News & Publications
The College Magazine - Fall 2008
FROM THE BELL TOWERS
CELEBRATING UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS
Spirits were high at Santa Fe's July 25 Celebraciôn
Exceeding the most ambitious fundraising goal in the college's history called for saying thank you in a big way, and of course, saying it twice: first in Santa Fe on July 25, when the college announced it had raised $134 million, and again in September in Annapolis. Alumni, parents, board members, community supporters, and friends from across the nation joined together to celebrate a landmark achievement. In both cities, the college marked how much has already been achieved through gifts to the campaign and thanked those whose contributions made the campaign a success.
In Santa Fe, President Michael Peters hosted a distinctively Southwestern-themed celebration that began with a reception in the tented parking lot of the Student Activities Center. Monsoon rains that visited the campus earlier in the week yielded to sunny skies, and mariachis in studded charro suits greeted arriving guests. The main event took place in the SAC basketball court, transformed by draping, banners, black carpet and strikingly decorated tables. A jazz ensemble entertained as guests enjoyed dinner and dessert.
"Without every gift, no matter how large or small, we would not be here tonight celebrating the campaign—a campaign that achieved virtually every one of its goals—increased college endowment, student internship programs, new dormitories in both Santa Fe and Annapolis," Peters said. "This enthusiastic participation, the knowledge that St. John's is valued by its alumni, friends, parents, and foundations, as well as its faculty and staff and the communities it serves, is what has been most heartening to me."
Among the speakers were Reed Dasenbrock, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Higher Education, and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss. Both expressed their appreciation for the college. "I grew up with St. John's as a neighbor, and I am proud that St. John's is here," said Coss. "You fit in right from the very beginning."
Ray Cave (class of 1948), a member of the college's Board of Visitors and Governors and chairman of the college's previous campaign, was called upon to lead a champagne toast. He referred to a draft of a proposed new strategic plan for the college, which states: "mere survival is no longer an issue for St. John's."
"So I propose a toast. First: to a St. John's where 'survival is no longer an issue.' Second: To the glorious prospect that—once again and for the foreseeable future—with due thanks to a successful capital campaign—the following teachers will return to St. John's each fall: Homer and Plato, Kant and Descartes, Tolstoy and Twain—along with 100 of their friends," Cave said.
Although the news was already out, the celebration in Annapolis, held in the FSK Lobby, was no less ebullient. A group of grateful Johnnies sang "Ode to Joy" and Annapolis President Christopher Nelson (SF70) thanked supporters for helping the college surpass the $125 million goal for the campaign.
"We knew from the very start that to reach such an ambitious goal we would need the support of everyone who knew and cared about the college: our alumni, our friends in Annapolis and Santa Fe and across the nation, and the parents of our alumni and students—everyone had to play a part," Nelson said. "And you came through! Boy, did you come through! My heart is so filled with gratitude toward all of you for what you have done to secure the future of this small but important college. We can't say thank you often enough for the good things you've helped us accomplish."
Before the speeches gave way to swing dancing, Elsabe Dixon (A10) took a moment to thank donors for what their gifts make possible for St. John's students now and in the future: "You have given us the ability to be a great college through your contributions to financial aid, student housing and student internships," she said. "You are the ones who have put in the time as a community to continue to support this community. And for everything that you all have done for me and my fellow students, I am grateful beyond what these words can say."
The Campaign for St. John's College raised $134 million for the college, much of which is already at work in supporting the Program:
HONORING TWO EXCEPTIONAL SUPPORTERS
Campaign Chairman Ron Fielding (A70) is pleased to be named a Fellow of the College, to the applause of (L. to R.)Annapolis Dean Michael Dink (A75), BVG Chair Sharon Bishop (Class of 1965, also honored as a Fellow), and Santa Fe Dean Victoria Mora
The July campaign celebration included a special presentation to two alumni whose contributions were essential to the success of "With a Clear and Single Purpose": The Campaign for St. John's College. Santa Fe Dean Victoria Mora and Annapolis Dean Michael Dink (A75) named two new Honorary Fellows of the College, a distinction that has been bestowed by the faculty of the college to just a handful of people over the years.
Ronald Fielding (A70) was honored "in appreciation of his outstanding leadership as chair of the Campaign for St. John's College, his extraordinary generosity to the college, and in recognition of his accomplishments in the field of finance."
Sharon Bishop (class of 1965) was recognized "in appreciation of her distinguished service as chair of the Board of Visitors and Governors, her generosity and leadership during the period of the Campaign for St. John's College, and her contribution to the field of human resources and social services."
Both were moved by the honor, with Bishop noting, "none of my tutors ever would have expected this from me!"
Philanthropist Paul Mellon (class of 1944), whose support of the college helped keep the doors open during the early years of the college, and Columbia University's Mark Van Doren (HA46), one of the college's most eloquent and vocal proponents, were made honorary fellows of the college in 1958-59. In 1996, Ray Cave (class of 1948) and Stephen Feinberg (HA96), co-chairs of the Campaign for our Fourth Century, which successfully ended that year, were made honorary fellows.
LEARNING LEADERSHIP A LONG WAY FROM HOME
Johnnies and their Epigenesis participants in the Dominican Republic. Back row (L. to R.): Yosy Vlasquez, Bryanna Greene, Tobi Yusuf, Adam Meyers (A07), Joshua Becker (A08), Raphaela Cassandra (A10); Front row: Timothy Green and Tony Connor
This past August, three St. John's students and alumni traveled with five Annapolis teenagers to the Dominican Republic, where they spent a week living and working in the remote mountain village of El Ramon. The service trip, designed to foster leadership skills to prepare the teens to make a difference in their hometown communities, was organized by Epigenesis, an outreach project created and led by Annapolis students.
Last spring, the group's founders (Jamaal Barnes, A10; Raphaela Cassandra, A10; Joshua Becker, A08; and Rachel Davison, A08)) received a $10,000 peace grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Foundation for their program. They contacted local community groups to develop ideas and support for the program, then recruited their participants. Beginning last June, they met together in Mellon Hall for seminar-style discussions on topics including leadership, race, and social activism. The international trip offered the students an opportunity to put their training into action.
Cassandra, Becker, and Adam Meyers (A07) made the trip, serving as chaperones for the teens. The Dominican Republic's Ambassador to the U.N. met their plane in Santo Domingo. They stayed at a local Catholic school near El Ramon for two nights, then packed up their gear and two heavy suitcases filled with books donated by The Annapolis Bookstore for the village's library. Next came the steep ride up the mountain to El Ramon. "It was so steep we had to get out and push at times," Cassandra says.
In El Ramon, the group settled in on sleeping mats at La Esperanza Community Center, a concrete building with stone floors, but no running water or electricity. They shared long days of hard work and learned to dance the merengue at communal dinners with local village leaders. They also discovered "the parallels to service work in the United States, and the ways we could have an impact back here in Annapolis," says Becker.
Working with Peace Corps volunteers and local leaders, the group conducted a census of the 250 families in El Ramon. They also ventured into the lush rainforest outside the village to dig up plants for a prayer garden they created near the village's community center. "The garden was a way to cross the language barrier," says Cassandra. "We learned how to work together, planting side by side."
For more on the project, visit the group's Web site: www.epigenesisprogram.org.
By Patricia Dempsey
WHAT THE TUTORS DID LAST SUMMER
Ah, the lucky tutors. Each summer they get to delve into something new, seek a deeper grasp of a familiar work, or study unfamiliar subject matter to prepare for a class they have yet to lead. All we get to do is go to the beach.
In Annapolis, six tutors read Virgina Woolf's The Waves. Tutor Tom May, who led the group, said, "Our study of the novel ranged from close and lengthy consideration of the imagery of the interludes and their relation to the following sections, to the development and aging of each of the six characters, to the larger effort that Woolf makes to refashion the novel as a literary form."
The group also read and discussed two poems that resonated with particular sections of the novel: Wordsworth's "Lines Written on Westminster Bridge," related to Bernard's arrival in London, and W. H. Auden's "Stop all the clocks" in connection with Neville's account of Percival's death.
A group of Santa Fe tutors delved into comedic literature with a study group that arose from tutor David McDonald's 2007 lecture on Rabelais. The lecture sparked a dialogue between McDonald and tutor Alan Zeitlin, and the two began discussing ways in which comedic works might be better apprehended in the Program. "Comedy has a reputation of being hard to talk about at the college," said McDonald. The two had three principal aims for their summer study group: to help participants become better readers of comedic writings, to look at the many deep and intrinsically interesting questions raised by the study of these works, and to consider carefully the place of comedic works at the college. They set out to look beyond surface-level comedy to discover deeper meaning. "Being amused [by a work] too often means dismissal of its intellectual seriousness," said Zeitlin.
The group was startled by how different from each other various comedic traditions were—Aristophanes from Terence, Chaucer from Lucian—yet all managed to show how our expectations of the world are at odds with our experience of it. "Comedy teaches us the limits of being able to control our world," said McDonald.
SUMMER IN SANTA FE
Summer 2008 marked the third season of Music on the Hill, where up to 1,500 Santa Feans
gathered on the athletic field to mingle, picnic, dance, and enjoy live music.
In Santa Fe, the bustle of campus life doesn't slow during the summer months—in fact, it just gets busier. January Freshmen and Graduate Institute students are joined by conference attendees from around the world. The campus hosted 16 groups this summer, including Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, the Santa Fe Institute, the Glen Workshop, and a bevy of biologists, cosmologists and physicists from Los Alamos National Labs. During the month of July the college also hosted participants in the Summer Classics program, a diverse group of alumni, Santa Feans, and friends from across the nation who gathered for week-long seminars on works including the Mahabharata and the Iliad and on topics such as World War I in prose and poetry.
This summer marked the third year of the college's enormously successful Music on the Hill series, envisioned as a way to bring St. John's and the Santa Fe community together through family-centered concerts. This year, Music on the Hill kicked off June 11, beginning six weeks of performances that drew crowds of up to 1,500 people (up from 450 in the first year). National and local acts representing a range of styles from jazz to folk to reggae to blues graced the stage each Wednesday. Johnnies and Santa Feans of all ages spread blankets on the athletic fieeld to mingle, picnic, dance, and enjoy music on beautiful summer evenings.
This summer also saw the college's participation in the 5th Annual International Folk Art Market, a global celebration of international craft traditions and the artists who participate in them. More than 100 artists from 40 different countries attend the market, which provides an opportunity for artists and craftspeople to share their work, exchange ideas, and create sustainable economic opportunities for their home cultures. St. John's housed artists in the dorms the first year of the market, and many of the original attendees recall their stays on campus fondly. Some, particularly those hailing from troubled or strife-torn regions, remarked that the market was "one place we could always feel safe."
As the event has grown, artists no longer stay on campus, but the college continues to sponsor the event, and President Michael Peters sits on the market's board of directors. St. John's also hosts and organizes the One World Dinner, a festive meal for more than 350 people that allows artists, organizers, sponsors, and international dignitaries to join together in cross-cultural conversation. The success of the International Folk Art Market played a role in Santa Fe's recent designation as a UNESCO Creative City.
By Anne Deger (SF11)
SUPPORTING CHIAGO'S GREAT BOOKS COLLEGE
As Chairman of Shimer College's Board of Trustees, Annapolis President Christopher Nelson (SF70)
advises the college leadership.
Against all odds, a small, independent liberal arts college with a great books curriculum overcomes serious financial difficulties to survive. Sound familiar? Shimer College, "the great books school of Chicago," shares many aspects of its history and educational mission with St. John's. In addition, Shimer shares Christopher Nelson (SF70), president of the Annapolis campus and current chairman of the Shimer Board of Trustees.
Since he joined Shimer's board in 2005, Nelson has helped advise the college in critical matters such as fundraising and student recruitment, a move from Waukegan to Chicago, and choosing an interim president. He also assisted in the search that led Shimer to its new president, Thomas K. Lindsay, deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Nelson has known of Shimer since the early 1970s, when as president of the Chicago alumni chapter, he met several St. John's alumni who were teaching at the college. "I was very interested because Shimer has a core curriculum that looks a lot like St. John's and a faculty that was clearly dedicated to the college's mission," he says.
Shimer was founded in 1853 in Mount Carroll, Illinois. Under Robert Hutchins' guidance, it became the great books college of the University of Chicago from 1950-1958. When Chicago pulled out, the great books remained. Falling enrollment and crushing debt led the college's trustees to desperate measures in the 1970s. They voted to close the college and sell the buildings and campus in Mount Carroll; however, a group of faculty and students refused to give up. They borrowed money to keep the doors open, and the college moved to Waukegan in 1979. "A dedicated group of people kept it going," Nelson says. "The faculty did all the administrative jobs, as well as teaching, and even the maintenance. Students continued their studies, and the college rebuilt itself."
In part because St. John's also struggled to survive at times, Nelson finds Shimer's story inspiring. Although students can choose major fields of study at the college, a required core curriculum includes seminars on the great works of Western civilization.
Nelson's involvement with the college began when he became a friend of Shimer's former president, Donald Moon, who remains on the faculty. Throughout the years, Nelson offered Moon advice and support, and he joined Shimer's board at the invitation of President William Rice. Nelson eventually became vice chair and began his term as chair in 2007.
Nelson is pleased that things are looking up for Shimer. Two years ago the college sold its Waukegan buildings and moved to the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Last year, the college was profiled in the New York Times and earlier this fall, the college welcomed 45 freshmen, its largest entering class in 30 years. "It's important that this school survive," Nelson says.
Cassie Sherman (A04) is one of four St. John's alumni among Shimer's faculty and staff; like Nelson, she's determined to see Shimer succeed. As assistant admissions director, she does everything from visiting high schools to producing student recruitment material. "I feel like I'm doing a good thing," she says.
"THE MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS OF OUR CIVILIZATION"
St. John's is often mentioned favorably in books about education, but it's always nice when a highly respected figure issues high praise. In this case, it's Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, who for 30 years was the president of George Washington University.
In his newly published memoir, Trachtenberg mentions St. John's in a chapter titled "The Ideal University":
"St. John's College...is a small, intimate, teaching$45;oriented, classics-focused institution that is sometimes mentioned as one ideal. I remember when in 1954 a St. John's representative came to speak to a parent/student meeting at my high school in Brooklyn. As interested as the parents were in what the man had to say about the college, it was clear that they were needlessly concerned that if their kids chose St. John's, they wouldn't be able to get into medical school. To them, it was, perhaps, too unconventional a place that was following a curriculum they perceived as too far from the norm to be recognized by professional schools as providing a legitimate education. But for many other people, St. John's was and still is the very best form of undergraduate education, a chance to immerse oneself in the most important ideas of our civilization."
LEVEAN HALL PLANS APPROVED
With plans approved, the college should begin Levan Hall construction next spring.
Building in environmentally sensitive Santa Fe is never an easy feat, but the college's long-awaited center for the Graduate Institute, Levan Hall, has made its way through the city's extensive review and permitting process, and building should begin in the spring. A gift from Dr. Norman Levan (SFGI74) made the project possible.
The first step, approval from the City of Santa Fe Planning Commission, was achieved in June. The next hurdle was cleared July 22, when the board approved a height exception (the building is 39 feet at its tallest, compared to the regulation 16 feet), but required college officials to return for approval of additional design features, including some variation in design from surrounding buildings, and the architect's use of COR-TEN, a resilient steel designed to weather to a pleasing copper color. The review board approved the college's plans on Sept. 23.
Levan Hall is being designed to achieve a silver rating in the United States Green Building Council LEED rating system.
READING LIST CHANGES
In with Medea, out with the Rat Man
The Instruction Committees on each campus have made some changes to the work in progress that is the seminar reading list. In Santa Fe, where the committee focused on freshman and junior years, some of the more significant changes involve replacing Plato's Sophist with the Protagoras, swapping "The Two-Part Prelude of 1799" for "Tintern Abbey," and replacing Euripides' Hippolytus with the Medea. All three replacement texts have been on various reading lists before, and it is likely that all three texts replaced will appear again in the future. One plan, adopted a few years ago, was to alternate the Sophist and the Protagoras on a regular basis. Similarly, Medea might likely find itself replaced with another Euripides play, and "Tintern Abbey" could give way to a different Wordsworth poem.
To take the Sophist off the reading list is "to lose a great good," says tutor Matt Davis, but the Protagoras has its own virtues. Considered one of Plato's most dramatic dialogues, the Protagoras is a literary masterwork offering students an opportunity to learn about Protagoras—the representative of relativism—in more than one dialogue (Theaetetus being the other). By studying the dialogues together students learn more about one of the most important problems of our time. The dialogue also allows greater insight into Socrates: readers see him in a slightly less saintly role and learn about his relationship to the Sophists.
It has been about eight years since Medea was on the freshman reading list, Davis estimates. Medea elicits questions about the status of the Greek heroes and about mortals' relations to the gods. "Tintern Abbey" can present a challenge in seminar due to its brevity, but one virtue in reading shorter texts is the opportunity for a deeper, more leisurely conversation.
In Annapolis, freshmen will have two seminars on De Anima, with their Lucretius seminars moving to sophomore seminar. This exchange undoes a long-standing, but anomalous, departure from the rough chronological order that prevails through most of the reading list. Annapolis Dean Michael Dink (A75) says, "it is hoped that freshmen will benefit from bringing the three major Aristotle readings together: Physics, Metaphysics, and De Anima. The other changes all followed the principle that any author worthy of being on the Program is worthy of at least two seminars."
That means in sophomore year, a second seminar will be read on Calvin. Seniors will have two seminars on Faulkner, with additional selections from Go Down, Moses, and two seminars on Heidegger's Introduction to Metaphysics, instead of one on "What is Philosophy?" Removed from the reading list are Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel in sophomore year. Sacrificed in senior year: Flannery O'Connor's "Parker's Back" and Freud's "Notes on a Case of Obsessional Neurosis" (Rat man).
ALL IN THE GI FAMILY
Two generations of the Thomas/Groenendyke family, shown with President Michael Peters (L.), graduated from the GI last May. Abbie Thomas (not in regalia) receivd her degree in May in Annapolis. Her mother, Cheryl Groenendyke, and Cheryl's husband, Richard (a BVG member), received their degrees a week later in Santa Fe. Ms. Thomas was awarded a prize for her preceptorial essay, "Rereading Proust," an honor announced at the Santa Fe ceremony.
NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS
The following tutors have joined the Santa Fe faculty:
Annapolis welcomed the following tutors:
New BVG Members
The college's Board of Visitors and Governors welcomed these members:
In October, Annapolis Treasurer Bronté Jones was one of six recipients of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award, named for the groundbreaking civil rights leader. Presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, the award recognizes women who continue Hamer's efforts. Jones was also accepted to the HERS Institute at Wellesley College.
The Arts Council of Anne Arundel County earlier this fall presented Annie Awards to Lucinda Edinberg, art educator for the St. John's Mitchell Gallery, and Anna Greenberg (HA96), honorary member of the college's Board of Visitors and Governors. Edinberg was named Arts Educator of the Year, and Greenberg was recognized as Arts Patron of the year.
The Epoch Journal, a magazine on current affairs published by Annapolis students, was named a finalist in the American Collegiate Press' 2008 Magazine Pacemaker Award, which recognizes excellence in student journalism. For more about the Epoch, visit the publication's website: epochjournal.org/