John Mahn ‘54 describes his journey of traveling to CBC High School each day as an adventure.
Mahn grew up in Lemay, in South County, and ended up at CBC after a recommendation from a priest. But how he physically ended up at the Clayton Road campus every day tells the story of what the teenager was trying to accomplish in his young life and displayed his desire to be successful.
“At 14 years old, I traveled across the city, from South St. Louis as an adventure to West St. Louis — which was traveling from an industrial-type neighborhood to an elegant neighborhood,” Mahn said. “That in itself is a fantastic difference and creates an atmosphere of desire to succeed. So I felt that the school I was going to was far superior than most schools in the city and in the area at that age.
“Just going to school there was an exercise, especially in the winter months. Then the school itself with the atmosphere of military, you had a great deal of discipline there. From 14 to 18 years old that’s a wonderful measure and circumstance to create persistence and perseverance to succeed in whatever you do at a very young age.”
Mahn, 84, would go on to become a successful entrepreneur and businessman.
He founded General Fabric Fusing (GFF) in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 1970s. That company eventually became Twill USA in 1977, which was first headquartered in Indiana and then branched out to Las Vegas. Twill USA, according to its website, seeks to “provide the highest-quality heat transfer products for the sports apparel industry.”
Mahn credits CBC with having a profound impact on him during his formative years.
The 1954 yearbook lists him being active with several curricular and co-curricular activities: Cheerleader, Debate Club, Lancers, Camera Club, Honor roll, Class Officer, Turret and Speech Club.
“I was reasonably (active) so I suppose,” he said. “But truthfully I spent a great deal of my time, extra time, working. I worked my way through CBC. I paid all my tuition. I paid for my uniform. I worked at Steak n’ Shake.”
What are his fondest memories from his days as a Cadet?
“I enjoyed everything there, actually,” Mahn said. “The military aspect I enjoyed. I enjoyed the students that I participated with. I enjoyed the whole experience. I can’t think of a negative thing.”
“The biggest thing I felt that it would do was give me an opportunity to succeed in life and of course it did, and it has. That’s of course the principal reason you go to school. … But I felt school as an obligation and a duty to enhance yourself.”
Mahn, who was inducted into the CBC Alumni Hall of Fame in 2018, has also felt an obligation to give back to his high school. The young man who paid for his tuition and his uniform by working at Steak n’ Shake now has his name on CBC’s new Welcome Center -- one of the many recent campus improvements paid for by donors.
Mahn lives in Las Vegas now and spends time in the summers in Montana, but has returned to the Town & Country campus two or three times over the past few years. Each time, he has been impressed with what he has seen.
“It’s unbelievably impressive, I felt,” he said. “The modernization, the ability to maintain current intelligence within the organization. In other words, you have all of the modern, up-to-date technological equipment in campus right now and I was amazed by that. I really was. The systems, the technology, the computers — it’s all there in one big package. It’s amazing, to me.”
Mahn’s generosity to CBC has helped fuel the school’s mission of developing young men in the Lasallian tradition and prepare them for success in college and beyond.
“We’re in desperate need of educated, moral, decent schools to transfer those principles to the students,” Mahn said. “It’s pretty simple to understand. The younger you can teach people right and wrong, it’s the most important thing you can possibly do with your life. … The mere fact that you can help someone – well, you’re not helping them you’re training, teaching, showing, leading and developing.”
Mahn continued: “That’s why I give and will continue to give.”