Presidents’ Report From The Board Of Visitors And Governors Meeting February 2024

The St. John’s College Board of Visitors and Governors met in Annapolis February 22–24, 2024. The meeting celebrated the incredible generosity of Karen Pritzker and the Jay Pritzker Foundation to address campus improvements in both Annapolis and Santa Fe, work that would otherwise have taken decades to accomplish. The largest residence hall in Annapolis, Campbell Hall, was rededicated as Edensword Hall in honor of Karen Pritzker’s father and will reopen later this year with renovated student rooms, an expanded bookstore, and a new coffee shop. Additionally, presentations focused on career outcomes after St. John’s, including new opportunities in the field of AI. Board members, faculty, and staff participated in a hands-on experience of the freshman laboratory, drawing and observing living beings. A special fundraising initiative in honor of President Roosevelt’s retirement was announced to raise starting salaries for faculty and lower-paid staff. We have raised $8 million toward a $10 million goal for this new fund, with 100 percent of board members contributing. The college is on much stronger financial footing than it was in 2015, thanks to incredible philanthropic support and by controlling operating costs. Going forward, the college must work toward a balanced budget by increasing revenues and limiting expenses.

Finance and Facilities

In 2015, the college’s financial situation was dire. At its peak, the college faced a deficit of 24 percent of its budget, deferred maintenance costs estimated at over $150 million, and inadequate student supports. An incredible amount of progress has been made on all these fronts, and although we cannot yet declare victory, a continued focus on fundraising as well as a solid pipeline of pledges and documented estate gifts will continue to increase the endowment in the years ahead. This will be especially important as the college continues to face cash flow issues and increasing demands on our operating budget, resulting in expected structural deficits for the next several years.

Campus improvement projects continue, with permitting nearly complete for the Pritzker Student Center project in Santa Fe and upcoming upgrades to the IT infrastructure of the campus and HVAC system of Pinkney Hall in Annapolis.

Additionally, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley presented the city’s proposed College Creek Connector Trail project, which, if built, would connect the college to a series of bike trails. The college will continue conversations with the city as the design and implementation of this proposed project is considered.


Although it is too early to predict if the college will meet fall 2024 enrollment goals, there are positive indicators, including a record number of early decision and early action applications. More than 140 prospective students took part in the innovative Discussion-Based Application, and we have seen increased applications from Summer Academy participants and Southwest Scholars. It is unknown how national delays with the implementation of the FAFSA will affect our applicants this year, although the college has made use of an alternate application, the CSS Profile, to allow for financial aid estimates.

The Graduate Institute has recently seen record-breaking enrollment for the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) program in both Annapolis and Santa Fe. There has been a continued trend of increasing part-time students and approximately 50 percent of students now take part in the low-residency program.

Visiting Committee

The Visiting Committee focused this meeting on career supports for students and outcomes for St. John’s graduates. The Office of Career Development in Annapolis shared their progress, with a focus on relationship building, collaborations with the Santa Fe Office of Personal and Professional Development, and a nearly fivefold increase in the number of activities offered by the office since 2010.

Santa Fe Dean Sarah Davis and Annapolis Dean Suzy Paalman provided an overview of the upcoming Johnnie Pathways project, which will provide structure and guidance to students seeking careers in certain fields, as well as an overview for prospective students and parents about how the college prepares graduates for success. Ten pathways in fields such as law and justice, public health and medicine, and education, will offer students connections to internship opportunities, 4+1 graduate programs, and networking opportunities.

Board members and alumni Sarah Smart and Carla Echevarria presented their respective work in the field of AI, and why Johnnies are uniquely positioned to be successful. These jobs are here now, and employers are looking for applicants who are strong in linguistics and logic and can be adaptable, engage in critical thinking, and ask ethical questions.


The Advancement Committee discussed key fundraising goals and provided an update on the office’s recent restructuring and ideas on how to fill current vacancies. The Alumni and Constituent Engagement Office gave an overview of a recent and well-received alumni survey about the college’s reunion and homecoming model. As a result of the survey, the fall reunions will revert to the traditional Homecoming name for fall 2024, with a cost-effective program available to all alumni. Save the date for September 13–15 in Santa Fe and September 27–29 in Annapolis. The Communications Office shared the just-launched Books by Johnnies project, which features more than 1,000 titles from alumni and faculty, as well as concept art for an upcoming marketing campaign, and an update on Continuing the Conversation, which is now averaging more than 7,000 views per episode on New Mexico PBS and will soon be offered for distribution to other PBS stations nationwide.

Board Governance

The meeting also covered the vital role of the board in a time of presidential transition, as President Demleitner assumes the collegewide presidency role and J. Walter Sterling becomes Santa Fe campus president this summer. A continued focus of the board will be to work with the collegewide and campus presidents to stay the course on the college’s mission, vision and values, preserving St. John’s distinctive educational program while enhancing the college’s stature, and increasing philanthropic support. The board will propose a restructuring of the scope of committees to further focus and concentrate their work while lessening the burden on staff. The Polity Review Committee has been hard at work, in dialogue with the faculty review committee, to streamline and update the Polity to make it a legally sound and more manageable governance document. The work of the College History Task Force continues, with a panel discussion on Francis Scott Key in April. A draft report on the institution’s history and association with enslaved peoples is planned for release for comments and recommendations ahead of the June board meeting.


Although we have made great progress on multiple issues, challenges for small liberal arts colleges continue to mount. The coming demographic cliff and shift, fewer college applicants with greater financial need, will accelerate these challenges. We must therefore stay energized around raising funds to balance the budget and meet student needs. To keep St. John’s strong, we need your continued engagement with the college. And please know that your engagement is deeply appreciated.


If you have thoughts that you would like to share, please contact us at presidents(at)


Mark Roosevelt and Nora Demleitner