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Former Ivy League Professor, Dr. Graham Walker, Named New PHC President

April 10th, 2006

Dr. Graham Walker
Dr. Graham Walker

By a unanimous vote of the College’s Board of Trustees on Monday, April 3, 2006, Dr. Graham Walker was named to become the second President of Patrick Henry College.

Dr. Walker will replace current President Michael P. Farris, J.D., who founded the College in 2000. Dr. Farris, a constitutional attorney and the Chairman of Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), will assume the title of Chancellor of PHC in order to focus his energies on promoting the College through writing, speaking and fundraising. Both Dr. Walker and Dr. Farris will report directly to the PHC Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Walker is one of the most brilliant, and yet humble, men I have ever met,” Dr. Farris told the College. “He is uniquely suited for this position, and we all have reason to be excited. Our best days are ahead.”

Since February 2002, Dr. Walker has served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU) in Bartlesville, OK. He brings to his new role extensive academic and teaching credentials, a history of Christian leadership, and broad experience in university administration. He earned his Ph.D. in political philosophy from Notre Dame in 1988, the same year he received the Edward S. Corwin Award from the American Political Science Association for the best dissertation in the nation in the field of public law. His first book, the Ethics of F.A. Hayek, was published in 1986. His second book, Moral Foundations of Constitutional Thought, was published in 1990 by Princeton University Press. He has also published a variety of essays and chapters in academic journals and books, along with essays in publications including The American Spectator, the Los Angeles Times and National Review Online.

His other academic positions have included an eight-year span as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution (1988-1996), two years as a Member and Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a tenured, seven-year term as Associate Professor of Politics at The Catholic University of America (1996-2003), and a position as Visiting Scholar in Religion and Philosophy at the American Enterprise Institute (1998-2002).

During the mid-1990s, while on staff at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Walker and his wife, Lindy, began home schooling their daughters, Hannah and Lucy. Their subsequent membership in HSLDA alerted him to Farris’s writings and public policy activism in the arena of educational reform. By 2001, having accepted a position as academic dean of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Dr. Walker found himself intrigued by news of the launch of a small Christian liberal arts college in northern Virginia called Patrick Henry College, devoted to the seemingly difficult-to-balance marriage of rigorous academics and serious Christian discipleship.

Struck by the bold ambition of PHC’s charter, Dr. Walker recalls, “I saw Patrick Henry College as an attempt to reconstruct and resurrect the original model of American higher education. That model looks at the world through both eyes of faith and reason, simultaneously. When you use both eyes, you see things in 3-D; you see the world much more clearly. That’s what I saw PHC trying to do, to give appropriate weight to both faith and reason, with Holy Scripture as the ultimate umpire.”

A chance meeting with Dr. Farris at the University of Chicago in 2005, where Dr. Walker delivered a lecture on the dangers of “rhetorical relativism” among Evangelicals, led to a burgeoning friendship and lively dialogue about the ongoing status and mission of Patrick Henry College. Upon Dr. Farris’s decision in early 2006 to move into the Chancellor’s role, to focus on cultivating the College’s growth and development, Dr. Walker became a top candidate to become the College’s second president. The unexpected opportunity aligned uncannily with his core convictions about academic life. For years, he says, he had worked to ensure that, in the increasingly secular, intellectual proving ground of Christian higher education, the truth of God’s Word remained the anchor of the intellectual life.

“Most colleges today, even many evangelical schools,” he explains, “have veered away from truth because of their infatuation with human reason. But if you look around, those that have abandoned faith for reason ended up losing reason, too. This is because even religious colleges have drifted so dramatically away from a rigorous pursuit of truth and, far more subtly, away from any recognition of the Bible as the Word of God.

“Patrick Henry College is uniquely suited to challenge these conditions,” he added. “In an academic climate often dominated by fractious cynicism, Patrick Henry has emerged as a voice of reason and as an educational exemplar, perhaps especially in the humanities, government and social science, where the voice of reason is fainter than ever nowadays.”

In addition to fostering a financial and academic resurgence at OWU, Dr. Walker quickly became a force to restore, in the school’s core values, the foundational primacy of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. He personally implemented a new theme statement identifying OWU as: “A university where Jesus is Lord,” and partnered with OWU’s president who established a new university mission statement affirming the university’s enduring commitment to “… the primacy of Jesus Christ, the priority of Scripture, the pursuit of truth and the practice of wisdom.” In his four years with OWU, Dr. Walker also helped steer the school through five successful accreditation processes and supervised the recruitment and appointment of over half of the university’s faculty.

At two PHC chapel meetings following his selection, Dr. Walker discussed a range of issues related to PHC’s role and mission, the troubled history of Christianity’s roots in American higher education, and the challenge contemporary Christian colleges like PHC face in preserving a proper reliance on the scriptures in a decidedly postmodern age. Separately, he shared his hopes for PHC’s role in restoring a measure of biblical clarity and balance to the public square.

“The first function of a college or university is to seek, find, and transmit truth,” he noted. “The second function is to form the souls of its students. These functions are universal, historically observable, and not distinctive to Christian colleges. Patrick Henry College stands out because it openly embraces both these purposes. By openly affirming its commitment to the truth of God in Christ, it stands as a lighthouse of true liberty in a world of treacherous murk.”

Setting time aside to respond to students’ hand-written questions, Dr. Walker looked enthusiastically toward the future, pointing to several “exciting inquiries” he has already received from “highly qualified” professorial applicants “in all fields where there is a need.” And in an announcement that brought cheers, he cited the recent pledge that raised the final share of $9 million needed to complete the superstructure of a new PHC Student Center. A May groundbreaking is anticipated.

Dr. Walker will assume his official duties at PHC in July. He and his family plan to relocate to the Purcellville area of northern Virginia this summer, well in advance of the start of Fall 2006 classes.