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.”
By Rika Beckley
CBC Vice President of Advancement
I recently reached out to retired Judge Anna Forder to learn why she has contributed to the Men for Tomorrow Campaign.
Here is an excerpt of our conversation:
Beckley: My first question is simply, “How are you connected to CBC?”
Judge Forder: “Both of my sons graduated from CBC. My son Peter was a great athlete. He was the fastest kid in school from the day he entered as a freshman. Then my second son, Jack, who is very bright, was influenced by his brother, and he went to CBC too.”
Beckley: Why did you pick CBC for your son’s high school education?
Judge Forder: “Having two sons of African descent, I wanted to send them to a school where they would fit in. There weren’t a lot of choices at that time. CBC was on the bus line. I had friends that had gone to CBC. I was a working single parent and needed a school that would meet them where they were academically. CBC is also one of the more diverse private schools in St. Louis.”
Beckley: How have you seen your sons' impacted by their time at CBC?
Judge Forder: “I think CBC met the needs of both my sons. It was and still is a good school for African American students. Peter was on four varsity sports – which is hard to do. Jack was on the lacrosse team that started when he was a junior.”
“Peter made a lot of contacts and his present job is as a result of a connection with CBC. Jack went on to graduate from Colorado College. Thanks to social media, both are connected to their former CBC classmates. Pete has three children and lives in the area. Jack has two kids and he and his wife live in Oakland, California.”
Beckley: Has CBC changed much since your boys graduated?
Judge Forder: “I think CBC has strengthened its academics over time. And now they have customized education – which I think can help the struggling student.”
Beckley: Can you tell me a little about your background and career?
Judge Forder: “I graduated from Villa Duchesne High School, then St. Louis University. I received a master’s degree in social work at Mizzou then worked in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, for Catholic Relief Services. I also worked at a large public hospital in Sydney, Australia as a pediatric psychiatric social worker.”
“I went to SLU Law School at night, then practiced law before being appointed as circuit judge. I served as a judge for over 30 years before retiring. Now that I’m retired, I can be politically active, which I enjoy. One of my volunteer commitments is serving on the board at CBC, with some very sharp people.”
Beckley: Are you comfortable telling me why you made a gift to the Men for Tomorrow Campaign?
Judge Forder: “Sure, I give to the scholarship fund because that enables CBC to have a more diverse student body. It’s part of the Lasallian mission! I also appreciate that CBC does not discriminate – we are open to all academic backgrounds and provide the support students need.”
Rika Beckley, Vice President of Advancement, interviewed Louis Montgomery, Jr. '77 about his experience at CBC and why he feels it is important to continue to give back.
What do you remember as some of the highlights from your time at CBC?
I played football with Coach Hagerty. I also ran track. I was named to all-state football team and the all-state track team my senior year. The other highlights were the relationships I formed. I'm still friends with a number of CBC guys – even in the class years before and after mine. It's the brotherhood that CBC created, the lifelong friends, that remain.
I also received a tremendous education and felt very well prepared to go to college. While in high school, I developed a love for literature and a love of reading that is with me today.
You went on to Cornell and played football and majored in Industrial and Labor Relations. You also wrote a book, A Year's Worth of Inspiration.
Yes and today people know it as Human Resources. One of the things I started doing 20 years ago is sending out a daily motivational quote. I started this for myself and decided to share with other people. When I was the head of HR for Serco, I started a monthly newsletter. For the book, I compiled the 12 best essays from several years’ worth, and those became the chapters. I added daily quotes. So there is an essay for each month with quotes for each day.
Even though you left the St. Louis area, you’ve stayed connected to CBC.
Most of my immediate family, including my dad, sister and nephew, still live in St. Louis. I was on the CBC board for a period of time. Along with several other black alums, we founded the Black Alumni Society (BAS). Our desire was to reconnect with other black alumni and re-engage them with CBC.
It is part of the Alumni Association and still in existence. We hosted a black alumni reunion the first year. For several years we conducted a career and college forum where we had alumni come to present about their careers and we had breakout sessions. Currently, we are looking to reestablish Career and College Forum under a new title. We have a number of distinguished black alumni, including doctors, lawyers, business leaders and two airline pilots.
I was also a member of the Alumni Association. Steve Sealey and Chris Doyle are co-founders of the BAS and also Board Members of the Alumni Association. I was inducted in the Alumni Hall of Fame in 2011.
Tell me about your career path and what kind of work you do now.
I've enjoyed a long career as a human resources leader. About eight years ago, I left corporate HR and now I'm a practice leader for Korn Ferry's Human Resources and Diversity Officers Professional Search Practice. My team and I recruit HR and diversity office leaders in a wide variety of organizations, including publicly-traded companies, nonprofits and in higher education.
How has CBC influenced your life?
I decided to attend Cornell because of CBC. At the time, Cornell's incoming freshman football coach, who was originally from St. Louis, came to town on a recruiting trip. He looked for athletes that could handle the academic rigor of Cornell. Though I didn't know what field I would pursue, I chose Cornell because it had a variety of majors so I knew I would eventually find a fit.
Why do you believe CBC's mission is important to current students?
One of the things that was great about CBC then and now is the diversity of the student population. This makes CBC different from the other Catholic high schools. Diversity goes both ways. It's black and white kids getting to know each other by their shared experiences. The Lasallian mission and CBC's commitment to diversity, especially community service, help our students be better citizens in our world today.
With all the choices you have for your philanthropic dollars, why did you decide to donate to CBC?
I went to a great university and a great high school. But I asked myself, 'Where can I make the bigger difference?' I decided I could make a bigger impact at CBC.
Even though I've lived most of my life away from St. Louis, I see St. Louis as my home. And I believe I benefited from my time at CBC. I was the beneficiary of financial assistance so I chose to help students today who need financial assistance.
Yes, 67% of our students today receive tuition assistance. Scholarship support remains significant. Can you tell me about your experience as a donor?
My family and I started a named scholarship fund. I enjoy hearing from students and seeing them when I'm in town. It is rewarding knowing that I'm making a contribution to kids that need the help. Giving them access to the same high quality education as well as the intangibles. I've encouraged others to give too. I believe part of our mission in life is to help make the world a better place. This is one way I'm doing so.