Christopher Nelson grew up in the New York suburbs, the eldest of four. He rose to student-body president at White Plains High School. As a St. John’s student, he earned the nickname Hector, after the Trojan hero, for derring-do on the athletic field.
A comparatively tiny college of 500 students, with a sister campus in Santa Fe, N.M., St. John’s has one of the strongest brands in academe. The Annapolis campus traces its origins to 1696 and would probably rank among the top 50 liberal arts schools, if Nelson would cooperate. This year, U.S. News lists the school as No. 166 among national liberal arts colleges, based on incomplete data. Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore top the list.
St. John’s operates differently than other colleges. Its curriculum requires all students to read the same essential texts, in roughly the order they were written, starting with Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey.” There are no lectures, only seminars guided by faculty “tutors.”