St. John's College (Annapolis/Santa Fe)
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (January 2012)|
|Motto||Facio liberos ex liberis libris libraque|
Motto in English
|I make free men from children by means of books and a balance|
|Established||1696: King William's School
1784: St. John's College
1964: Santa Fe campus
|Endowment||$124.9 million (2012)|
|President||Christopher Nelson, Annapolis
Michael Peters, Santa Fe
|Dean||Pamela Kraus, Annapolis
Ned Walpin, Santa Fe
|~164 total (both campuses)|
|Undergraduates||450–475 per campus|
Santa Fe, New Mexico, Maryland
New Mexico, United States
Santa Fe: Urban / Semi-rural
|Athletics||Croquet, Fencing, Crew, Sailing, Intramurals, Search and Rescue, Bocce (No varsity sports)|
St. John's College is a private liberal arts college known for its distinctive curriculum centered on reading and discussing the Great Books of Western Civilization. It has two U.S. campuses: one in Annapolis, Maryland, and one in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The College traces its origins to King William's School, a preparatory school founded in 1696. It received a collegiate charter in 1784, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States. In 1937, it adopted a Great Books curriculum known as the New Program, based on discussion of works from the Western canon of philosophical, religious, historical, mathematical, scientific, and literary works; it is probably for this program that the school is best known.
The school grants only one bachelor's degree, in Liberal Arts. Two master's degrees are currently 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 do not take a language and 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. Despite its name and the inclusion of selections from the Bible, as well as from some major Christian theologians and philosophers in the program, the College has no religious affiliation.
- 1 History
- 2 Curriculum
- 3 Campuses
- 4 Student body
- 5 Ranking and reputation
- 6 Notable people associated with St. John's
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
St. John's College traces its origins to King Williams School, founded in 1696. In 1784, Maryland granted a charter to a new institution, St. John's College, which absorbed the original preparatory school in 1785. 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. 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. 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". In contrast to Washington and Lee University, a contemporary institution, 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.
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. 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.
In 1936, the College lost its accreditation. 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."
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."
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". 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. From 1940-46, 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 royal comparable to the 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."
The constant threat of eviction discouraged Stringfellow Barr. In late 1946 Forrestal withdrew the plan, 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. In 1948, St. John's became the first previously all-white college south of the Mason-Dixon line to voluntarily admit African American students.
The movement to desegregate the College was wholly internal, beginning with students who, with the support of the faculty and administration, persuaded a reluctant Board of Visitors and Governors to go along. The first African American student was Martin A. Dyer, from Baltimore, who graduated in 1952. 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, during which 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 (magazine) ran an article on the college's possible expansion plans, and, in addition to California, 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 (20,000 m2) of land and lots of renovations needed to the inn, funding was again a major question. A negative factor for California in general was the cost of living for faculty.
Nevertheless, all three locations were 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. At 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 (0.87 km2)) that he would gladly donate to the college. Upon looking at it after lunch, Weigle instantly fell in love with it. A committee of four faculty members (Robert Bart, Barbara Leonard, Douglas Allanbrook, and William Darkey) went to visit all four sites (the three in California, and Santa Fe) and, after much deliberation, also recommended Santa Fe.
Western mystery writer Tony Hillerman tells a slightly different story: The site selection committee, having originally expected to locate in Claremont, California, reluctantly accepted an invitation to inspect the site in Santa Fe. Hillerman spEAKS a tale of the committeemen:
made pale from the weak sun of the coastal climate and their scholarly profession, generally urban, generally Eastern, solidly W.A.S.P. They came from a world which was old Anglo-Saxon family, old books, Greek and Latin literacy, prep schools and Blue Point oysters and Ivy League; a world bounded on the north by Boston... and on the south by Virginia.
In 1961, the governing board of St. John's thus approved plans to establish a second college at Santa Fe, New Mexico. Groundbreaking occurred on April 22, 1963, and the first classes began in 1964. As it turned out, land was also donated to the college on the Monterey Peninsula in California shortly after this, on condition that a campus also be developed there by a certain date. It eventually became apparent that opening yet a third campus in close succession to the second would stretch the college's resources too far, however.
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 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, demands 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 through F) grades are given, 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 8:1. Seminar is the largest class, with around 20 students, but led by two tutors. Daytime tutorials are smaller, typically ranging between 12 to 16 students and are led by one tutor. Preceptorials are the smallest class size, ranging between 3 and 9 students.
The program involves:
- Four years of literature, philosophy, and political science in seminar
- Four years of mathematics
- Three years of laboratory science
- Four years of language (Ancient Greek, Middle/Early English, and French)
- Freshman year chorus followed by sophomore year music
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.
Nevertheless, the emphasis on source materials is strong; all seminar readings are from the book list, and music is studied from scores that are primary sources. The only elective courses are brief "preceptorials" offered in the winter of the junior and senior years. The options for these classes change each year, and often include courses on topics not covered in the Great Books program, including works by authors beyond the Great Books list, such as Gabriel García Márquez and Wallace Stevens.
No written tests are given, apart from occasional quizzes in language tutorials, an algebra test to be passed by the middle of sophomore year, and a music quiz to be passed by second semester of freshman year. Students are evaluated based on class participation and papers. In the seminar, an oral "examination" is also given each semester. The oral is a discussion with the tutor or tutors intended to show that the student has read and understood the material covered; it also allows the student to clarify aspects of the seminar essay and, it is hoped, to continue developing the essay's ideas. In-term written assignments for the tutorials consist of occasional short (usually fewer than 10 pages) papers. Longer papers are required for seminars. On the Santa Fe campus students must write a seminar paper every semester. The essay for the spring semester is a longer paper (although comparable in length to normal semester papers at other colleges), and is awarded a separate grade on the transcript. Students in Annapolis write a single longer (20–30 pages) essay at the end of each year. Papers for tutorials and seminars are not research papers, but instead emphasize a student's ability to address a significant question related to a work, idea or theory from that course.
The required papers are not comparable to typical research papers required at other colleges. Of particular importance is the sophomore annual essay, which plays a prominent role in the college's enabling process, i.e., the formal decision to allow a student to continue into the final two years. In their senior year, students must also write and defend a full-length thesis (Senior Essay), which is an extended critical piece on any topic from the four-year curriculum; as with all other papers throughout the program, the use of secondary texts is neither required nor even expected. Defense of this Senior Essay is open to the public, with the student engaging in discussion of his or her essay with a panel of three tutors.
While the school does not release grades to students (except upon direct request), there is an evaluation and feedback system. At the end of every semester at St. John's, each student comes together with his or her tutors to be evaluated on his or her academic performance. This exercise is called a Don Rag, a term which comes from Oxford, where professors ("dons") would "rag" on their students. Don Rags begin with each tutor discussing the present student's performance in the third person to the other tutors as if the student were not there. After this, the student is asked if he or she has anything to add, at which point the student may discuss his or her own performance in light of the tutors' comments, although he or she is not required to do so. In junior year, students have the option of choosing to participate in a "conference", in which the student takes up the responsibility of leading a self-evaluative discussion, rather than a Don Rag. In senior year students do not receive Don Rags.
At the end of the sophomore year, tutors give a higher level of scrutiny to the student in the Don Rag in process known as "enabling". The tutors formally ask themselves and each other whether the student should remain at the college in light of current performance. This question is largely independent of the student's grades, and is more subjective than other Don Rags. Any of the tutors present at the final Sophomore Don Rag may object to the student's remaining at St. John's. Any objection begins the process of an evaluation by the faculty disciplinary committee ("the Committee") as to whether the student should be allowed to remain at St. John's.
The Committee is closed to all but faculty—even to the student whose matriculation is in jeopardy. The Committee consists of a panel of Tutors and the administration who are appointed for the year to handle disciplinary matters. At the end of the year the Committee is convened to evaluate each student presented, hearing testimony from Tutors who have taught that student over the past two years. The Committee makes a decision either to "enable" the student, allowing him or her to continue into the junior year, or not to do so, ejecting him or her from the student body. Appeals are allowed to students who have not been enabled, and if the appeal is successful, the student in question is allowed to continue without interruption at St. John's. While specific numbers are not available, generally between 5% and 10% of the sophomore class are referred to the Committee, with some smaller portion not attaining enablement. These students are allowed to reapply to the school to continue into their junior year after a period of one year, but readmission is not guaranteed.
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. The 2013-2014 list is as follows:
- Homer: Iliad, Odyssey
- Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, The Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
- Sophocles: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes, Ajax
- Thucydides: Peloponnesian War
- Euripides: Hippolytus, The Bacchae
- Herodotus: Histories
- Aristophanes: Clouds
- Plato: Meno, Gorgias, Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedrus
- Aristotle: Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, On Generation and Corruption, Politics, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals
- Euclid: Elements
- Plutarch: "Lycurgus" and "Solon" from the Parallel Lives
- Antoine Lavoisier: Elements of Chemistry
- William Harvey: Motion of the Heart and Blood
- Essays by: Archimedes, Gabriel Fahrenheit, Amedeo Avogadro, Joseph Black, John Dalton, Stanislao Cannizzaro, Rudolf Virchow, Edme Mariotte, Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch, Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac, Hans Spemann, Guy Beckley Stearns, J. J. Thomson, Dmitri Mendeleev, Claude Louis Berthollet, Joseph Proust
- The Bible
- Aristotle: De Anima, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Categories
- Apollonius: Conics
- Virgil: Aeneid
- Plutarch: "Caesar", "Cato the Younger", "Antony", and "Brutus" from the Parallel Lives
- Epictetus: Discourses, Manual
- Tacitus: Annals
- Ptolemy: Almagest
- Plotinus: The Enneads
- Lucretius: On the Nature of Things
- Augustine of Hippo: Confessions
- Maimonides: Guide for the Perplexed
- Anselm of Canterbury: Proslogium
- Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
- Dante: Divine Comedy
- Geoffrey Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
- Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince, Discourses
- Johannes Kepler: Epitome IV
- François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel
- Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli
- Michel de Montaigne: Essays
- François Viète: Introduction to the Analytical Art
- Francis Bacon: Novum Organum
- William Shakespeare: Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Sonnets
- Poems by: Andrew Marvell, John Donne, and other 16th- and 17th-century poets
- René Descartes: Geometry, Discourse on Method
- Blaise Pascal: Generation of Conic Sections
- Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion, Inventions
- Joseph Haydn: Quartets
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Operas
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Third Symphony
- Franz Schubert: Songs
- Claudio Monteverdi: L'Orfeo
- Igor Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms
- Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
- Galileo Galilei: Two New Sciences
- Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
- René Descartes: Meditations, Rules for the Direction of the Mind
- John Milton: Paradise Lost
- François de La Rochefoucauld: Maximes
- Jean de La Fontaine: Fables
- Blaise Pascal: Pensées
- Christiaan Huygens: Treatise on Light, On the Movement of Bodies by Impact
- George Eliot: Middlemarch
- Baruch Spinoza: Theologico-Political Treatise
- John Locke: Second Treatise of Government
- Jean Racine: Phèdre
- Isaac Newton: Principia Mathematica
- Johannes Kepler: Epitome IV
- Gottfried Leibniz: Monadology, Discourse on Metaphysics, Essay on Dynamics, Philosophical Essays, Principles of Nature and Grace
- Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels
- David Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Social Contract, The Origin of Inequality
- Molière: Le Misanthrope
- Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations
- Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni
- Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
- Richard Dedekind: Essay on the Theory of Numbers
- The Declaration of Independence
- Articles of Confederation
- The Constitution of the United States of America
- The Federalist Papers
- Mark Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- William Wordsworth: The Two-Part Prelude of 1799
- Essays by: Thomas Young, Brook Taylor, Leonhard Euler, Daniel Bernoulli, Hans Christian Ørsted, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell
- Supreme Court opinions
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust
- Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit, "Logic" (from the Encyclopedia)
- Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky: Theory of Parallels
- Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
- Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches
- Søren Kierkegaard: Philosophical Fragments, Fear and Trembling
- Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde
- Karl Marx: Capital, Political and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology
- Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
- Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
- Herman Melville: Benito Cereno
- Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Flannery O'Connor: Selected Stories
- Sigmund Freud: Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
- Booker T. Washington: Selected Writings
- W. E. B. Du Bois: The Souls of Black Folk
- Edmund Husserl: Crisis of the European Sciences
- Martin Heidegger: Basic Writings, Being and Time
- Albert Einstein: Selected Papers
- Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness
- William Faulkner: Go Down Moses
- Gustave Flaubert: Un Coeur Simple
- Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway
- Poems by: W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Paul Valéry, Arthur Rimbaud
- Essays by: Michael Faraday, J. J. Thomson, Hermann Minkowski, Ernest Rutherford, Clinton Davisson, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr, James Clerk Maxwell, Louis-Victor de Broglie, Werner Heisenberg, Gregor Mendel, Theodor Boveri, Walter Sutton, Thomas Hunt Morgan, George Wells Beadle & Edward Lawrie Tatum, Gerald Jay Sussman, James D. Watson & Francis Crick, François Jacob & Jacques Monod, G. H. Hardy
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 (M.A.L.A) 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 (M.A.E.C.). 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.
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." St. John's has won 26 of the 33 annual matches. About the Johnnies' commitment to the event, one midshipman commented, "They're out practicing croquet every afternoon! Alabama should take football this seriously."
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. 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.
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.
Santa Fe campus
St. John's Santa Fe campus is located at the foot of Monte Sol, on the eastern edge of Santa Fe. 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, championed by then-college president Richard Weigle, which called for six campuses to be built across the country. St. John's abandoned the concept when it later sold a tract of land it owned in Monterey, California. The Santa Fe campus offers students a more secluded atmosphere than the Annapolis campus, with the vast Pecos Wilderness and Sangre de Cristo Mountains on its doorstep. The campus also boasts an expansive view of Santa Fe that extends to Los Alamos to the west.
The college maintains gear to facilitate student use of the outdoors, such as kayaks, rafts, hiking equipment, and sports equipment. In addition, the college partners with Atalaya Search and Rescue to offer students training in search and rescue.
Both campuses have a Ptolemy Stone, an astronomical instrument invented by the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy to measure the altitude of celestial bodies, in this case, the sun. The St. John's Ptolemy Stones are outdoor objects with a movable metal dial affixed (a prismical concrete column in Annapolis and a granite boulder in Santa Fe); this device was the precursor to the sextant. Freshman and sophomore math classes learn to use this stone to calculate the apparent movement of the sun along the ecliptic. The students' use of the Ptolemy Stones underscores the mathematics and laboratory programs' connection to the practical experimentation and hands-on experience of the natural world.
As of the 2005 class, 35 U.S. states are represented in Annapolis and 32 in Santa Fe; there are also several students from foreign countries. Approximately 65% of students receive financial aid. 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.
Ranking and reputation
In 1975, a St. John's graduate gave this description of how a St. John's degree was received by other institutions:
Bernard M. Davidoff, M. D., a graduate of St. John's in 1969 and of Columbia Medical School... said the medical schools to which he applied reacted to his unconventional preparation in two ways. "Those who had not heard of St. John's were not impressed. Those who knew of the college generally waived requirements." Like most St. John's alumni who enter medical school, he took an undergraduate course in organic chemistry at another college. Dr. Davidoff... cited only one difficulty in adapting to medical school. "I didn't have any interesting people to talk to," he recalled.
Motivational business speaker Zig Ziglar included a chapter entitled "St. John's: A College That Works" in a 1997 book. He said St. John's holds fast to the "medieval" notion that all knowledge is one and states that "the books they use are terribly hard." He notes that the school "ranks fifth nationally in the number of graduates earning doctorates in the humanities" and is impressed by the 81% of graduates entering education, engineering, law, medicine, and other professions. He concludes "Sounds like St. John's is onto something. Maybe more schools should take that approach."
According to a study published by the Higher Education Data Sharing Consortium, based on data from 1992 through 2001, St. John's ranked first nationally in percentage of graduates attaining doctorates in both Humanities and English literature. In addition, the college ranked among the top ten institutions in political science, linguistics, foreign languages, area and ethnic studies, and math and computer sciences.
St. John's runs counter to the usual emphasis on rankings and selectivity. As of 2005, St. John's college has chosen not to participate in any collegiate rankings surveys, and has not sent them their requested survey information. However, the school is still included in the U.S. News college ranking guide. President Christopher B. Nelson states that "In principle, St. John's is opposed to rankings." He notes:
Over the years, St. John's College has been ranked everywhere from third, second, and first tier, to one of the "Top 25" liberal arts colleges. Yet, the curious thing is: We haven't changed. Our mission and our methods have been virtually constant for almost 60 years. So when it comes to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, we would rather be ourselves and have our college speak for itself, than be subjected to fluctuating outside analysis.
An educational reporter wrote:
Unlike many top-flight liberal arts colleges, St. John's isn't all that hard to get into: The school accepts 75 to 80 percent of applicants, primarily based on three written essays and, to a certain extent, grades. There is no application fee, and standardized tests, like the Scholastic Assessment Test, are optional. About three-quarters of the enrolled students ranked in the top half of their high school class, but only one fifth graduated in the top tenth. School officials said that's because they're less concerned that the applicant show a body of accumulated knowledge than a true desire for attaining it.
Princeton Review's list of the twenty colleges with the "happiest students" includes both St. John's campuses, the Santa Fe campus ranking seventh and the Annapolis campus ranking seventeenth. In the 2005 edition of the Princeton Review Guide entitled "The Best 357 Colleges", St. John's College (Santa Fe) received the following rankings:
- No. 1 in the nation for "accessibility of teachers".
- No. 1 in the nation for "best class discussion".
- No. 4 in the nation for "best overall quality of life".
- No. 4 in the nation for "best overall academic experience".
- No. 6 in the nation for "best teachers".
- No. 6 in the nation for "best dorms".
St. John's College is listed in Loren Pope's Colleges That Change Lives. In 2009, Forbes ranked it 89th of America's Best Colleges. In 2011, Newsweek magazine rated the Santa Fe St. John's the "most rigorous" college or university in the U.S.
Notable people associated with St. John's
- Colonial Colleges: Details on St. John's antiquity vis-a-vis other old U.S. colleges
- Educational perennialism
- Saint Mary's College of California (Moraga), Integral Program
- "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2012 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2011 to FY 2012" (PDF). 2012 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers.
- 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, all of which are known as the St. John's College Books.
- 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). Retrieved October 2, 2014.
- "About St. John's College" (Press release). St. John's College. Retrieved December 20, 2012.
- Tilghman, Tench Francis (1984). The Early History of St. John's College in Annapolis. Annapolis: St. John's College Press.
- Council of Independent Colleges: Historical Architecture Project, URL accessed May 6, 2014
- Tilghman, Tench Francis (1984). The Early History of St. John's College in Annapolis. Annapolis: St. John's College Press.
- "Annapolis, past to present: Military life at St. John's" http://www.capitalgazette.com/news/local/annapolis-past-to-present-military-life-at-st-john-s/article_38a185cf-9d7f-54cb-a830-ec5265a08a13.html (Accessed April 26, 2013)
- "From Our Archive: The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps by Capt. Chester W. Nimitz, USN 1928" http://blog.usni.org/2009/03/21/from-our-archive-the-naval-reserve-officers-training-corps-by-by-captain-chester-w-nimitz-u-s-navy (Accessed April 26, 2013)
- Kathy Witkowsky (1999). "A Quiet Counterrevolution: St. John's College teaches the classics—and only the classics". highereducation.org: Educational Crosstalk. Retrieved 2006-09-14.
- Donald Asher (2007). Cool Colleges. Ten Speed Press. p. 123. ISBN 1-58008-839-2.
- 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.
- "St. John's and Navy Facing Fight In Courts Over College's Campus", June 29, 1945, p. 17.
- "Letter from Martin A. Dyer, Class of 1952, to St. John's Alumni", July 16, 2004 at the Wayback Machine (archived November 3, 2005), accessed July 26, 2007
- "Richard Weigle, 80, Served as President Of St. John's College" (Obituary), The New York Times, December 17, 1992, p. B22.
- "College Spawns College", Time Magazine, December 26, 1960, accessed April 28, 2007
- "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
- Tony Hillerman (2001), "The Committee and the Mule Deer" from The Great Taos Bank Robbery: And Other True Stories of the Southwest. Harper paperbacks; ISBN 0-06-093712-2;A9 online page images
- St. John's College Quick Facts Accessed June 18, 2009
- 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)
- Rite of spring: St. John's crushes Navy at croquet
- Top Stories – The Capital (2010-04-18); retrieved on 2011-06-05.
- CNN http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/1997/jockschools/best9.html. Missing or empty
- Mereness, Newton Dennison (1901). Maryland as a Proprietary Province. London: The MacMillan Company. pp. 350–53. ASIN B0006BT5K4.
- About McDowell Hall (Built 1742); accessed September 16, 2006.
-  (2007); retrieved on 2015-04-13.
-  (2001); retrieved on 2015-04-13.
- "Campus Life in Santa Fe: St. John's College Search and Rescue". Retrieved 2009-12-12.
- Annapolis Campus Tour (2012-02-07); retrieved on 2012-02-07.
- Undergraduate Student Profile, URL accessed 2006-02-12
- "Mixing Frogs and Aristotle," The New York Times, May 4, 1975
- Zig Ziglar (1997), Something To Smile About: Encouragement And Inspiration For Life's Ups And Downs, Nelson Books, ISBN 0-8407-9183-6 A9 online page images
- Reed College Phd Productivity. Web.reed.edu. Retrieved on 2011-06-05.
- Christopher B. Nelson, "Why you won't find St. John's College ranked in U.S. News and World Report", University Business: The Magazine for College and University Administrators.
- "America's Best Colleges". Forbes.com. August 5, 2009.
- "College Rankings 2011: Most Rigorous". Newsweek.com. August 28, 2011.
- Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again ISBN 978-0-520-26587-5 A former college president attended St. John's College and wrote a memoir about his experience reading Homer, rowing Crew, and examining the importance of a liberal arts education in today’s society.
- Where I learned to Read Salvatore Scibona, The New Yorker, 2011-06-13
- St. John's College official website
- Graduate Institute Tutorial and Seminar Reading Lists
- St. John's College on everything2