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October 28. 2012 8:59PM

Catholic college regaining its financial footing

WARNER — The “refounding” of the College of Saint Mary Magdalen two years ago is helping the school back to its financial feet, as the school reports that its freshman class doubled in size over last year, and is its largest ever.

“The college has gone through some tough times, but we're definitely on the upswing,” said Mark Discher, a professor at the college.

The school, which was founded as a residential Catholic liberal arts college in 1973 in Bedford, moved to its current 135-acre campus on Kearsarge Mountain Road in 1991, said Katie Moffett, the college's director of admissions and communications. The college has 67 students.

It was founded by Francis Boucher, John Meehan and Peter Sampo, whose mission was to build a Catholic college that would serve students of the third Christian millennium. Called Magdalen College until 2010, the school “was born in response to the call by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council for a spiritual renewal of the Church and of the world,” according to the college's mission statement.

In 2010, facing declining enrollments, college officials decided that changes were needed. A new president, George Harne, was brought to campus, and the school's name was changed. And all but three members of the college's faculty and staff have joined the college within last four years.

The college also changed direction in academics in its approach to students. Its curriculum has become “the best Catholic Great Books program in the nation,” according to the mission statement. The only degree offered is a bachelor of arts. The degree does not have a major, but now offers four concentrations — theology, philosophy, literature and political philosophy.

A semester of study in Rome was added, as was a program of professional development and summer internships to assist graduates.

Student life has changed from the style of the first three decades, when student freedoms were curtailed. There was a highly regulated schedule for each day, and students' behavior was the subject of close scrutiny and evaluation by the staff and faculty, both within and beyond the classroom. Students were forbidden from dating.

Now, such strict traditions are encouraged but not required, as college now works to “remain faithfully and fully Catholic while guarding authentic freedom for their students,” according the mission statement.

Moffett said the new philosophy toward students comes from Pope Benedict XVI's statement at a 2008 meeting with Catholic educators in Washington, D.C.: “Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in — a participation in Being itself.”

The changes are bringing the college great dividends, Moffett said, as it proudly just welcomed its freshman class of 28 students.

“Our goal is 40 incoming students next year,” she said. “We're really starting to get our name out there in the broader sphere of colleges.”

dseufert@newstote.com


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