Rehwinkel and Mundinger.  It was extensively renovated after having sat empty and in darkness for twenty-five years.  Despite massive amounts of decay and vandalism, Baden Hall was converted into an apartment complex, complete with a working elevator.  
    Seventh Street used to run directly across campus, but was truncated decades ago upon the building of the Centennial Campus Center, where the cafeteria was.  The former St. John’s College Library was built in 1961 and was purchased by the City of Winfield not long after the closure of the college in 1990, replacing its old Carnegie Library.  Despite some renovations and the addition of the entrance on the east side of the building, the library is pretty much the same as it always was.  
Timothy Hall was the last structure built by the college in 1965, that offered additional space for a men’s dormitory.  TFI Family Services now owns and operates out of that building.  The Winfield Recreation Commission moved to Baden Square in 1989 and their offices are located at the old St. John’s College Thornton Gym.
    The President’s residence still remains at the southeast corner of 8th and College, and looks to be in decent condition.  
    St. John’s College operated from 1893-1986.  It was the creation of German emigrant John Peter Baden, who came to Winfield, made a lot of money as a businessman and decided to create a college as a gift to the Lutheran English Synod in 1893.  
    Baden oversaw the first few years of the college before his death at age 49 from pneumonia in 1900.  Upon his death, all of the schools and businesses closed down so citizens could attend his funeral.  His funeral service was held on the third floor of Baden Hall with overflow crowds standing outside on the campus grounds listening.  
    His former home is now the site of the Iron Gate Inn, located on Ninth Street in Winfield.
Baden, at one time, had plans for an advanced observatory to be built on a hill overlooking from the northeast corner of Ninth and College Streets.  Baden also played a key role in helping get Winfield its first major hospital and helped found the first Lutheran church in the city.  
Baden is buried in a family plot in Union Cemetery in Winfield.  
    Meyer Hall was built in 1924, providing the college with its own administrative offices as well as a new library and chapel area.  
    St. John’s got its first official gymnasium in 1940.  
    Enrollment peaked at 467 in the fall of 1951.  Women finally were given a dormitory of their own with Mundinger Hall.  It was planned to form a U-shaped structure, but due to financial limitations, only half of the U-structure was ever built.
    The decade of the 1960s saw the final growth spurt of the college.  The college finally got its own library in 1961, along with its own modern gymnasium across the street.  Timothy Hall was built in 1965, allowing more room for male students to live.  
    Over the next decade, the college tried to change with the times.  Students were allowed to drive their own cars to campus.  Dancing had been forbidden on campus, but was now allowed.  
    Several times over the ensuing decades, the college just barely managed to avoid the chopping block from the Missouri Synod.  In 1971, the Academy closed its doors as a budgetary measure to keep the college, itself, open.  At the time, the Synod wished to consolidate St. John’s with its other colleges, but the college administration would always work out a solution to keep the doors open for the students.  
    On the hill overlooking 9th and College that had once looked to be the location of Baden’s observatory, St. John’s had a nature area.  There was a worship area that seminary students used.  When this writer last visited the location eight years ago, it was still there.  
    St. John’s also had a nursing program, with its own separate dormitory just north of the main campus.  The first class graduated in 1976.  
    It began to allow its students to also take classes for credit at Southwestern College, just up the street.  
    In the last few years of the life of the college, there was even an attempt to make it a four-year college, but it was too little too late for the Missouri Synod.  
    There is disagreement among the alumni and faculty about why the decision was finally made to close the college.  
    Some say the college could not ultimately meet the enrollment and financial goals set forth by the Synod.  Other say the college did everything it was supposed to do, and then some.  
    Either way, there was plenty of emotion on the campus when word was finally passed to the campus in early 1986 that the college would be closing for good later that year.  
    St. John’s College closed its doors for good after the completion of its final spring semester in 1986.  Nearly everything that was not nailed down,  or could be salvaged, was transported to other Lutheran colleges in the country.  One of the white benches that adorned the campus found its way out to Union Cemetery, where it still is located.  
    In the years immediately after the closing, the buildings all took the brunt of local vandalism, but the City of Winfield quickly began to re-purpose the buildings.  
    There are not that many extinct colleges in the State of Kansas that lasted as long as St. John’s did.  Marymount College in Salina was around from 1922-1989.
    The alumni will keep coming back to their old stomping grounds for as long as they can.  With the last graduating class having finished thirty-two years ago, time is catching up with all of them.  One day, they will all be gone, but the Johnnie spirit they believed in so much, and for so long, will never die.