The Honors College is a unique opportunity for students who love reading, are quietly perceptive, and enjoy listening to or participating in discussions of important matters both in and out of the classroom. Very differently from most educational programs, the Honors College does not rely on standard textbooks for instruction or as ways of garnering information. For, while instruction and information so acquired can be useful, we turn our primary attention to the reading of books which implicitly or explicitly make a bold claim of wisdom about the most important matters in human life. Such books have been written by historians, scientists, poets, philosophers, and theologians and are often referred to as “great books.” By design and in order to avert hasty reading, we have carefully chosen and limited the number of books to be read by our students. Additionally, we have attempted to select those great authors who are often viewed as very much at the roots of Western civilization. This kind of reading asks much of students and their teachers (who themselves are students of great authors). In reality, the efforts of all are rewarded with a breadth and depth of understanding that is one of the most important accomplishments of a liberal education.
Unique, also, is a substantial focus in our curriculum on writers sometimes referred to as “Ancients, Christians, and Moderns”. Especially prominent in our considerations of these authors are the shaping effects they have had on life in the twenty-first century. In fact, it is tensions and quarrels among such authors which help to explain or illuminate the character of modern life and some of the deepest crises manifest in our times. It is probably not an overstatement to say of the books that we read that they embody tension and high drama in the domain of ideas – reflections of which exist in the world around us if not in our own souls. But however deepening and broadening the education we make available is, it is crucial to note that it occurs in the friendliest of surroundings, leads to high friendships, and occasions thoughtful piety and principled living. Indeed, more than evident in our endeavors are a balance of laughter and seriousness, play and effort, and an awareness of the inspiring effects of good persons and the infinite variety of what is beautiful.
Additionally distinctive in the great books education provided by the Honors College is the fact that students seeking a liberating education through the study of great books can have for personal or professionally related reasons interests or needs that can best be met through modest variations in our program of offerings. Accordingly, we make available to all our students three options – each of which features substantive readings of all or many of the texts we have chosen.
Students also cite the intimate community of learning, profound discussions, and extracurricular experiences such as concerts and museums, the beach retreat and study abroad as uniquely memorable and meaningful elements of their Honors College education.