St. John’s College Celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Great Books Program

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St. John’s College is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its groundbreaking Great Books Program, known as the New Program, during its upcoming Homecoming Weekend.

St. John’s is the third oldest college in the United States, founded in 1696 as King William’s School in Annapolis, Maryland, but its unique Great Books Program is a relatively new addition in its storied history. Adopted in 1937, the revolutionary new curriculum was the first of its kind when the college’s Board of Visitors and Governors brought in Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan to begin a new chapter in the life of the college, and a new era in higher education in the United States.

With the leadership of Barr as president and Buchanan as dean, the St. John's Great Books Program received wide attention after its introduction in 1937 and grew beyond all expectations. Buchanan believed that the traditional liberal arts could be used as a formal structure for learning and devised a course of study with the great books as the basis for discussion classes that has made an impact on the ways and means of university education in this country that far outscales the size of this tiny community of scholars.

A key feature in his original curriculum was the interdisciplinary blending of subjects such as literature, science, mathematics, languages, and music. He proposed a college with a unified, all-required curriculum and no departments or majors, where discussion and encouragement of ideas leads to self-discovery. There are no departments at St. John's College since there are no compartments in the human mind.

The public is invited to a free panel discussion on the 75th Anniversary of the Great Books Program, which will be held during Homecoming Weekend on Saturday, September 15, 3:00 p.m. –5:00 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Peterson Student Center on the St. John’s Campus in Santa Fe. The panel will discuss what Barr and Buchanan hoped to set in motion with the formation of the New Program and examine if those aims have indeed been met 75 years later. There will be a question period following the panel discussion. St. John’s invites you to come and participate.

Panelists include: Mike Peters, St. John’s President; J. Walter Sterling (A93) current Dean; Victoria Mora, Vice President and former Dean,; David Levine (A67) current tutor and former Dean; George Bingham (SF68) member of the first graduating class of the Santa Fe campus and former BVG member; Sanjay Poovadan (SF83) former BVG member and Alumni Association Board member; Phelosha Collaros (SF00) President Elect of the Alumni Association Board.

About St. John’s College

St. John’s College is a co-educational, four year liberal arts college known for its distinctive great books curriculum. St. John's is a single college located on two campuses, one in Annapolis, Maryland, and another in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The campuses share an identical curriculum and a single governing board. The all-required course of study is based on the reading, study, and discussion of the most important books of the Western tradition. For more information, please visit

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