St. Ben’s, St. John’s announce commencement speakers

Alumna Colette Peterson and alumnus Kurt Vickman are set to return to their respective schools, this time in the role of commencement speakers.

Kurt Vickman, left, Durran Thompson, Colette Peters and Julia Geller are seen in this composite image.
Contributed photos

ST. CLOUD — Two alumni have been announced as the commencement speakers for the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University graduation ceremonies.

St. Benedict alumna Colette Peters and St. John's alumnus Kurt Vickman and will deliver each respective school’s commencement address. Commencement at St. Ben’s is 2 p.m. Saturday, May 13, in Clemens Field House. St. John's commencement is 2 p.m. Sunday, May 14, in St. John’s Abbey and University Church.

Colette Peters.jpeg
Colette Peters

Peters, who graduated from St. Benedict with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1993, serves as director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, overseeing the operation of 122 Bureau of Prisons facilities, six regional offices, two staff training centers and 22 residential reentry management offices, according to a news release. She is also responsible for the oversight and management of approximately 35,000 staff and 160,000 federal inmates.

She’ll be joined on stage by Julia Geller, a graduating communication major and sociology minor from St. Cloud, who will deliver a student commencement speech. Geller transferred from DePaul University to St. Ben’s at the start of her sophomore year, when she became a founding member of the school’s Interfaith Leadership Team, according to the release. Her leadership continued into her junior and senior year when she served as the student director of the Institute for Women's Leadership.

Julia Geller, a 2023 graduating communication major and sociology minor from the College of St. Benedict, will deliver a student commencement speech.
Contributed / College of St. Benedict

The class of 2023 will graduate 394 women.


One day later, and just a few miles up the road in Collegeville, Vickman, a 1994 St. John’s graduate, will address a class of 331 undergraduate men plus 23 graduates from the School of Theology and Seminary.

Kurt Vickman.jpeg
Kurt Vickman

Vickman is a social entrepreneur, real estate developer and cultural innovator, according to the release. In 2002, he founded the Upper Room community on the belief that a church should not just be about educating people but engaging them to be a force for good in the world. In 2011, he kicked up a volunteer-powered grocery store in south Minneapolis to help make fresh, quality food accessible and affordable to those in need.

Speaking after Vickman will be Durran Thompson, a graduating accounting major from Nassau, Bahamas. During his time at St. John's, Thompson served as president of the St. John’s Senate, former vice president of finance for Delta Sigma Pi, treasurer of the Archipelago Club Association, a residential assistant, an entrepreneur scholar and an opera workshop performer, according to the release. He also was recently inducted into Sigma Beta Delta.

Durran Thompson, a 2023 graduating accounting major from St. John's University, will deliver a student commencement speech.
Contributed / St. John's University

Following their graduation, Geller said she plans to explore a career in the nonprofit sector, while Thompson, who is undecided, said he’s excited to see what’s next. Both hope to make an impact and set an example for others.

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