Historically, Benedictine abbeys around the world have founded high schools, colleges, and universities, with the sponsoring monastic community members serving as staff, teachers, and administrators, in addition to providing a Catholic ministry and formation. Such a long tradition arguably lends itself to what has become almost a natural pursuit and support of higher education within many Benedictine communities. Hosting the Saint John's Preparatory School, Saint John's University, the graduate School of Theology·Seminary, the Liturgical Press, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, and the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, the Saint John’s Abbey campus continues the tradition of Benedictine educational, academic and scholarly excellence.
Since opening Minnesota's third institution of higher education in 1857, and its first Catholic college, Saint John's has ministered to the Church and local community not only as a community of prayer, pastors, and chaplains, but as educators. With the inauguration of the Seminary on the Rothkopp farm, in Saint Cloud. Saint John's has led the intellectual, spiritual, and professional formation and education of local Minnesotans, as well as scholars and religious from across America and around the world.
At its founding, a Saint John’s Abbey education focused on religious formation and preparation for ordination. Twelve years after its founding, Saint John’s College published its first academic catalog, and while still focusing on religious education and ordination, the six-year curriculum prepared students for law school and other professional pursuits.
The school year took on an established pattern. Student activities included choral and instrumental groups, literary clubs, and outdoor games carried out among the tree stumps in the front yard. Commencement became an elaborate all-day event with five-act dramas, orchestral concerts, oratory, and prize-giving.
The academic program gradually assumed standard American shape: four years of secondary education followed by four years of college. The commercial department was absorbed into the college curriculum. In 1921, the fifth abbot, Alcuin Deutsch, OSB, restructured the whole academic program as a prep school, a college, and a seminary, each with its own dean.