National Catholic Register, a leading news source for faithful Catholics, recently interviewed Magdalen College’s new president, Dr. Ryan Messmore. Since Dr. Messmore began his tenure as the college’s fifth president in July, his zeal for Magdalen’s intentional, Christ-centered approach to liberal education has rippled through the community. The full interview explores his background, highlights what drew him to Magdalen, and articulates his vision for leadership.
Dr. Messmore compares Magdalen to Rivendell, the fabled sanctuary of fellowship, music, and conversation from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Dr. Messmore explains, “Magdalen is a place where students immerse themselves in formative intellectual, spiritual and social fellowship in preparation for pursuing life and careers in an antagonistic culture.” Just as Tolkien’s fellowship tarries in the beautiful valley of Rivendell for counsel, wisdom, and camaraderie before its mission to Mordor, likewise students come to Magdalen’s pristine mountain campus to nourish the whole person – head, heart, and hands -in joyful anticipation of the life journey to which God calls each man and women.
A young person who ascends the mountain for the first time experiences the same deep learning, deep faith, deep beauty, and deep fellowship that drew Dr. Messmore to Magdalen when he first set foot on campus. He recalls, “During my initial visit…I witnessed faithful scholars like Anthony Esolen bring together literature, history, theology, poetry, philosophy, music and art into a single, unified course curriculum. I then went to daily Mass and had my spirit lifted heavenward by the beautiful voices of the Magdalen student choir — one of the true distinctives of the college. By the time I had a meal with the students — which Magdalen’s small size makes possible on a regular basis — I knew I wanted to be a part of this special community.”
Magdalen’s small, intimate setting is more than happenstance; it imitates Christ’s model for teaching as the paramount example of educating the whole person for freedom. Dr. Messmore reflects, “Jesus implemented an effective approach with his disciples: spend several years forming a small group of students in the context of a shared life and then send them out as witnesses to the truth in all corners of the world.” Both the annals of history and our Catholic Faith bear witness to the fruitfulness of this approach.
Young people encountering today’s culture benefit from Magdalen’s approach more than ever before. They testify how their education equips them to become leaders in society. “Our society desperately needs people who can discern propaganda from truth, stand up for what is right, articulate their convictions winsomely, and exercise responsible leadership in their families, churches and cities” observes Dr. Messmore. He continues, “A Magdalen College liberal arts education is well-suited for developing such habits.” To learn more about Dr. Messmore’s leadership and to help spread the word about Magdalen College, read the full interview in National Catholic Register and share it with friends.