“Pursuing the life of the mind is the most joyful thing there is and everything that comes with that should be joyful as well … The spirit of the whole place should be a celebration.”
— Peter V. Sampo, February 2020
Today, with great sadness, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts mourns the death of its founding president, Peter V. Sampo.
In 1973, Dr. Sampo founded Magdalen College with two of his students, Mr. John Meehan and Mr. Francis Boucher. This founding was born from the desire to renew Catholic liberal education, drawing on the teachings and example of Cardinal Newman, the models of the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and the charge given by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council for the laity to undertake their proper work in the world. Serving as the first president, Sampo laid the foundation for students to pursue a liberal learning that is both fitting for the free person and conducive to true freedom. Equally important was Sampo’s desire that liberal education serve to cultivate a virtuous citizenry, which the nation’s founders understood to be necessary for the success of the American experiment. This was encapsulated in the way that he began each class and each speech: “Good afternoon, my fellow Americans.”
After founding and building several other institutions over the decades, Sampo returned to Magdalen College in 2011 to serve as both a full-time professor and President Emeritus. At that time, with Dr. Mary Mumbach and their colleagues, they contributed to a renewal of the college’s curriculum and ethos that was consistent with its founding.
Speaking of Sampo’s legacy, Magdalen College president Dr. George Harne observed: “Peter Sampo was simply one of the greatest men I have ever known. As a teacher, founder, leader, and scholar he embodied the heroic virtues that should inspire us all. No personal sacrifice was ever too great for him to make in the service of Catholic liberal education, his students, and his colleagues. His love for his students animated every dimension of his life. He loved the life of learning and sought to share its joys with all his students. He decisively shaped liberal education for generations to come. I have a acquired a lifetime of wisdom from the nine years we worked together. I only wish we had had more time.”
Dr. Peter Sampo received his bachelor’s degree in political science at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. His master’s and Ph.D. were obtained at the University of Notre Dame. He taught at St. Anselm College, where he founded the Department of Political Science; St. Francis College, where he was academic dean; Cardinal Newman College; Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, which he co-founded with Dr. Mary Mumbach; and at Magdalen College. While at Magdalen, he designed a summer program for high school students that has served as a model for similar programs at other colleges.
Dr. Sampo also served his country as a member of US Navy for four years in the early 1950s, excelling and achieving First Class Petty Officer in three years.
As a scholar, Dr. Sampo published on St. Thomas More and Niccolò Machiavelli. His scholarly interests were religion and politics, international relations, political theory, and liberal education’s continuity and relevance. He was the recipient of many awards, including the Governor’s Council of New Hampshire Award, the New England Board of Higher Education Award, the Russel Kirk Paideia Prize presented by CiRCE, and the Notre Dame Exemplary Alumnus Award. He gave numerous speeches across the country on the topic of Catholic higher education.
In 2011, Dr. Sampo returned to Magdalen College where he taught full-time, founded the politics major, guided curricular developments—including the creation of the integrated Humanities sequence—and infused his love of learning throughout the college’s common life. During the last nine years he inspired students and colleagues alike. Just this spring semester, Dr. Sampo was active, teaching his courses online, advising senior theses and Junior Projects, serving on the Instruction Committee, and participating in discussions with the board of trustees as the President Emeritus.
In the fall of 2019, Dr. Sampo recorded a commencement address he had given the previous May, when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Magdalen College. In February of 2020, he recorded a conversation with president Harne concerning the renewal of Catholic liberal education. These recordings are available here. Dr. Sampo’s brief statement on paideia as the animating principle of collegiate life is also available on the college’s website.
The college’s chaplain, Fr. Roger Boucher, was able to administer last rites to Dr. Sampo and will be offering Masses for the repose of his soul. As soon as information about a public wake and funeral Mass becomes available, it will be announced here.
Students and friends are encouraged to share their remembrances of Dr. Sampo in the comments section below.
When we would write papers for him in our politics classes, Dr. Sampo would say “Alright, now write me a letter”. So here’s a brief letter to you Dr. Sampo.
Dear Dr. Sampo,
Simply put, I want to thank you for your humility and for your fidelity. You saw the desperate need for truth in the world and you responded in humility, giving your life to education. You were faithful to your call, and through this fidelity many many people have begun to learn to walk in the truth. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to learn from you the importance of not trying to correct ideology with another ideology. Only the Truth of Christ can save the world. So until next time, God bless, Dr. Sampo.
The floodgates of memory have opened and I know that for a little bit there will be a two-way access between this world and the next! I will take advantage and work hard on my Hamlet book and my talk for Magdalen in October that I wanted you to hear. Maybe now you can help me with it. Say hello to my Dad and know that the Kellys are forever grateful to you! What to say when it’s nearly 40 years? Ah! Your pithiness is what the world has lost; the way your phrases were always full of meaning and significant is something to which I will continue to aspire and carry forward in your absence from this earth that suddenly “seems to me a sterile promontory.” I will regain my mirth and we will celebrate your life! Xoxo Peter V.
Dear Dr. Sampo,
While I might have only known your final years, it makes not a difference. Your joy regarding life and your commitment to God and authentic Catholic education inspired me to study under your guidance. Even when life began to take its toll on you, you never stopped in your mission. Even getting your wheelchair for the first time was an exciting adventure, as you would yell “get out of the way! Here comes speedy!”
Throughout your life you saw first-hand much of what I would learn from you in politics class. Whether we were discussing Hitler and Stalin, or simply playing baseball, your knowledge and experience showed, providing an everlasting impact on those to whom you taught.
I only wish I had been able to express fully how much your guidance meant to me, as someone whose grandfathers have all passed long ago. Yet it seems as tho you knew, even without communicating words. Never would you have taken any credit for it, but your wisdom could see those who were in most need, and you were always ready to provide it with a smile and a sly remark.
You never ceased to be concerned for the next generation, always asking in politics class if there is hope. You were a dispenser of hope!
Thank you for everything!
Till we meet again
Forget Tom Brady. Dr. Peter Sampo is the GOAT. The Greatest of All Time. He left an indelible mark on my soul beginning in 1976. I last saw him in 2018 and was amazed at his still zest for life and learning. We are all the richer for having been his students. We are all the poorer now that he has gone to the loving hands of God.
Thank you – Dr. Sampo!!
Class of 1980
Dear Dr. Sampo.
Beyond your education achievements and in creating great sites of education, you have brought many youth to meet and eventually ending up in great marriages and families.
In addition, many close and life-long friends.
Your legacy is important and beatiful. RIP.
Dear Dr. Sampo
It is hard to admit that you cannot be with us forever…I have so many memories of you , your voice, your laughter , so unique. You were a real mentor, encouraging, listening, what an example of a true Liberal Arts teacher!
As the first Thomas More French student you were so welcoming, patient, reassuring. I am forever grateful to you and Dr Mumbach .
You were always in search of the Truth, you have found the source now, Rest In Peace and joy .
Rest in peace Dr Sampo. May the Lord Jesus whom you loved so much and to whom you dedicated your life so fully, receive you into his Kingdom. I’ve so many wonderful memories of your goodness to me and to others. I will offer Mass for the repose of your soul and the consolation of your dear family. May God give you the gift of being able to say eternally, “Good morning, my fellow Saints!”- A grateful student, Fr Jeremy Paulin OMV
“No name but written in green ink” everyone chuckled as I sheepishly stood up to collect my paper from Dr. Sampo, little did I know it would my last graded quiz from him. But at that same class he shared the totality of his wisdom in these words: “I am convinced that the road to human happiness lies in continual learning. Never stop learning and never lose that sense of wonder and curiosity.” I knew him less than a year, less than two semesters, but his wisdom and charity had already affected me greatly. Through his work I have arrived at a wellspring of knowledge, joy and hope. His descriptions of the Earthly and Heavenly Cities has led me to ponder the profound nature of these two worlds and their laws. I will miss him terribly and I am saddened that I will not be able to learn from him over these four years, but I praise God for letting me know him even in so short a time.
Thank you Dr. Sampo for this gift, find peace within the Heavenly City.
He told me it’s frustrating to be a teacher because one never knows the good that comes from it. Now he will.
Sincerely, Dr. Sampo was a great man, and many are forever grateful for his work and influence. My mother said of Dr. Sampo with what little she knows of him, “There are very few men like him left today,” speaking of his love and dedication for the youth and higher education. May his example continue to inspire souls to do likewise. His death is a significant loss for us, yet his life overflowed with blessings for his students and our country, in which hearts rejoice. I pray and trust in God’s mercy that he is a great gain in the Church Triumphant. Requiescat in pace.
There are very few words to describe what Dr Sampo meant to me and my family. One would be personal- he cared for every one of his students in a deeply personal manner. Another would be joyful- the big laugh as he tipped his head back over something whimsical. Another would be sacrificial – he gave his life to us. 8 Kellys graduated from Thomas More under his tutelage and guidance. I can still hear his voice as he called out to me “Robert”, the only person to have ever addressed me by my formal name. He changed my life. I will miss him and I will regret the many students to come who are not blessed to have been under his deeply loving wisdom. And to Dr Mumbach, my heart breaks for you. Rest in your well deserved peace Peter V.
Really an extraordinary man of genuine and heroic virtues. Not a day goes by that I do not contemplate his many insights and the wealth of his mind. I grow more grateful every year for the gift he made to the world and to my life.
I am deeply saddened by this loss. May perpetual light shine on you Dr. Sampo.
I am forever grateful for the many lessons, laughs, and joy Dr. Sampo inspired in all of his students. His patience and love for honest discussion invited us to explore the fountains of truth with both curiosity and excitement. The standard of virtue he lived is nothing short of exemplary. I had the life-changing experience of having Dr. Sampo as my Humanities teacher, and he never tired of clarifying a certain concept or emphasizing the significance of an author’s philosophy on the world. His dedication to learning was beyond admirable. I will always remember the degree to which Dr. Sampo valued his Faith and sacrificed for others while remaining devoted to his core beliefs and trustful of God’s goodness.
Thank you Dr. Sampo with all my heart. You are greatly missed and loved.
God Bless You,
your fellow American.
I remember Dr. Sampo as ever patient, ever kindly, a solid and eloquent teacher, a peaceful anchor in the communal life of Thomas More College. His laugh was a joy to hear. I wish my children could have known him. To have known him and been his student was a great gift. To paraphrase St. Thomas More, farewell, our dear Dr. Sampo, and pray for us, as we shall for you, that we may merrily meet in heaven.
First as a summer student, then as an underclassman, I was always looking forward to the time when I would be able to take classes under Dr. Sampo. I am so grateful to have had even just one year with him in his classes. Everyone at the school looked up to Dr. Sampo; Magdalen won’t be the same without him.
Requiem aeternam, dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiscat in pace. Amen.
For the short time I knew him, there are hundreds if not thousands of lessons that Dr. Sampo imparted to me. The times that I spent in his classes with a hope to gain even a fraction of what lay in his mind were spent wisely. I am glad to have been his student, even with the times when I dreaded going to class since I forgot the reading. If there was any regret I had, it is that I didn’t spend more time in his classes as to get every nugget of wisdom I could from such a learned man. He will always live on in our hearts, our thoughts, prayers, and in our notes, because we sure needed them for his class.
Before my confirmation in the Church, I was always attracted to those educational institutions that trod the margins and welcomed the unusual student. A faithful Catholic student, sad to say, is marginal today, but Peter Sampo saw in them something redemptive for American higher education. Being an inveterate starter-of-schools, Peter listened patiently to my own ideas for starting something, encouraged my proceeding without worrying about impediments, though I knew him only for two years. This told me of his own attitude as founder: brave, daring, positive, and always, always, pedagogical. On campus he asked more than once about my scholarly work, seeing maybe where I fit in as a teacher. It was always such a joy to witness in class or in the hallway or grad school workshops the love his students had for him, and the bold sapiential friendship he exercised toward them. They were sometimes in awe of him, but only because we reverence founders, and their founder was still with them. Now we say goodbye, Dr. Sampo, we envy the passage you make to rest and glory and to the company of the saints. We pray for you, Peter Sampo, pray for us.
What a gift and mentor Dr Sampo was for me!! He was one of the first person to help me discover the talents God had given me by pointing them out to me! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your life and giving, Dr Sampo. Prayers for him and for Dr Mumbach.
I always enjoyed our conversations and was delighted to see that even after such a long and impressive academic career, Peter was still open to new ways of looking at great texts and ideas. I recall his reacting this way to conversations we had about Descartes, Foucault, and maybe Levinas. He set a great example for all of us in this way. Most of all though, I appreciate his approach to liberal education. Peter valued freedom. I’m honored to be able to say he was my colleague.
RIP, PVC. I am grateful I had the opportunity to take his outstanding course on Modern Ideologies. It is an experience that becomes more valuable every year of the past 25 since I was his student. His teaching style was both clear eyed and gentle. His leadership in a seminar environment created a great space for friendship and conversation. He must have been a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grandfather. I pray his family finds peace that he died during this awful time despite not being able to gather at his side. His zest for foundings and new beginnings made him such a truly American, fellow American.
My deepest condolences to Dr. Mumbach and the rest of Dr. Sampo’s family and extended family of students, teachers and friends whose lives he touched and enriched over the years. Santo subito!
Dr. Peter Sampo’s lifelong dedication to the liberal arts is an incalculably great legacy that will live forever in the minds and hearts of all who were blessed to know him. Magnus! Magnus! My heart goes out to Dr. Mary Mumbach in deepest prayerful sympathy.
I remember the challenge Dr. Sampo would give me each time he spoke, be it in class, at an event, or during a communal cup of coffee in the cafeteria: “tell me Arthur, what has Athens to do with Rome?” As an incoming freshman, I had no idea what he meant, but I wanted to find out. Little did I know that I’d never fully understand, but would spend a lifetime trying. I’ve begun asking my children the same question. I’ve many memories with Dr. Sampo, such as walking through Rome with him, hearing his bellowing laugh after lectures, and enjoying a fine cigar with him when I’d return for alumni week. I only wish that after graduation I could have re-enrolled for another four years because I’m convinced I first needed to have the education I got from him to fully appreciate all that he was trying to teach me the first time around. If Keats’ inscription is “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water,” Dr. Sampo’s is “Here lies One Whose Name was writ on the Hearts of his Students.” Much peace, Dr. Sampo!
TLC Class of 1991
My fondest memory of Dr. Sampo was when he would be rolled into the Auditorium by Dr. Mumbach and he would always ask us bright eyed and bushy-tailed underclassmen “Good Afternoon, my fellow Americans, how are you doing on this fine day?” and we would answer “Bright and eager!” Despite not having Dr. Sampo as a teacher for very long, I still experienced a man who loved Dr. Mumbach, loved what he taught, and most importantly loved his students. Thank you Dr. Sampo. May God grant you peaceful rest. Requiescat in pace.
Heartbreaking. All I can say is that I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of his life’s work. Requiescat in pace.
When I heard the sad news last night, I said to my wife, “Peter is irreplaceable.” The more I learn about him and his life, the more I think that nobody else could have done what he did. I am grateful that I got to know him this year and to learn from him by attending his classes. When he said, “Good morning, my fellow Americans,” he meant it. He was proud of the country he served, but that never meant that he excused our failings. He really did believe in the promise of America, and he seemed always confident that if you sought out the truth with any diligence and openness of heart, you were going to find a good deal of it. You weren’t going to be in the dark. Dr. Sampo wasn’t in the dark. He was always smiling, calmly cheerful, even from the wheelchair, and he delighted in his students, and had the patience to call upon them by name and wait for their answers. God bless you, Peter, and thank you for your kindness, your wisdom, and your witness to the goodness of God.
A beautiful man and a life well lived. He was kind, generous and always thoughtful of others. I’m reminded of him often and always with a smile. Thank you Dr. Sampo, for all of it. The Kelly’s will hold you in our hearts and minds always
I was so blessed to have had the opportunity to have Dr. Sampo teaching for my first two years at Magdalen. I remember the first time I saw Dr. Sampo in the classroom: I was a highschool senior who was visiting Magdalen for a day and sitting in on some classes. The last class I sat in on that day was a junior humanities taught by Dr. Sampo on Renee Descartes’ “Meditations”. After having everyone in class write an essay on the question “Does Descartes’ idea of man as a thinking thing reduce man?”, and then argue for their side, he then asked them to switch roles and defend the opposite position than that they had just defended! As a prospective student, I was highly impressed by and immensely enjoyed this class. In my first two years as a student, I have many fond memories of class discussions under his tutelage, including some of my favorite classes, such as Polybius, Saint Augustine, and political thinkers such as Alfarabi, Fortescue, and Ockham. Dr. Sampo was so knowledgeable and wise, yet his style in class was always very engaging, humble, and clear; he truly had the heart of a teacher, and showed a real interest in hearing what his students had to say. I fondly remember scrambling to hold the door open for Dr. Sampo when Dr. Mumbach wheeled him into the Multi, as well as hearing his greeting of “Good afternoon, my fellow Americans!” or his admonition in class, “Speak up!” Thank you for everything, Dr. Sampo! We will all miss you. You, as well as Dr. Mumbach and all your family and friends, are in my prayers.
I first met Dr. Sampo in 1964 as a high school junior. That year he offered a free seminar to area high school students showing promise and interest in the subjects of history and government. I was so captivated and energized by his use of the Socratic method of teaching that I applied to St.Anselm College with the hope of studying political science. It proved to be an adventure in learning and growing as a student and as an individual. Although my academic pursuits took a different path in graduate studies and career, the foundation in writing and critical thinking he provided, gave me the ability needed to pursue higher education.
The first member of the faculty who approached me at the 2011 faculty-parent wine and cheese activity at Magdalen College was Dr. Sampo. His humility and gentle kindness was profound. What a blessing he was to all. My heart and prayers are with you, Dr. Mumbach. Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him…
It has been a joy for me to work alongside and indeed to learn from Dr. Sampo over the past year. For a man of his accomplishments and wisdom, he manifested extraordinary humility toward all of his colleagues as well as toward his students. This humility was born of a genuine desire to enter into conversation with and come to know those with whom he had been entrusted, as his love of truth was expressed in his generous presence to each member of his community. Having had the pleasure of attending a number of his lectures this year, I was frequently impressed by how affably he shared even difficult ideas with his students, and with how invitingly he drew us into a searching dialogue on the things that matter most. Beyond the subject-matter itself, I believe his teaching was so compelling because the whole of his character gave evidence of the fulfillment that comes with long acquaintance with truth and with long companionship of fellow seekers. It seems to me that Dr. Sampo’s habits of personal presence offer a profound example both of the heart of Catholic education, which he spent so much of his life promoting and serving, and of the kind of communal life that can help to heal the culture whose brokenness he recognized and lamented. We thank you for your witness, Dr. Sampo, as we commend you in hope to your enjoyment of the eternal “banquet of the mind.” – Your student
I have many fond memories of Dr. Sampo, and I always looked forward to my classes with him, and the discussions we would have. One thing which particularly stands out for me is the way we would begin class every day. Dr. Sampo would always say “Good afternoon, my fellow Americans!” and we would say “Good afternoon, Dr. Sampo!” He would then ask “How are you today?” and we would all respond “Bright and eager!” I remember thinking, every time, that I truly did feel bright and eager to have the opportunity to learn from him.
The school will not be the same without Dr. Sampo’s wisdom both in and out of class. I wish I could have had more time to learn from him, but I am very grateful for the time I did have. Rest in peace, Dr. Sampo. You will be greatly missed.
So sad to hear of Dr. Sampo’s passing. He and Dr. Mumbach will be in our prayers. My memories of Thomas More have come flooding back and it is filled with joy and a remembrance of that true love for learning that was instilled in us thanks to Dr. Sampo and all that he helped to create. He not only influenced me but what and how I teach my own children. I am forever grateful.
Many prayers for Dr. Mumbach and his family during this difficult time. May he rest in peace.
I was always so impressed by Dr. Sampo’s dedication to learning and teaching, and his willingness to listen to the students in class and out of class. I’m sure I am only one of the many who can attest to his humor, humility, wisdom and unflagging desire to teach, even during the worst snowstorms. My favorite memory of him, though, was outside the classroom. When Dr. Mumbach would wheel Dr. Sampo to class, he would playfully urge her to trample the students milling in the hallway. (She never did.) Dr. Sampo, thank you for your life, and you will be greatly missed!
Pope Francis said in Christus Vivit #23: “You have to see your life as a mission.” Dr. Sampo did just that, taking on the mission of leading his students to Christ and into the light of truth. He did it in the chapel, in the classroom, on tours in Rome and Florence, in the dining room, and even in his home, where he would invite his students on occasion. He took on the task of preparing future leaders in the Church, academia, and of families to make a difference in this world. He touched his pupils and those around him so that they might be saints and leave their mark in this world, just as he did.
I first met Dr. Sampo in 1983 when I was enrolled in the Thomas More Institute summer program for high school students. That experience led me to pursue an education at Thomas More the following year and instilled in me a love of learning that has never left. I have so many memories of Dr. Sampo from my time at Thomas More, too many to list but all joyful. He gave me and all of his students over the years so much that has shaped us all for the better. Rest in joy, Dr. Sampo. My deepest condolences to his family and to Dr. Mumbach.
A wonderful man and teacher, that will always be remembered for his lifelong commitment and incalculable contributions to the recent history of Catholic education.
“Requiem aetérnam dóna éis,
Et lux perpétua lúceat éis.”
In this hemisphere, the North Star is always in the same place, though the apparent positions of all the other lights, great and small, keep changing. Even when a brighter light temporarily masks its brilliance, or when weather obscures its presence, the North Star is there; we know it, and it helps us maintain our own sense of place and direction.
In just this way the intellectual, personal, and spiritual presence of Peter Sampo has kept us on track. And so he will continue.
[…] Dr. Peter Sampo has died. He was already white-haired when we met him in the 1980’s, when he had recently founded a new little Catholic liberal arts college in the woods in New Hampshire. It was one of four colleges he founded. Most often, you would see him smiling a broad, genial smile, or gravely, intently listening from under his heroic eyebrows; or else he was throwing his head back and laughing his characteristic Dr. Sampo laugh: HAH-hah-hahhhhh. He loved to sit in the cafeteria, lingering with his teachers and his students, talking and listening after meals until he would stand up, push back his chair, and say, “Well, time to get back to work.” […]
Memories of Dr. Sampo: I met him when my sister Jane first discovered Magdalen. The culture was in crisis then and my sister was set on going to a secular college. On the advice of Father Riley, then chaplain, she took the summer program at Magdalen. She came away hooked. Dr. Sampo stayed at our house when I was in high school. I believe he was recruiting for his new school, TMI. I nearly killed him, as I used to twirl my color-guard banner in the living room and he nearly walked into it unawares. I also recall sitting in his living room while he explained to my parents that the school was doing well; there were ten students. Years later when I was a student at TMI, my mother told me that Dr. Sampo was a hero. “They all are.” That was the first time I realized how much courage it took for him and Dr. Mumbach to “launch out into the deep.” Personally, Dr. Sampo’s spirit was a blessing to me. He was a kind of father, cheerful, proud of the work I did, even protective. I credit him with ending my dumb teenage girl phase before it could do any lasting damage. He left his signature on my intellect, my will, and my heart. All of his students know exactly what I mean. We came away with a passion for learning and the ability and the bravery. If we can imitate his generosity, then those “few” students of his will have born much fruit. Well done, good and faithful servant.
I never truly understood the impact that Dr. Sampo had on my life when I graduated.. At the time, I did not think about the experiences I had, and the appreciation I should have had for the lessons learned. I was all too ready to move on with the next stage of my life. I recall Dr. Sampo always saying that the impact of a Liberal Arts won’t be felt today, but 30 years from now. Now looking back almost 30 years since I graduated, I am forever grateful for being taught by such a great teacher, mentor and solid human being. There are not many men like Dr. Sampo left in today’s world – he will be truly missed. We will keep his family and Dr. Mumbach in our prayers.
Greatness of soul. I’m not one for personal heroes. Except for Dr. Sampo. He has been, and will be, the one I measure my life against. Today I’m so very grateful for him, and the world is a little darker. I’m especially sad for Mary Mumbach. And next, my niece Nora (who thankfully had him for the summer program) who will attend Magdalen in the fall and was eager for more of him. And the other students who won’t have him. I’m sure he would say that the heroes’ absence just raises the stakes for those left behind, to rise to the occasion! I’ll try. But first, prayers for all who loved and admired him. And for his great soul.
I believe Dr. Esolen said it best. “Peter is irreplaceable.” This man has been an ultimate blessing for our entire community. I, like many others, have countless, fond memories of Dr. Sampo. His cheery introits to every class, and his perpetual joy, radiating the Love of God. My friends, colleagues, and tutors, let us never forget the joy and love Doctor Sampo has instilled in the teachings and portayals of his wisdom.
We all love and miss you Doctor Sampo. Help us have strength as we rejoice in your unity with our Holy Father. Dr. Mumbach, you are also in our prayers indefinitely. I would like to speak on behalf of many others in extending the same love and gratitude to you Dr. Mumbach. Thank you. We love you.
Dr. Sampo, Requiescat in Pace.
I remember on orientation Dr. Sampo said about college, “When in life can you just read and learn, enjoy this time in life and learn.” As the only Political Science major in my class, Dr. Sampo took me under his wing, and I will always be grateful. We will be praying for him, Dr. Mumbach and his family.
One morning, crossing paths with him at the coffee station in ”the caff,” he greeted me with his usual joviality: “Well, Jessicar, has Kansas blown away yet?”
I was only a freshman and sort of taken aback that he knew where I was from. He must have read my bemusement, because the next thing he said—quite out of the blue—was, “The day I can set my eyes on any given student here and not know her name and where she’s from, that’s the day we will know for sure this school has gotten too big.”
A couple of years later, taking his amazing “Modern Ideologies” course, I remember wishing there were such a thing as a pocket-sized Sampo that I could carry around for the rest of my life to confer with as needed. He had a stunning gift for distilling complex truths into simple terms, yet without missing their complexities. May his spirit and his influence live on in the hearts, minds, and works of his many, many students. The world will be a far brighter place for it.
To learn with Peter Sampo was an adventure. Of culture, and of faith. Of ideas, and of ideology (the thwarting of it anyway). Of great minds and of love: a love for truth and for the civitas Dei. In 1984 and 1985, we might find ourselves in Merrimack, Manchester, Quebec City, or Trastevere. It’s not an accident I recall cities, for the polis and civic life and community were always important to him. We happy few (50 in those days) lived in pursuit of a wisdom earned by the rigor of reason, in the fecundity of the imagination and on one’s knees. Who studies in such a way? We did – thanks to Dr. Sampo. I remain deeply grateful to him for his vision for learning and his love for youth and for America. These things remain with me today. And the joyful episodes of daily life: on a Saturday morning, Dr. Sampo would arrive in the cafeteria for breakfast just to spend time with his students and to engage them in conversation. He would always ask for a “rasher of bacon,” then smile. He usually just had the coffee, but isn’t it delightful to say “rasher of bacon?” What a beautiful man of faith and of learning. Thank you Dr. Sampo. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
I was a bit of a fllaky, beachgoing Florida girl in 1985 – raised well in my faith, taking big classes in high school – French, Latin, Poli Sci, British and American Lit – it all seemed important but somewhat disparate – I had been accepted to other colleges, and could not make up my mind, but when I last minute read the catalogue for Thomas More College , which my brother in law presented to me, I glommed onto “an education which teaches one one to live in the world but no of the world”. And I said “this is it” (and it was so late that Dr. Sampo had to call me in person to tell me I was accepted!). Dr. Sampo’s famous question – “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” – changed my life! And I received an amazing education which brought it all together! Not a big talker in class, Dr. Sampo brought me out of my shell (I actually remember one time, saying to him – why are you picking on me?::-). And he just laughed, in his ever dear, congenial way. His amazing legacy will endure – just last week I was chatting with my ever thinking 16 year old niece about much and told her of this amazing tie to (always) and current goings on “What has Athens to do with Jerusalam?”. What an amazing, good man with whose presence and influence on our lives we have all been so blessed! Requiascat in pace, dearest Dr. Sampo and continued prayers for Dr. Mumbach and family.
Very grateful for his vision and life long work dedicated to liberal arts education. RIP, Dr. Sampo. Suzanne Gallagher O’Neal (Magdalen 1976-1979).
Dr. Sampo not only loved and touched the lives of so many of us, his students, but he also infused our lives with such tremendous meaning. Many of us graduated with a spouse to really ensure our education was complete. Sampo presented such a compelling portrait of “paideia” to me that it will remain one of the most meaningful words I can reencounter throughout my life. He stood behind his well-formed convictions even when it required great personal sacrifice–the ultimate kind of integrity. I am convinced few people will exert such a positive influence in my life. I am even more convinced I will never meet a better teacher.
It has been many years since I had the great privilege of sitting in a classroom with Dr. Sampo as my teacher. I remember being his student very clearly. He knew me by name. He called me “Lisser”. He knew where I was from. The President of my College cared about my marks and how I was getting along so far from home. As soon as I heard the news that he had been admitted to the hospital, I had a similar experience as Kathleen. The floodgates of memories opened up. I have been laughing and crying all at once as I remember that great man, Peter V.Sampo. I have tried to describe to my children all that I admired in Dr. Sampo. As I learn more about him now, I feel that my heart might burst with admiration and gratitude. I am so very blessed to have been the student of such a great man! We are here, left behind, and our hearts are breaking now that he is gone. They are all in that heavenly place so full of light, rejoicing and crying out, “Look, here he comes!” I hope and pray that I will see you again one day, beloved Dr. Sampo. Please pray for me! I can only be grateful for the gift of your life, laughter, and heroic dedication to your students. I send all my love to your dear family and devoted Dr. Mumbach.
Dr. Sampo was one of the best humans I have ever known. He was like the dad of the entire campus at TMC…no matter a student’s background, Dr. Sampo believed in their ability to be a great thinker. I remember his challenge in essay test instructions to “be profound,” his delightfully dorky jokes about pets named Anathema and Spot, his lighthearted attitude and his laughter, his constant kindness and encouragement, and his ability to bring history to life through his storytelling skills. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from him.
Dr Sampo has a place in my heart for the mentoring role he played for me despite my lack of awareness of the fact. In those years I prided myself on my efforts to challenge Dr Sampo’s vision, sometimes finding myself at odds with what i viewed as american optimism. Today we can see with the hindsigh these darkening possibly apolalyptic times provide, that the groundwork the good Doctor laid in founding numerous catholic istitutions of higher learning, was rooted in an indefatigable spirit. A spirit imbued with faith both in the supernatural as well as the natural. The “happy few” young people he intruduced to the liberal arts will need to take up the cause for civilization as he evidently did to the very end of his days in this life. Just as the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church (Confusing though our identiy a catholics appears today), similarly, the Anti-Culture of modenism and postmodernism that engulfs us from all sides will not prevail. So long as love of truth and of wisdom remain in the hearts and minds of those who will pass on the fire of hope. Let us honor Dr Sampo by carrying on the work he helped enkindle in our hearts and minds. May you Rest in Peace, Dr! Condolences to all who hold him dear especially Dr Mumbach.
[…] RIP, Peter V. Sampo, Ph.D., Founder of Magdalen College – Anthony M. Esolen, […]
The one and only Peter V. Sampo–founder of Thomas More College and Magdalen College. As a student working in the white house at TMC, I learned that he signed every single Christmas card the college sent out, personally. Well…almost every single one. There were hundreds and it took him many hours over several days and even his hand got tired. So Miss Bonifield started asking some of us to practice forging his signature to see if we could be any good at it. And for this reason I can still remember and forge his signature over 25 years later. In the end Miss Bonifield was the best forger. But I like to think a couple of my forgeries snuck out there and helped a little.
Although Founder and President of two colleges, (one of which to his seeming chagrin was recognized by Time Magazine as the smallest of the great microcolleges “tiny Thomas More”) Dr. Sampo never made his greatness felt. He always commanded respect, but was ever approachable, particularly to his students– eating, commenting and laughing with them on their level. It took 4 years just to gather an inkling of what he would explain in his classes. When he had to leave an institution, he took the spark of the greatness that inspired his founding with him. A true founding father and first in the hearts of his students, now that he has moved on to his reward may the flames he tended continue to reignite the field of Catholic liberal arts education.
Dr. Sampo is not merely one of the best teachers I have had had; he was the founder of my alma mater. The debt I owe him is beyond reckoning. I offer my condolences to all his friends and family, to the Magdalen community, and especially to Dr. Mumbach.
I remember speaking once with Dr. Sampo about summer jobs as a college student. My work on a garbage truck reminded him of how, as a student, he used to work in construction between semesters. He enjoyed the work enough, but he would quickly long, he said, to be back to his books, back to the classroom, and back to the life of the mind. I knew what he meant then and, having grown older and busier, know it even more deeply now.
From Dr. Sampo I learned that those hours, days, and years in the library, at the desk, and especially in the classroom are such a blessing. And, perhaps most importantly, I leaned that they require sacrifice (as all truly worthwhile things do). Real sacrifice, but always joyfully rendered.
And it is, at last, Dr. Sampo’s joy that I remember most. Joy in my late nights of studying. Joy in fretful wrestling with a hard idea. Joy in the stale coffee I drank while editing a paper. Joy in grappling with Marx and Freud. Joy in the wonderful friendships that formed around our common pursuit of truth.
Vivat membrum quodlibet,
Vivat membra quaelibet;
Semper sint in flore!
Dr. Sampo profoundly changed my life. Dr. Sampo, Dr. Mumbuch, Mr. Shea and Arbery’s marked the beginning of my life as a Catholic. I am sure that Dr. Sampo is solely responsible for the salvation of many souls. I only hope to join him one day.
I will never forget Dr. Sampo persevering through a lecture while the cook threw pans around the kitchen. I think Nick had been taking things from the fridge! Dr. Sampo always knew how to calm a person down and get them on track! Thank you, Dr. Sampo.
Dr. Sampo changed the course of my life; everything I value about myself today I owe to my education. No thanks are enough for this great man’s work. I am grateful to have been part of it.
After graduating from Thomas More College and receiving my Masters Degree from the University of Dallas, I thought I would follow Dr. Sampo’s advice to students seeking to go to law school: only go to law school if you love the law. I thought to myself THAT was something to aspire to, the noble life of lawyering. Of course, I couldn’t even finish my first year. The difference between the ideal and the real is painful, and after learning that I was ready to float away in to the ether between the stars. However, out of nowhere, Dr. Sampo called me and asked me to work as an admissions representative at Thomas More College. As sailor he knew where the moorings are and when to anchor. I thought to myself that I might actually lose TMC students, but when Dr. Sampo asks something of you, you do it. You do it with the joy of knowing that although you are not up to the task you are welcomed into adding one tiny thread to the counterpane.
Dr. Sampo, pilgrim, sailor, professor, president, even now I need a call from you. Where will listless men go without the right captain? I cannot wait to follow your little boat into the stars.
One of my great regrets is not having come to know Dr. Peter Sampo better than I did when working alongside him for two years at Northeast Catholic College. I only came to realize something of his character towards the very end of my stay as Assistant Dean of Students and as a tutor at the College, and yet I attribute my slow recognition to something of his own spirit — an unassuming greatness of soul, marked by quiet fidelity. Had I been a student of his, I am confident that this greatness would have been manifest to me immediately, to which the multitude of testimonies of his students bears witness.
His exercise of the gift of teaching and his vision for the renewal of Catholic liberal education faithfully reflected Jesus Christ, the Teacher, especially manifested in his ability to inspire even the most unlikely students to a love of learning. As a participant in the work of Redemption, he bore witness for us to the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in Our Lord: “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” I pray to be given something of his own spirit as I seek to live the life of a Catholic educator.
Not long after Dr. Sampo became ill, I had to leave the College to continue with my studies in Belgium, without having had the opportunity to take him up on his offer to have dinner with him and Dr. Mumbach. As regretful as this is, I have good hope that we will make it good on the other side of eternity at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
My deepest condolences, Dr. Mumbach. Requiescat in pace.
The three most important things Dr. Sampo taught me are 1) that the Incarnation was the greatest event in human history and should be recalled with gratitude every day of our lives, 2) that my vocation during my college years was “to be a student,” and 3) that man’s capacity for wonder is worth striving to maintain, expand, and open for others.
I am especially grateful for the Saturday afternoon in the first semester of my freshman year when I was convinced I would be unable to write my paper on Augustine’s concept of time: I noticed that Dr. Sampo’s car was in the parking lot, so I worked up the courage to knock on the White House door. He answered, let me in, listened to my quandary, and talked me through to an opening to understanding.
May he rest in peace.
Dr. Sampo’s life was such a blessing to the world. He brought a message of hope, happiness, and courage to all who knew him, as is evident in his cheerful greeting “Good Morning, my fellow Americans! How is everybody today?” And my class would respond, “Not tired!” Then during class he would always close a disheartening matter with a hopeful, encouraging comment on how we can make things better and say something like, “We gotta have hope!” He loved America and truly stood for truth and justice. What a patriot.
Some of the fondest memories I have of him are our brief good morning chats as I was walking into class – as he was getting out of his car, with the help of his loving wife Dr. Mumbach, he would smile and say “Good morning, Christin! How are you today?” and also, when we were in class, the many times he would call on me and say “Christin…what do you think?” and then smile or laugh, no matter what I had to say, because he found so much joy in the classroom discussions. You could tell he truly loved life, teaching, and all of his students abundantly, evident by the very fact that even in the worst snow storms he would find some way to get up the mountain to teach class. Nothing stopped him. He was determined and kept going until the very end. His endurance, patriotism, and countless virtues were so inspiring to me and undoubtedly to everyone who had the privilege to know him. Dr. Sampo has surely left a lasting mark on all of our hearts and his life is a beautiful example of someone who lived wholeheartedly for others and ultimately for God.
Rest in peace, Dr. Sampo.
Sending love and prayers to you, Dr. Mumbach and family.
To children and grandchildren, to Dr. Mary (Mumbach) Sampo, me sincerest condolences, my prayers. In your name Dr. P. Sampo, I’d like to say that Thomas More College was one of the most crucial instruments of God’s providence in my life. TMC sent my adolescent world reeling! Entered in a soul searching boy with some pop-rousseauian ideas and out came a “gentlemen and a scholar,” as my grandmother would say. Then shipped off, thanks to Sampo’s letter of recommendation, to UD’s IPS program, Olin scholar. Then detoured to the Seminary and now a priest joyfully serving God and man in these increasingly dark times. 20 years and 4 countries later, I can say that what we had was unique. It surely has been disseminated in hidden and incalculable ways. Sampo and friends made a para-liturgy of the academic life – possibly misleading, but once steered from Scylla and Charybdis, was just the “spirit of the academy” needed for our times. After mystic, came citizenship. Zoon politikon we are born. Can’t hid from it. Assume it, with knowledge and responsibility. Lastly, by no means least, the humanity, one modeled after Thomas More: a genuine spirit of fatherhood towards his students, a steady joy as he steered an institution through constantly unsteady waters and that good hearty laugh to boot. I have just celebrated a mass in thanksgiving for your life and as viaticum for your journey. Godspeed! We have little doubts of your successful arrival. Kevin Lieberman
Although a few months have passed, the memory of Dr. Sampo is not at all diminished. To the lovely chorus from former students and friends, I would like to add a reflection. May he rest in peace.
Around 2017, Dr. Sampo began to have real difficulty walking. He shuffled from classroom to office, breathing hard, and students, staff, and faculty all looked on with horror: should someone offer to help? Would the offer be an insult to this august figure? In his inimitable way, Dr. Sampo diffused the tension: “Here comes gimpy!” he cried out with glee.
For Dr. Sampo, humor was a philosophy. Like the rest of us, he could be frustrated, angry, disappointed, distressed. Unlike the rest of us, he chose to set aside these feelings, to offer his life and his teaching to us in a comic mode. He loved the world (without being at all worldly), and he taught us to see all that is good in it.
This meant something coming from Dr. Sampo, who was no stranger to disappointments and failure. At times, he has been praised as the founder of four (actually three) colleges, but, he told me with a laugh, “It isn’t much to brag about if you have to keep founding new ones.” Dr. Sampo had a vision for liberal education, a vision which, more often than not, has been misunderstood, criticized, rejected, or ignored.
He is in good company. His teacher, Eric Voegelin, has been neglected, despite his breadth and depth of insight. His patron, Thomas More, was condemned to death unjustly, and his second patron, Erasmus, has been condemned unjustly in life and death, by his coreligionists as much as by his theological opponents.
After his first major defeat, Dr. Sampo might well have abandoned ship. He described going to Missouri chastened, looking to lie low. There he taught alongside a new PhD from the University of Dallas, and they spent many hours collaborating: planning the course they both taught, discussing the classic texts they assigned, and envisioning the possibilities for liberal education. According to Dr. Sampo, one day, during an especially impassioned discussion, he stopped and said, “Damn, we have to do it again.” Next to the import of the vision, the obstacles and inconveniences seemed insignificant.
He had a powerful sense of vocation, to which he was completely faithful in the face of every difficulty and humiliation. After every setback, he began anew, confident that the undertaking was worthwhile and that it could be accomplished. When anyone else would have walked away, he persisted. At one point, he even sold his house to keep an institution afloat (as with Socrates, his poverty is sufficient witness).
Dr. Sampo’s vision for liberal education consumed his life until its very last weeks. What was this vision? I know of no better place to start than his own words: “Since God calls us His ‘image and likeness,’ we are icons of the divine and therefore called to move to realize the form that we were meant to have. The kind of education that helps free a person to answer this call has traditionally been called liberal. It embodies the type of learning started in college but meant to be completed in the world – it is the work of a life.” We would all do well to realize how radical these words are.
I never had the privilege to take a class with Dr. Sampo, and I do not presume to understand his vision fully. However, I heard him speak to students each day, and what I heard was the message of Socrates in his Apology: “a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong” (trans. Jowett). Achilles did not fear death or danger so much as disgrace, and each of us has that heroic potential. Pragmatism is the death of the spirit, and the goods of the world are nothing compared to wisdom and truth.
When advising others, Dr. Sampo often said, “Do the right thing.” He knew that, more often than not, we know what we are called to do, but we do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to do it. Dr. Sampo did the right thing for sixty years as a teacher and administrator, and we are the better for it. May we do the same.