North American Scholar

KIEFFER, John Spangler

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1904-08-06
  • Born City: Hagerstown
  • Born State/Country: MD
  • Parents: John Brainerd & Alice Venable Bourne Hays K.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1975-03-29
  • Death City: Baltimore
  • Death State/Country: MD
  • Married: Roxana Byrd White, 26 Nov. 1929.
  • Education:

    A.B. Harvard, 1926; A.M., 1929; Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, 1962.

  • Professional Experience:

    Master in French & English, Litchfield (CT) School, 1927-8; instr. to prof, class, langs. St. John's Coll. (Annapolis, MD), 1929-39; tutor, 1939-75; mem. bd. vis. & govs., 1943-51; pres., 1947-9; dir. adult educ, 1951-7; dean, 1962-9.

  • Dissertation:

    "Galen's Institutio Logica: English Translation, Introduction, and Commentary" (John Hopkins, 1962); printed as Galen's Introduction to Logic: Translation and Commentary (Baltimore, 1964).

  • Publications:

    "The Classical Revival at St. John's," CJ 35 (1939-40) 144-53; "Note on Plato, Laws 722.C.1," AJP 62 (1941) 91-2; "The Humanities in the St. John's Program," The Humanities and General Education (Dubuque, IA, 1949) 42-54; "Philoctetes and Arete," CP 37 (1942) 38-50.

  • Notes:

    John S. Kieffer taught at St. John's for 46 years, during which time, according to a faculty citation of 1969, "No one in the long history of St. John's has served the College in so many different capacities: tutor, assistant dean, acting president, president, member of the Board of Visitors and Governors, director of adult education, and dean." He helped develop the New Program at St. John's, centered on the Great Books and laying heavy emphasis on the classics. Some 30 years after joining the faculty and more than ten years after his presidency, he received his Ph.D. with a thesis that was quickly published by Johns Hopkins. In answer to the question of the value of the liberal arts, he gave this answer: "Though we did not make the world into which we came . . . , by our living we make the world partly new, and if we attain wisdom, we may even make our part of the world a little better. This is a small and finite hope, but it is at least genuine." The citation continues, "As Dean, over the past seven years, he has held the program steady on its course. As scholar he is erudite and precise. As Socratic teacher, he has led ten generations of students to love learning. This man of calm dignity has always been passionate in his love of the Greeks, of the Good, and of St. John's College."

  • Sources:

    St. John's Coll. Archives; WhAm 6:226.

  • Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.