About St. John's College
Annapolis Office of the President
Christopher B. Nelson, President
Office of the President
60 College Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
→ Read President Nelson's archived speeches...
→ In the news: "A liberal, and liberating, education" by President Nelson, The Hechinger Report
→ In the news: "Lincoln and Liberal Education" by President Nelson, The Huffington Post
→ In the news: "The Old-School President of St. John's College Embraces Technology ... Slowly," Chronicle of Higher Education
Christopher B. Nelson has been president of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, since June 1991. He is an alumnus of St. John's (B.A. 1970) and a graduate of the University of Utah College of Law (J.D. 1973), where he founded and directed the university's student legal services program. He practiced law in Chicago for 18 years and was chairman of his law firm when he left the practice to take his current position at St. John's College.
A member of the Maryland Independent College and University Association (MICUA) since 1991, he served as chairman of the Board of Directors (2003-2006). He is past chair (2005-2007) and a founding member of the Annapolis Group, a consortium of over 120 of the nation's leading liberal arts colleges. Mr. Nelson serves on the board for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the AFS-USA (American Field Service) (1993-2003, and 2007-present) and served as board chair (2001-2003) and vice chair (1998-2001). He was chair the Board of Trustees of Shimer College (2007-2011), and has served as vice chair (2006-2007) and as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee (2005-2007). He has also been a member of the Board of the Historic Annapolis Foundation since 1999, served as its Vice-Chair, Treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee (2002-2008); the Board of the Independent College Fund of Maryland (vice chair 1994-1999); and the Maryland State Archives Commission (1991-present).
Mr. Nelson has served on the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) Board of Directors (1996-1999) and its Executive Committee (1998-1999), the NAICU Task Force on Accountability and Public Information (1995-1996) and the NAICU Task Force on Appropriate Accountability, Regulation and Assessment (1993-1994); member, the Presidents' Work Group on Accreditation (1995-96); Board of Trustees, Severn School (Maryland) (1995-2004); chair, County Executive's Special Committee on Impact Fees for Anne Arundel County (1999-2000); chair, County Executive's Special Committee on Anne Arundel Community College (1994-1995); and chair of the Annapolis Mayor’s Task Force on the Arts and Humanities in Annapolis (2008-2009).
Mr. Nelson has been a panelist and speaker on state, regional, and national programs concerning liberal education, great books, issues of institutional autonomy in the face of government regulatory intrusion, and changes proposed in the accrediting system. He has lectured on Virgil, Plato, Homer, and John Henry Cardinal Newman, and is a published author on issues facing higher education.
Prior to 1991, Mr. Nelson served on numerous national, state and local Bar Association committees and has published articles in the field of labor and employee benefits law. He has served on boards and committees for the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry (for business and public school partnerships), St. John's College, and St. Joseph's College (Indiana).
Christopher Nelson is a national spokesperson for higher education
Burdensome federal regulations threaten the livelihood of many colleges and universities by diverting precious staff resources away from their mission. The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) invited Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, to testify regarding this issue before the Committee on Education and the Workforce U.S. House of Representatives. The hearing that was held on Tuesday, March 1 was the first in a series.
Nelson, a national spokesperson on higher education issues and the importance of liberal arts education, urged Congress to eliminate old rules as new ones are added –and relieve higher education from the stranglehold of excessive regulations. “The concept would be something along the lines of a ‘pay-go’ system.” He also advocated for the independence of higher education institutions. “Diversity of mission and purpose is the greatest strength of American colleges and universities. Attempts to regulate us as though we are all trying to accomplish the same thing would be a mistake, “ said Nelson.
Nelson also described how he became involved in the fight against burdensome regulations. “St. John’s is one of the over 1,000 members of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), an organization that represents the diversity of private, non- profit higher education in the United States. Some years ago, I was involved with a NAICU group that looked broadly at the responsibilities of independent higher education. Our conversations about these responsibilities offer a general framework for illustrating the many different ways to look at regulatory burden on colleges.”
Nelson’s testimony was enthusiastically received and covered by both the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
Read Mr. Nelson's testimony: Education Regulations: Weighing the Burden on Schools and Students
Read the Inside Higher Ed story: Rules Relief
Read the Read the Chronicle story: Speakers at House Hearing Assail Regulatory Burden on Colleges. The Republican chairman of the education committee and a college president agreed on the problems created by the multiplication of rules.