By Isabel McDonald
When you hear “St. John’s College,” a school so rooted in intellect and academia, “compassion” may not be the first word you think of. But after my conversation with St. John’s College tutor Ned Walpin, maybe it should be.
A New Yorker by birth, Mr. Walpin has lived quite an accomplished life. He spent his undergraduate years at Middlebury College, earning his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and continuing on to earn an MA in English from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf School before moving on to Duke University, where he received an MA and PhD in Political Science. After teaching at Duke and in Germany and working for PBS Frontline, he found his home here at St. John’s College in Santa Fe. Mr. Walpin expressed a deep love for Santa Fe, its beauty, history, and culture. He is grateful to be here. But the most important take away that came out of our conversation was what St. John’s has taught him, and continues to teach its students – kindness and compassion. In his opinion, the St. John’s method of learning and the Great Books we read teach us to be better human beings. The way classes are structured requires students to learn to listen and understand other people and their ideas. The books we read here at St. John’s make students question what it means to be human, and often it leads students to become better people than when they first came. While explaining this idea, Mr. Walpin revealed to me that, whenever he talks to those who have hired St. John’s alumni, he is often told of their amazing ability to listen.
More than just a job, Mr. Walpin says that teaching at St. John’s has made him a better person, a better husband and a better father. This unique way of looking at a St. John’s education shows the full scope of what this education can give students. It brings morality back into the sterile world of academia. And for Mr. Walpin, that is completely fulfilling. He has a career he loves, in a beautiful city, and he has a wonderful family. In his own words, “what more could I ask for?” And as a student, what more could I ask for in a tutor and in an education?