Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts is pleased to announce the selection of its next president. Over the 2020-2021 academic year, a Search Committee has reviewed numerous applications from distinguished educators around the country. Its commission was to identify a leader that will work tirelessly and self-sacrificially in service to the college’s vision for a transformative education, while calling others to do the same. Magdalen has found such a leader.
At the unanimous recommendation of the Search Committee, the Board of Trustees has appointed Dr. Ryan Messmore as the fifth President of Magdalen College, beginning July 2021. For many years, Messmore has advanced liberal arts education in the Catholic tradition, and he has extensive experience implementing such an education as an academic leader.
Most recently, Messmore has served as Assistant Headmaster of Academic Affairs at St. David’s School in Raleigh, NC. There, he led a comprehensive curriculum review that brought about a new trimester system and a humanities program taught through Socratic-style seminars. Previously, Messmore served as President of Campion College in Australia. Because liberal arts education is less familiar in Australia than in the United States, Messmore played a pioneering role articulating its importance to the public. He went on to serve as Founder and Executive Director of the Millis Institute at Christian Heritage College.
Victor Prieto, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Messmore to Magdalen. He has demonstrated a deep understanding of what makes this college unique, and his extensive academic and administrative experience has prepared him to lead our beloved Magdalen into the future.”
Messmore holds a DPhil in Theology from the University of Oxford and an MPhil in Theology from the University of Cambridge. He also received an MTS from Duke Divinity School upon completing an AB in Public Policy and Religion from Duke University. When asked about his background, Messmore replied, “I have traveled from the United States to England to Australia and back in a single-minded quest to promote and practice the best educational traditions of our faith. This quest has led me to Magdalen, which is home to an inspirational faculty and passionate student body committed to the same goal. Together, with God’s grace, I believe we can accomplish something extraordinary.”
In addition to his academic background, Messmore has been a public advocate on issues related to religion, culture, and education. From 2006-2012, Messmore served as William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at the Heritage Foundation, and he frequently wrote for outlets such as First Things, National Affairs, and The Washington Times. While in Australia, he was an honored speaker at a multitude of education-related conferences. Most recently, Messmore published In Love: The Larger Story of Sex and Marriage, where he draws on personal experience and the Christian tradition to articulate the meaning and purpose of marriage.
Messmore expressed a deep enthusiasm for Magdalen’s mission, traditions, and impact: “When I recently visited Magdalen, I was moved by the profundity of the institution, its mission, and the members of its community. This is a place where the curriculum leads every student into a unified, ongoing conversation. It begins in the classroom, continues over meals, and persists late into the night in the dorms. The shared pursuit of truth has a transformative impact on young people, and it prepares them for a life of flourishing well beyond college. Now more than ever, today’s culture needs intentional communities that can shape tomorrow’s leaders to discern what is true and stand for what is right. I look forward to furthering the best traditions of Magdalen and leading it to new growth.”
Messmore succeeds former President Dr. George Harne, who served Magdalen from 2011-2020. According to Harne, “Dr. Messmore is well-suited to lead Magdalen at this stage of its growth. Almost fifty years ago, Peter Sampo and his co-founders asked: what can higher learning look like, when shaped in every dimension by the Catholic tradition? For more than twenty years, Dr. Messmore has worked to answer questions like this in his life and in his work. I look forward to seeing the fruit of his leadership at Magdalen.”
Since Harne’s departure in 2020, Interim President Eric Buck has led Magdalen through the challenges of the pandemic and a safe campus re-opening. Upon Messmore’s arrival in July, Buck will return to his faculty position with the deep gratitude of everyone at Magdalen for his service.
For all media inquiries and further information, please contact Interim President Eric Buck at [email protected].