St. John's College invites public back into classroom


January 10, 2000|By Douglas Lamborne | Douglas Lamborne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE is a little gem in Annapolis usually overshadowed by its big brother down College Avenue -- the Naval Academy.

When they do compete -- at their springtime croquet match -- St. John's students have made a habit of beating the midshipmen.

That is probably the extent of competition between the two.

Both are equal in their commitment to contributing to the civic life of the community.

For example, St. John's continuing education and fine arts programs offer the opportunity for regular folks to revisit an undone subject from their college days, develop and sharpen skills in the arts, or maybe get a glimpse of how the college conducts its business in the classroom.

St. John's bases its academic work on study of the "Great Books." Its professors are called tutors, and they are expected to participate in every discipline in the school. That means someone with a doctorate in literature will do a turn as a tutor in mathematics -- a daunting prospect.

"The tutor is not looked to immediately for his or her expertise, nor do they conduct lectures," explained Erik Sageng, a tutor for 10 years. "He or she has to be the best-prepared student in the classroom," he said of the tutor role as seminar leader.

For the Continuing Education Program, Sageng will lead a seminar on Feodor Dostoevski's "The Brothers Karamazov." His credentials seem typical -- a doctorate in the history of science.

"I've always read widely, as an amateur," he explained. "My only professional study in literature has been at St. John's."

On the fine arts side, Rick Malmgren brings a bachelor of arts degree in sociology to his pottery classes. That degree has receded in significance as his work in pottery has grown over the years. He makes his living as a potter.

"You have to work incredibly hard and live a modest lifestyle," he said.

Malmgren's students tend to be a mix of people, now including a physician, psychiatrist and writer. He said some of his students become very serious about pottery, getting their own wheels and kilns. Several have opened studios.

"You can't make pottery by reading a book," he said of the nature of his teaching. "You have to learn from someone who has mastered the art form -- painting, sculpture, pottery. I am teaching an oral tradition in a college of books."

Classes are offered in painting, writing and voice. There will be a seminar on William Shakespeare and on Edward Gibbon, author of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

The registration deadline for a Continuing Education and Fine Arts Programs class is Friday. Tuition for a noncredit course is $135 plus materials. Classes run from Feb. 1 to April 29. Information: 410-626-2881.

History for lunch

Shady Side Rural Heritage Society will start its Winter Luncheon Series of history lectures Jan. 26 at the Captain Salem Avery House Museum on Shady Side Road.

Greg Stiverson, executive director of the London Town Federation, will speak on "Maryland Women I Wish I Had Known."

Lectures follow Wednesdays through March 1, when James O. Lighthizer, former Anne Arundel County executive, will lecture on "Anne Arundel County Soldiers in the Civil War."

The series requires reservations, which can be made by calling 410-867-2866.

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