St. John's College (Annapolis/Santa Fe)

Last updated
St. John's College
St. John's College.svg
Former name
King William's School
MottoFacio liberos ex liberis libris libraque (Latin)
Motto in English
I make free adults from children by means of books and a balance
Type Private liberal arts college
Established1696;327 years ago (1696) (as King William's School)
1784;239 years ago (1784) (St. John's charter)
Religious affiliation
Endowment $217.3 million (2019) [1]
President Nora Demleitner, Annapolis, Mark Roosevelt, Santa Fe
Academic staff
~164 total (both campuses)
Undergraduates 775 (both campuses) [2]
Postgraduates ~160
United States

38°58′57″N76°29′33″W / 38.98250°N 76.49250°W / 38.98250; -76.49250
35°40′3″N105°54′44″W / 35.66750°N 105.91222°W / 35.66750; -105.91222
CampusAnnapolis: Urban
Santa Fe: Urban / Semi-rural
MascotPlatypus/Axolotl [lower-alpha 1]

St. John's College is a private liberal arts college with campuses in Annapolis, Maryland, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. As the successor institution of King William's School, a preparatory school founded in 1696, St. John's is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States; [2] [3] the current institution received a collegiate charter in 1784. [4] In 1937, St. John's adopted a Great Books curriculum based on discussion of works from the Western canon of philosophical, religious, historical, mathematical, scientific, and literary works.


The college grants a single bachelor's degree in liberal arts. The awarded degree is equivalent to a double major in philosophy and the history of science, and a double minor in classical studies and comparative literature. [5] [6]

Two master's degrees are available through the college's graduate institute: one in liberal arts, which is a modified version of the undergraduate curriculum (differing mostly in that the graduate students are not restricted to a set sequence of courses), and one in Eastern Classics, which applies most of the features of the undergraduate curriculum (seminars, preceptorials, language study, and a set sequence of courses) to a list of classic works from India, China, and Japan. The Master of Arts in Eastern Classics is only available at the Santa Fe campus. [7]


Old program

St. John's College traces its origins to King William's School, founded in 1696. King William's School was founded with an affiliation to the Church of England [ citation needed ]. In 1784, Maryland chartered St. John's College, which absorbed King William's School when it opened in 1785. [8] The college took up residence in a building known as Bladen's Folly (the current McDowell Hall), which was originally built to be the Maryland governor's mansion, but was not completed. [9] There was some association with the Freemasons early in the college's history, leading to speculation that it was named after Saint John the Evangelist. [10] The college's original charter, reflecting the Masonic value of religious tolerance as well as the religious diversity of the founders (which included Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and the Roman Catholic Charles Carroll of Carrollton) stated that "youth of all religious denominations shall be freely and liberally admitted". The college always maintained a small size, generally enrolling fewer than 500 men at a time.

In its early years, the college was at least nominally public—the college's founders had envisaged it as the Western Shore branch of a proposed “University of Maryland”—but a lack of enthusiasm from the Maryland General Assembly and its Eastern Shore counterpart, Washington College, made this largely a paper institution. After years of inconsistent funding and litigation, the college accepted a smaller annual grant in lieu of being funded through the state's annual appropriations process. During the Civil War, the college closed and its campus was used as a military hospital. In 1907 it became the undergraduate college of a loosely organized "University of Maryland" that included the professional schools located in Baltimore. By 1920, when Maryland State College (founded in 1857 as Maryland Agricultural College) became the University of Maryland at College Park, St. John's was a free-standing private institution. [8]

The college curriculum has taken various forms throughout its history. It began with a general program of study in the liberal arts, but St. John's was a military school for much of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It ended compulsory military training with Major Enoch Garey's accession as president in 1923. [11] Garey and the Navy instituted a Naval Reserve unit in September 1924, creating the first-ever collegiate Department of Naval Science in the United States. But despite St. John's successfully pioneering the entire NROTC movement, student interest waned, the voluntary ROTC disappeared in 1926 with Garey's departure, and the Naval Reserve unit followed by 1929. [12]

New program

In 1936, the college lost its accreditation. [13] The Board of Visitors and Governors, faced with dire financial straits caused by the Great Depression, invited educational innovators Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan to make a completely fresh start. They introduced a new program of study, which remains in effect today. Buchanan became dean of the college, while Barr assumed its presidency. In his guide Cool Colleges, Donald Asher writes that the New Program was implemented to save the college from closing: "Several benefactors convinced the college to reject a watered-down curriculum in favor of becoming a very distinctive academic community. Thus this great institution was reborn as a survival measure." [14]

In 1938, Walter Lippman wrote a column praising liberal arts education as a bulwark against fascism, and said, "In the future, men will point to St. John's College and say that there was the seed-bed of the American renaissance." [15]

In 1940, national attention was attracted to St. John's by a story in Life entitled "The Classics: At St. John's They Come into Their Own Once More". [15] Classic works unavailable in English translation were translated by faculty members, typed, mimeographed, and bound. They were sold to the general public as well as to students, and by 1941 the St. John's College bookshop was famous as the only source for English translations of works such as Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium , St. Augustine's De Musica , and Ptolemy's Almagest .

The wartime years were difficult for the all-male St. John's. Enlistment and the draft all but emptied the college; 15 seniors graduated in 1943, eight in 1945, and three in 1946. [15] From 1940 to 1946, St. John's was repeatedly confronted with threats of its land being seized by the Navy for expansion of the neighboring U.S. Naval Academy, and James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, formally announced plans to do so in 1945. At the time, The New York Times , which had expected a legal battle royale comparable to the 1819 Dartmouth case, commented that "although a small college of fewer than 200 students, St. John's has, because of its experimental liberal arts program, received more publicity and been the center of a greater academic controversy than most other colleges in the land. Its best-books program has been attacked and praised by leading educators of the day." [16]

The constant threat of eviction discouraged Stringfellow Barr. In late 1946 Forrestal withdrew the plan to take over St. John's in the face of public opposition and the disapproval of the House Naval Affairs Committee, but Barr and Scott Buchanan were already committed to leaving St. John's and launching Liberal Arts, Inc., a new, similar college in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; that project eventually failed—but thinking about other sites for the college eventually led to the opening of St. John's second campus in Santa Fe in 1964.

St John's had been founded as an all-white institution and continued as such in the early years of the New Program, with Barr actively discouraging black students from applying. [17] However, by 1948 faculty and student sentiment had shifted and students, with the support of the faculty and administration, persuaded a reluctant Board of Visitors and Governors to integrate the college and St. John's became the one of the first previously all-white colleges south of the Mason-Dixon line to admit black students voluntarily. [18]

In 1949, Richard D. Weigle became president of St. John's. Following the chaotic and difficult period from 1940 to 1949, Weigle's presidency continued for 31 years, [19] during which time the New Program and the college itself became well established.

In 1951, St. John's became coeducational, admitting women for the first time in its then-254-year history. There was some objection from students because they had not been involved in—nor even aware of—the decision before it was announced to the media, and from some who believed that the college could not remain a serious institution were it to admit women. Martin Dyer reported that women who were admitted quickly proved they were the academic and intellectual equals of their male counterparts.

As enrollment grew during the 1950s, and facing the coming larger baby-boom generation, thoughts turned again towards opening another campus—but this time in addition to, not instead of, the one in Annapolis. Serious talk of expansion began in 1959 when the father of a student from Monterey, California, suggested to President Weigle that he establish a new campus there. Time ran an article on the college's possible expansion plans, [20] and 32 offers came in to the college from New Hampshire, Oregon, Georgia, Alaska, Florida, Connecticut, and other states.

A group from the Monterey Peninsula told Weigle that they were definitely interested, though funding was a problem, and suitable land was a big question. There was also an offer of land in Claremont, California, but competition with the other colleges there for students and financial contributions was a negative. The Riverside Mission Inn (in Riverside, California) was another possibility, but with only 5 acres (2.0 hectares) of land and many renovations needed to the inn, funding was again a major issue.

The three California locations were all still major contenders when Robert McKinney (publisher of The Santa Fe New Mexican and a former SJC board member) called and told Weigle that a group of city leaders had long been looking for another college for Santa Fe. During a lunch Weigle attended at John Gaw Meem's house on the outskirts of Santa Fe in late January 1961, Meem volunteered that he had a little piece of land (214 acres [87 hectares]) that he would gladly donate to the college. After lunch, Weigle looked at the land and instantly fell in love with it. A committee of four faculty members (Robert Bart, Barbara Leonard, Douglas Allanbrook, and William Darkey) later visited the four sites in contention and, after much deliberation, recommended Santa Fe. [21]

In 1961, the governing board of St. John's approved plans to establish a second college at Santa Fe. Groundbreaking occurred on April 22, 1963, and the first classes began in 1964. As it turned out, shortly afterwards land was also donated to the college on the Monterey Peninsula, on condition that a campus be developed there by a certain date.


Great Books program

The Great Books program (often called simply "the Program" or "the New Program" at St. John's) was developed at the University of Chicago by Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, Robert Hutchins, and Mortimer Adler in the mid-1930s as an alternative form of education to the then rapidly changing undergraduate curriculum. St. John's adopted the Great Books program in 1937, when the college was facing the possibility of financial and academic ruin. The Great Books program in use today was also heavily influenced by Jacob Klein, who was dean of the college in the 1940s and 1950s.

The four-year program of study, nearly all of which is mandatory, requires that students read and discuss the works of many of Western civilization's most prominent contributors to philosophy, theology, mathematics, science, music, poetry, and literature. Tutorials (mathematics, language, and music), as well as seminar and laboratory, are discussion-based. In the mathematics tutorial students often demonstrate propositions that mathematicians throughout various ages have laid out. In the language tutorial student translations are presented (ancient Greek is studied in the first two years and French for the last two). The tutorials, with seminar and laboratory, constitute the classes. All classes, and in particular the seminar, are considered formal exercises; consequently, students address one another, as well as their teachers, by their honorific and last name during class.

St. John's avoids modern textbooks, lectures, and examinations, in favor of a series of manuals. While traditional (A to F) grades are given and provided on transcripts, the culture of the school de-emphasizes their importance and grades are released only at the request of the student. Grading is based largely on class participation and papers. Tutors, as faculty members are called at the college, play a non-directive role in the classroom, compared to mainstream colleges. However, at St. John's this varies by course and instructor. Class size is small on both campuses, with a student to tutor ratio of 7:1. Seminar is the largest class, with around 20 students, but led by two tutors. Daytime tutorials are smaller, typically ranging between 12 and 16 students and are led by one tutor. Preceptorials are the smallest class size, ranging between 3 and 9 students. [22]

The Program involves:

The Great Books are not the only texts used at St. John's. Greek and French classes make use of supplemental materials that are more like traditional textbooks. Science laboratory courses and mathematics courses use manuals prepared by faculty members that combine source materials with workbook exercises. For example, the mathematics tutorial combines a 1905 paper by Albert Einstein with exercises that require the student to work through the mathematics used in the paper. [23]

Reading list

Although it varies from year to year and differs slightly between campuses, the Great Books reading list is the basis of the school's curriculum. [24] [25]

Freshman year

Sophomore year

Junior year

Senior year

Graduate Institute Liberal Arts program

The Graduate Institute in Liberal Education was established at St. John's College in 1967 as a summer program on the Santa Fe campus. The size and scope of the Institute have expanded so that currently both the Annapolis and Santa Fe campuses offer year-round graduate-level study based on the principles of the St. John's undergraduate program. Students in the Liberal Arts program explore the persisting questions of human existence by studying classic works of the western tradition. This program is organized into five semester-long thematic segments: Philosophy and Theology, Politics and Society, Literature, Mathematics and Natural Science, and History. Students earn a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) by completing four of these five segments. A common curriculum provides the basis for a shared intellectual community; discussion with fellow students and faculty is the mode of learning both inside and outside the classroom. Each semester, students attend a seminar, a tutorial and a preceptorial—all carried out as small-group discussions under the guidance of St. John's faculty members. These three types of classes are the framework of the distinctive St. John's educational experience.

Eastern Classics program

At the Santa Fe campus, there is a program offering a Master of Arts in Eastern Classics (MAEC). This program is three semesters long and is designed to be completed in one 12-month period. The impetus for the program came with the recognition that the undergraduate program simply could not do justice to the Great Books of the three main Asian traditions (India, China and Japan) by trying to squeeze in a few works among so many European masterworks. The EC program therefore provides a full set of readings in the philosophical, religious and literary traditions of the three cultures listed above. Thus, students learn Chinese culture by reading not only Confucius, Laozi and Zhuangzi, but also Mencius, Xun Zi, Han Feizi, and Mozi, as well as historical narratives by Sima Qian and the Zuo Zhuan , the later movement of Neo-Confucianism and Zhu Xi, narrative works such as Journey to the West or the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the great Chinese poets, Li Bai, Wang Wei and Du Fu. This list represents only one-third of the required corpus, which also covers the major teachings and branches of Hinduism and the development of Theravada, Mahayana and Zen Buddhism, as well as such literary masterpieces as the Mahabharata, Shakuntala, The Tale of Genji, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and others. Students also take a language, either Sanskrit or Classical Chinese.


Annapolis campus

St. John's is located in the Historic Annapolis district, one block away from the Maryland State Capitol building. Its proximity to the United States Naval Academy (across King George Street) has inspired many a comparison to Athens and Sparta. The schools carry on a spirited rivalry seen in the annual croquet match between the two schools on the front lawn of St. John's, which has been called by GQ "the purest intercollegiate athletic event in America."As of 2018 St. John's has won 29 of the 36 annual matches. [26] About the Johnnies' commitment to the event, one midshipman commented, "They're out practicing croquet every afternoon! Alabama should take football this seriously." [27]

Construction of McDowell Hall at the center of campus was begun in 1742 by Provincial Governor of Maryland Thomas Bladen, but was not completed until after the end of the Colonial period. [28] The 23,000-square-foot historic building underwent some improvements in 2017–18. [29] Its Great Hall has seen many college events, from balls feting Generals Lafayette and Washington to the unique St. John's institutions called waltz parties. [30]

Mellon Hall, constructed in 1958, was designed by noted architect Richard Neutra.

St. John's College Observatory

The observatory facility, located at the top of the Foucault pendulum tower in Mellon Hall, contains two permanently mounted telescopes, a 12" Schmidt–Cassegrain telescope model LX200 and a 16" Newtonian telescope, both made by Meade Instruments. The Foucault Pendulum is located at the top of the four-story tower. The pendulum drive magnet is housed within a cast iron cone in the Observatory facility. The magnet is keyed to turn on and off as the pendulum swings by using technology such as a photoresistor that determine the center of the pendulum's swing. [31] [32]

Santa Fe campus

Holi Celebration at Santa Fe Campus St. John's College Holi.jpg
Holi Celebration at Santa Fe Campus
St. John's College – Santa Fe, New Mexico
St Johns College Santa Fe.JPG
The Santa Fe campus of St. John's College, as seen from the slopes of Monte Luna
USA New Mexico location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location1160 Camino Cruz Blanca,
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Coordinates 35°40′0″N105°54′45″W / 35.66667°N 105.91250°W / 35.66667; -105.91250
NRHP reference No. 15000495 [33]
NMSRCP No. 2013
Significant dates
Added to NRHPAugust 3, 2015
Designated NMSRCPApril 10, 2015

St. John's Santa Fe campus is located on the eastern edge of Santa Fe, close to Atalaya Mountain. It was opened in 1964 in response to the increase in qualified applicants at the Annapolis campus. The college chose to open a second campus rather than increase the size of the Annapolis campus. The second campus was part of a larger project to construct six campuses across the country. St. John's abandoned the concept when it later sold a tract of land it owned in Monterey, California.

Student body

Within the Class of 2022, 36 U.S. states and 15 countries are represented. Approximately 99% of students receive financial aid. [34] First-year undergraduate students range in age from 15 to 65. The student body is relatively small compared to other liberal arts colleges, with a population historically below 500 students on each campus during a year. The college offers many community seminars and lectures that are available to the public. [35]

Notable people associated with St. John's

See also


  1. According to the website of the Annapolis campus's college bookstore, "Though the College has no mascot, the platypus sometimes fills in, wearing a St. John's College shirt and providing unique company for the students at St. John's." URL accessed 2006-07-27. The Santa Fe campus has soccer, football, and Ultimate Frisbee teams.

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  1. As of June 30, 2019. "U.S. and Canadian 2019 NTSE Participating Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2019 Endowment Market Value, and Percentage Change in Market Value from FY18 to FY19 (Revised)". National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  2. 1 2 Bruni, Frank (September 11, 2018). "The most contrarian college in America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  3. "About St. John's College" (Press release). St. John's College. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
  4. Some historical accounts of the founding of King William's school and its subsequent establishment as St. John's college, together with biographical notices of the various presidents from 1790–1894, also of some of the representative alumni of the College (1894). Annapolis [Baltimore, Press of the Friedenwald co.] 1894. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  5. "Undergraduate Subjects: An Integrated Curriculum". Archived from the original on 2021-03-06. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  6. "St. John's College Transcript Support" (PDF). St. John's College. Retrieved 2021-03-10.
  7. "Liberal Arts College - Great Books Program | St. John's College". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  8. 1 2 Tilghman, Tench Francis (1984). The Early History of St. John's College in Annapolis. Annapolis: St. John's College Press.
  9. "The Council of Independent Colleges: Historic Campus Architecture Project". 1909-02-20. Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  10. "1784: The Year St. John's College Was Named". Maryland Historical Magazine. 74 (2): 133–51. June 1979.
  11. Doyel, Ginger (2003-04-02). "Annapolis, past to present: Military life at St. John's". The Capital. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-04-27.
  12. "USNI Blog » Blog Archive » From Our Archive: The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps by Capt. Chester W. Nimitz, USN 1928". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  13. Kathy Witkowsky (1999). "A Quiet Counterrevolution: St. John's College teaches the classics—and only the classics". Educational Crosstalk. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
  14. Donald Asher (2007). Cool Colleges. Ten Speed Press. p. 123. ISBN   978-1-58008-839-8.
  15. 1 2 3 Charles A. Nelson (2001),Radical Visions: Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, and Their Efforts on behalf of Education and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Bergin and Garvey, Westport, CT; ISBN   0-89789-804-4.
  16. "St. John's and Navy Facing Fight In Courts Over College's Campus", June 29, 1945, p. 17.
  17. Smith, J. Winfree (1983). A Search for the Liberal College: The Beginning of the St. John's Program. Annapolis, MD: St. John's College Press.
  18. ""Letter from Martin A. Dyer, Class of 1952, to St. John's Alumni", July 16, 2004". Archived from the original on November 3, 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-24.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), accessed July 26, 2007
  19. "Richard Weigle, 80, Served as President Of St. John's College" (Obituary), The New York Times, December 17, 1992, p. B22.
  20. "College Spawns College", Time Magazine, December 26, 1960, accessed April 28, 2007
  21. "The Colonization of a College: The Beginnings and Early History of St. John's College in Santa Fe", by Richard D. Weigle, Fishergate Publishing Company (St. John's College Print Shop), Annapolis, 1985
  22. "St. John's College | About | Quick Facts". Archived from the original on 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  23. Harty, Rosemary (2005), Director of Communications, St. John's College, Annapolis, personal communication (Source details of non-Great-Books materials used at St. John's)
  24. "St. John's College | Reading List". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  25. "Great Books reading list in pdf format" . Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  26. "The Annapolis Cup – Croquet Match Fact Sheet". St. John's College. Retrieved 2018-09-13.
  27. Multiple references:
  28. Mereness, Newton Dennison (1901). Maryland as a Proprietary Province. London: The MacMillan Company. pp.  350–53. ASIN   B0006BT5K4. Thomas Bladen subject:Maryland.
  29. Winters, Wendi. "McDowell Hall, heart of St. John's College campus, gets a makeover". Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  30. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-09-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. "St. John's College Observatory – About Us". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  32. "St. John's College Foucault Pendulum". Retrieved 2016-12-24.
  33. "Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: August 3, 2015 through August 7, 2015". National Park Service. August 14, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  34. Stringfellow, Johnnie. "St. John's College Freshman Class Profile". St. John's College Freshman Class Profile.
  35. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-07. Retrieved 2006-02-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading