Woodberry Forest Recap

I just returned from a great evening with the students and History Department at Woodberry Forest School in Woodberry Forest, VA.  My old friend Fred Jordan, a Notre Dame Ph.D in American history who did his graduate work with George Marsden, presides as chair over an excellent faculty that includes his wife Karen and Matthew Boesen, a Virginia Ph.D who studied with the late Stephen Innes.

Fun fact:  Fred is the nephew of the late American historian Winthrop Jordan and does a wonderful job of carrying on the family tradition.


It has been a while since I have been in a boarding school culture (my wife and I lived and worked at The Stony Brook School in the 1990s), but things came back to me quickly.  During the Monday evening community dinner I had the privilege of sitting at the headmaster’s table.  Dennis Campbell, a theologian and former dean of Duke Divinity School, assembled a very impressive group of students last night.  (He refers to his all-male student body as “the boys”).  As we ate turkey and stuffing we chatted about everything from Christian America to Messiah College and from the Anabaptist faith to the values of liberal arts education.  “The boys” drove the conversation.

Following my lecture on religion and the founding, I joined the headmaster and some members of the history department in Fred’s living room for a lively discussion about teaching history.  This was especially fun for me since I was able to share some of the ideas that have made it into my forthcoming “The Power to Transform: Reflections on the Study of the Past.”  If all goes well, this book should appear in Fall 2013.

Thanks to Fred and Karen Jordan for their hospitality and to the good people of Woodberry Forrest for a very stimulating night.

I am off to Bucknell University in a few hours.  Stay tuned.