The pub named for a very popular monk
Inside the Saint John’s University student center, there’s a bar named for a monk.
His name was William Borgdering — the namesake of Brother Willie’s Pub.
Willie, who died at age 93 in 2009, was such a popular fixture on campus that the school decided it would name the bar inside the Sexton Commons student center for him when it opened in 1993.
But Willie wasn’t always the type of legendary monk who would get a drinking establishment named in his honor.
In fact, he started out in a job he never wanted: tending the campus dairy herd.
He had bad eyesight, which then meant he couldn’t study for priesthood, said Abbot John Klassen, the head of the Saint John’s monastery.
“So, he came into the monastery as a late brother and in 1939 when the herd boss died, as a 23-year-old monk, was put in charge of the dairy herd,” Klassen said.
After Saint John’s decided in the 1950s that it didn’t want a dairy herd on its campus, Brother Willie had to find a new occupation.
He became what affectionately was known as the “night abbot.”
“They were really the night security for the entire campus,” Klassen said of Willie and his fellow night watchmen.
“He couldn’t run, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear all that well, but he was a great night watchman because he knew everybody on campus and everybody knew him. “
Over time, Willie became known for bits of wisdom that he would dispense in his late-night conversations with students.
Klassen recalled one of them: “You can tell a man just about anything, but if you tell him he’s stupid, that will probably be the end of the conversation.”