The Saint John’s community expresses its sympathy for the passing of Fr. Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, the 10th president of Saint John’s University, whose career highlighted a spirit of service that spanned more than seven decades.
Originally an SJU student in 1946, Fr. Hilary served as professor, Dean and President over 73 years. Among his accomplishments as academic dean, Fr. Hilary is credited with enhancing communication between Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict to revise the academic calendar and curriculum. “It was an extraordinary achievement, frankly, and with all the goodwill in the world it was just remarkable,” Fr. Hilary said.
In addition to his positions at Saint John’s, Fr. Hilary is also remembered as an excellent writer, evidenced in his 2011 monastic memoir, Marcel Breuer and a Committee of Twelve Plan a Church. When the Saint John’s community was first introduced to Donald Jackson at the 1981 Calligraphy Connection, thanks largely to the efforts of Jo White, Fr. Hilary wrote the following poem to honor the occasion:
The hand of God is a writer’s hand,
graceful in repose, nimble in action,
transposing thought into graphic symbols,
fixing on the receptive surface
words of unimaginable power and glory,
of love beyond telling,
of destiny beyond the heavens
yet nearer than light to eye, thought to the mind.
The calligrapher does well
what many do heedlessly and hastily,
what machines do mindlessly,
and by cultivating the art of writing
reminds us all of the pure joy
of a creation good in all its designs
and superlatively good
in the endowments of the human mind.
For beauty bears witness – to joy,
joy in making, joy in being.
We mourn the loss of one of Saint John’s guiding forces and look back fondly on Fr. Hilary’s contributions to the university community, academic life and the arts.