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Magdalen College

Warner, New Hampshire

In the early 1970s, several Catholics were in-
terested in supporting the call of the Second
Vatican Council for the education of lay Cath-
olic leaders. They approached then-Bishop
Ernest Primeau, the ordinary of the Diocese
of Manchester, to receive an endorsement to
establish a college within his diocese.
The college recounts that the bishop, who
had been active in Vatican II deliberations,
said to them, “You have my blessing and ap-
proval, now let us see how well you laymen
will conform to your apostolate.”
What they have created over the past 35
quick facts
years has been very much in conformity to
their goal and to the Church’s mission. The Founded: 1973
relatively tiny college, named for patroness Type of institution: Very small liberal arts
Saint Mary Magdalen, has been a beacon of college
Setting: Small town
fidelity to Catholic teaching and a forceful
Undergraduate enrollment: 65 (2008–09
witness to faithful Catholic higher education.
academic year)
It also has firmly established a classical lib-
Total undergraduate cost: $20,500 (tuition,
eral arts program that exposes students to an room and board for 2009–10)
interrelated Program of Studies focusing “on Undergraduate majors: One
the great questions of life.”
The first-year class in 1974 met in a mo- Key Points
tel in Bedford, New Hampshire, a town that
hosted the college for the next 17 years. The 1. Lay-controlled board with dedication
to Ex corde Ecclesiae.
campus was then relocated to its present 135-
acre site in the small central New Hampshire 2. Provides a liberal education through a
town of Warner. Bishop Primeau’s successor, distinctive Program of Studies.
Bishop Leo O’Neill, blessed the new campus 3. Grants every qualified graduate an
on the Feast of St. Mary Magdalen in 1991. Apostolic Catechetical Diploma.
The college is located about 18 miles from 4. Views its small size as a charism.
the state capital of Concord and is a 90-min- 5. Has a unique vocal music program
ute drive from Boston. But it draws a student which includes all students, every year.
body from 23 states and several other coun-

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tries. The 13 graduates of the Class of 2008

included students from the Bahamas, Califor- From the
nia, Texas and Illinois; only three were from
Financial Aid Office
New England.
To accomplish its objectives of individual
“Magdalen College students are now eli-
attention and fostering a sense of community,
gible to receive Pell Grants and Stafford
the college will continue to be small. In 2008-
Loans through the Federal Student Aid
2009 there were 65 students enrolled, and the
Program (Title IV). Because the college
maximum number is pegged at about 85–90.
has a limited amount of institutional aid
More than half were homeschooled, and 97
available for students, the Board of Trust-
percent were Catholic.
ees is committed to keeping tuition and
“Our charism is our size,” President Jef-
room and board costs affordable. At Mag-
frey Karls told us. “Our size is something that
dalen College, students save more than
at first might put people off, but we intention-
$9,100 as compared to the average private
ally keep it small because we want our stu-
college in New Hampshire.”
dents to have a very significant experience
of community, of living the faith in commu- Magdalen received full accreditation
nity.” from the American Academy for Liberal Edu-
Magdalen students take four years of cation in 2004. It is currently pursuing region-
studies in Catholic doctrine, leading to the al accreditation through the New England
Vatican’s Apostolic Catechetical Diploma. We Association of Schools and Colleges, and Car-
are not aware of any other institution that dinal Sean O’Malley of Boston participated in
does this at the undergraduate level. The dis- a “launch” for that effort in January 2009.
cipline of catechetics is distinct from theol- Attending college in New England can
ogy, which assumes knowledge of Catholic be pricey, but not at Magdalen College. The
doctrine; Magdalene acknowledges the real- tuition rate is less than half the typical pri-
ity that few students today are well-prepared vate-college tuition in New Hampshire, with
for college-level theology. a total cost of just $20,500 for tuition, room
Such a program supports Magdalen’s and board in 2009-10. The bargain prices more
goal of cultivating leaders for the Church. than make up for somewhat smaller financial
Nearly one-third of Magdalen’s students have aid packages, although the college recently
gone on to graduate study, and about 10 per- took the steps necessary to make students
cent of the college’s graduates have become eligible for federal Pell Grants and Stafford
priests or other religious. Loans.
The college announced in May 2007
the acquisition of a property known as Dur-
ward’s Glen in Caledonia, Wisconsin, about a Governance
half-hour from the state capital of Madison.
The property, purchased from the Order of Magdalen College is governed by a board of
Camillus Servants of the Sick, is used for re- trustees comprised of nine lay Catholics and
treats, other programs and eventually a sec- two additional emeriti members. All make a
ond campus. Bishop Robert Morlino of the Profession of Faith.
Diocese of Madison has blessed Magdalen’s The president also must be a Catholic.
expansion into his diocese. Karls, the third and current president, is an
alumnus of the college and served as ex-

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ecutive vice president before assuming the Magdalen lives up to those purposes in
presidency in 1998. He serves on the Board all aspects of its public life. We are aware of
of Directors for the Institute on Religious Life no speakers or events that run contrary to
and the Sedes Sapientiae Foundation, which Church teachings. Many campus appearances
supports the Benedictine Monastery of San have come about through the H. Lyman Steb-
Benedetto in Norcia, Italy. No stranger to the bins Colloquium. One of the recent speakers
needs of Catholic families, he and his wife Ju- in the series was Dr. Robert Royal, president
lie have nine children. of the Faith and Reason Institute, who spoke
on Dante, his academic specialty.
In April 2007, Chris Graveline, an alum-
Public Identity nus and U.S. army prosecutor, spoke about
the Abu Ghraib prison controversy and other
In its founding document known as the Ar-
legal issues. Bishop Michael Cote of the Dio-
ticles of Agreement, Magdalen pledges “to
cese of Norwich spoke on the papal document
form the students in the life long pursuit of
Spe Salvi in April 2008.
universal truths;
As part of the
the growth of their
35th anniversary
baptismal Faith; the
celebration, Dr.
adherence to pre-
Brennan Pursell,
cepts and discipline
a DeSales Univer-
of the Roman Catho-
sity history profes-
lic Church; and the
sor and author of
living of the special
Benedict of Bavaria,
vocation of a Catho-
spoke during par-
lic layman and lay-
ents’ weekend in
woman in such a
October 2008. The
way as to benefit
year-long com-
society, especially
memoration also
through the family.”
included the visit
of former Vatican
then, the college’s seal includes the phrase
official Cardinal Francis Arinze in April 2009.
Gaudium et Spes (“Joy and Hope”), the name of
Festivities concluded in July 2009 with visits
the 1965 Vatican II constitution on the Church
by musician Tony Melendez and Dr. Robert
in the modern world.
Moynihan, editor of Inside the Vatican.
President Karls continually weighs in on
The college launches its school year with
these issues. In the spring 2006 issue of The
an Academic Mass of the Holy Spirit, usually
Magdalen Newsletter, for example, he wrote:
celebrated by Bishop John McCormack of the
“In order to maintain and safeguard our
Diocese of Manchester. The board of trustees,
Catholic identity, we must sustain our com-
faculty and staff take the Oath of Fidelity at
mitment to be faithful to the teachings of the
this Mass.
Catholic Church; we must provide courses
The celebrant of the end-of-year Bacca-
for students on Catholic moral and religious
laureate Mass in 2008 was Bishop Morlino of
principles and their application to critical
Madison, and in 2009 it was Bishop Louis Ge-
areas such as human life and other issues of
lineau, Bishop Emeritus of Providence, Rhode
social justice; and we must care pastorally for
the students, faculty and staff.”

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All of these speakers and, of course, stu- is offered daily by the college chaplain, an
dents and others are reminded of the college’s African priest of the Religious Missionary
Catholic identity by passing by the Mary Congregation of the Apostles of Jesus. Most
Magdalene Shrine at the entrance of the cha- students attend. On Sundays, visitors swell
pel and a nearby Immaculate Heart of Mary the chapel to capacity.
Shrine. Masses are reverent and traditional. All
students are part of the choir, which sings
motets, polyphony and traditional hymns
Spiritual Life for the liturgy. President Karls said in a 2009 interview, “Singing is at
Our Lady, Queen of Apostles Chapel is at the
the heart of our life at Magdalen College.”
center of the campus and campus life. Mass

Message from the President

Dear Parents and Prospective Students:

If you desire a college where faith plays a vital role, a campus life that
fosters lasting friendships and an academic program that challenges your
mind—visit Magdalen College.

If you are looking for a Catholic liberal arts education that will strengthen your faith in
Christ and enable you to freely and vigorously pursue the truth with the greatest authors in his-
tory, then Magdalen College is the right choice for you.

Visit our beautiful New Hampshire campus; observe students who are taking on the real
challenges to live life well, and witness our committed faculty and staff generously offer indi-
vidual attention to each student.

When I had the privilege of attending Pope Benedict XVI’s meeting with Catholic college
presidents, he made the following statement on Catholic education:

“Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and
foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in
Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

Students at Magdalen College experience this encounter on a daily basis. As you begin your
College search, I urge you to consider visiting Magdalen College.

Yours in Christ,

Jeffrey Karls

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He added, “Singing gets the students out of less of their previous academic standing, start
themselves, helps them to be creators of har- with the freshman regime.
mony and beauty, and it nurtures their sense An example of this integrated approach
of wonder. That is part of the reason that joy is seen with the study of catechetics. In the
permeates our campus.” freshman year, the tutorials cover the basics
Holy days are observed with adminis- of faith. Subsequent tutorials then build on
tration offices closed and classes suspended that foundation by focusing on such things
so, as another college official said, “the entire as historical and biblical timelines, the Of-
community can celebrate together.” In addi- ficial Catechism of the Catholic Church and
tion, generally there is a banquet, skit or some encyclicals. Seniors take a marriage prepara-
other special activity to set the day apart. tion class.
There also are special This intensive, four-
observances to denote litur- year religious training al-
gical seasons. For instance, lows students to receive
there are daily reflections the Apostolic Catechetical
and events associated with Diploma. It ties back to the
the Easter Triduum. On May college’s apostolate as well
1, there is a May Crowning as to its goal of providing
for the Blessed Mother. a well-rounded education.
Throughout the aca- “Our mission,” Presi-
demic year, the Rosary is dent Karls told us, “is to
prayed daily in the chapel educate the lay people, to
or residence halls. Adora- provide the foundations
tion is available daily in of faith so that they will
the afternoons. Benediction sanctify whatever they do
takes place on Sundays at in the future. They will
4:30 p.m. There also are an- have had the catechesis
nual retreats offered sepa- in faith and learned about
rately for men and women, living the faith.”
directed by priests or sis- He added, “Many of
ters. our graduates do go out
and teach CCD, either as
volunteers at a parish or
Academics in full-time, paid teaching
positions. With the Apostolic Catechetical Di-
There are no electives and no majors at Mag-
ploma they receive from Magdalen, they are
dalen; all graduates receive a Bachelor of Arts
recognized by those who appreciate the certi-
fication as well-prepared catechists.”
Magdalen’s academic program is based
All tutors request the mandatum in front
on the Program of Studies that was adopt-
of the bishop and the college. The admissions
ed in 1998. It is an integrated curriculum in
director said of the faculty: “They all have
which students participate in required tutori-
various degrees and specialties, but all in
als, most of which are based on the Socratic
their own way represent the faith in the class-
method, and that build on each other. All
room as well as in their personal life.”
students need to take the four-year program
Another staff member called President
in sequence so that transfer students, regard-

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Karls “an exemplary father and a friend.” Yet in Annapolis.

another said of tutor Mark Gillis: “He is an Dr. Harne has launched a new Honors
example for all to follow. He practices what Program including advanced courses in Ge-
he teaches. His family life, academic life and ometry and Reasoning, Latin and English
spiritual life all sum up an exemplary Catho- composition. Honors students complement
lic example.” Gillis, who is the catechesis co- the Program of Studies with topics of study
ordinator, also has established the Don Bosco such as modern cinema, Dante’s Divine
Boys Camp in nearby Concord and teaches in Comedy, and the twentieth century German
the Diocese of Manchester’s “Called to Dis- Thomist, Josef Pieper. They also research and
cipleship” pro- write an Honors
gram. Thesis known as a
All 12 tu- Quaestio.
tors received A rather
high marks in unique aspect of
our interviews. the Program of
They teach phi- Studies is that stu-
losophy, geom- dents are evalu-
etry, logic, Latin, ated at the end of
English, music their sophomore
and singing, phi- year to determine
losophy, astron- whether they are
omy, Newtonian making satisfac-
physics, biology, tory academic
modern science, and community
drawing, com- progress. They
parative writing, are required to
comparative cul- reapply to the col-
tures, classical literature and other subjects. lege through a process known as the Junior
Seniors need to complete a thesis tutorial now Re-admittance Procedure. Any student who
known as a Quaestio. finishes the first two years is eligible for an
Music, particularly singing, occupies an Associate of Arts degree. Approximately 88
important place in the curriculum. Every stu- percent of sophomores return for their junior
dent is in the choir and takes music all four year.
years. The reason, according to one staff mem- For the overwhelming majority who do
ber: “We learn so much about the Mass, the move on to the junior year, there is the oppor-
feasts and seasons of the liturgical year and tunity to study in Italy for four weeks in the
the teachings of the Church through learning summer. After visiting Rome, students move
the musical traditions of the Church.” on to the Umbrian town of Norcia, where they
A sign of Magdalen’s commitment to mu- live in a one-time convent, interact with Bene-
sic as part of a serious liberal arts program, dictine monks at a nearby monastery and
it announced a new academic dean in June study The Rule of Saint Benedict and several
2009: Dr. George Harne, who holds a Doctor- writers from Aristotle to 20th-century writer
ate and Master of Fine Arts in Musicology Luigi Barzini.
from Princeton University, as well as a Mas- Students conduct themselves with pride:
ters in Liberal Studies from St. John’s College Men wear a coat and necktie and women wear

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a dress or skirt and blouse to class. third consecutive year that the entire student
Prospective students can sample Mag- body journeyed to the nation’s capital for the
dalen College life through visitor weekends; March for Life.
there were four such opportunities in the
2008-2009 academic year, two in each semes-
ter. There also are two two-week sessions of
Residential Life
a Summer Youth Program for 15- to 18-year-
There are two residence halls: St. Joseph’s
for men, which has eight students to a large
room, and St. Mary’s for women, with four to
Student Activities a room. Televisions and radios are not allowed
in order to encourage community life. Each
As noted previously, a key part of student ac- hall has a small chapel with a tabernacle.
tivities is the mandatory Magdalen College There is no inter-residence visitation.
Choir, which has twice-weekly practices in One alumna and current staff member told
anticipation of Sunday Mass. Select students us, “Chastity is definitely encouraged, espe-
participate in the Performance Choir, Polyph- cially by the students. They are willing to be-
ony Choir or the chant and psalm schola. The come involved in a situation if they feel it nec-
choir performs at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in essary. We stress respect for the whole person
Manchester, other church- in all areas, and this fosters
es, nursing homes, an or- healthy relationships beyond
phanage and the local town college.”
hall. They have recorded All students are also re-
five CDs since 1999. quired to participate in the
The St. Genesius Play- Campus Service Program
ers, a drama group, per- to provide various chores
formed Tennessee Wil- around campus. This pro-
liams’ The Glass Menagerie gram is considered a natural
in March 2009. Among other and integral part of commu-
activities are an intramural nity life.
sports program, an Outing
Club and a social club that
organizes various indoor,
The Community
outdoor and cultural activi-
Warner is a quaint New Eng-
land town of 2,800 in the New
The Leisure Activities
Hampshire Lakes Region that
Program generates infor-
traces its history back to 1735.
mal intellectual and cultur-
One popular local event is
al opportunities. The H. Ly-
the Fall Foliage Festival, held
man Stebbins Colloquium
every October since 1947. The campus is on
sponsors visits to concerts and historical sites
Mount Kearsarge, almost 3,000 feet high,
in Boston and other New England cities.
which provides abundant hiking opportuni-
Students also participate in pro-life activ-
ties. The winters are long and snowy, mak-
ities, attending marches both in Concord, the
ing skiing a popular local pastime. The area
state capital, and the annual March for Life
is quiet and relatively crime free.
in Washington, D.C. Indeed, 2009 marked the

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The nearby city of Concord, with state They have succeeded well.
government offices and a population of 42,000, In the process, they developed a broad-
provides additional services to the Magdalen ranging classical curriculum that provides
community. The major metropolitan area is students with the intellectual reservoir to be
Boston, about 90 miles away, which offers well-read, productive citizens and parents.
many cultural, sports and entertainment op- But they never forgot the human dimension:
portunities. An important component of their program
Some out-of-town college students may has been to integrate students together to fos-
arrive at Manchester-Boston Regional Air- ter a sense of community.
port, which is about 45 minutes from Warner. Adding to the appeal of living in rural
Boston’s Logan International Airport is an- New England for four years, Magdalen Col-
other option about 90 minutes from campus. lege offers many attractions for the Catholic
For those traveling by highway, Interstates 89 high school senior who is looking for both
and 93 intersect at Concord. a solid education and an enhanced spiritual
The Bottom Line
Magdalen College is part of the wave of small,
orthodox colleges that were spawned after
Vatican II. Its founders had a vision that they
could create an institution that would train
new generations of leaders for the Church.

172 The Newman Guide