Former Ivy League Professor Named New PHC President
On Monday, April 3, 2006, Dr. Graham Walker was named the second president of Patrick Henry College, by a unanimous vote of the college’s board of trustees.
On July 1, Dr. Walker replaced President Michael Farris, who founded the college in 2000. Farris assumed the title of Chancellor of Patrick Henry College in order to focus his energies on promoting the college through writing, speaking, and fundraising. Both Dr. Walker and Dr. Farris 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. “As an evangelical Christian leader, he is uniquely suited for this position, and we all have reason to be excited. Our best days are ahead.”
|Dr. Graham Walker became president of Patrick Henry College on July 1, 2006. He brings nearly two decades of experience in American higher education.
Since February 2002, Dr. Walker served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean at Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU) in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. 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.
Dr. Walker’s 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). His books include The Ethics of F.A. Hayek and Moral Foundations of Constitutional Thought. He has contributed essays and chapters in academic journals and books and has written for publications including The American Spectator, the Los Angeles Times, and National Review Online.
During the mid-1990s, while on staff at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Walker and his wife, Lindy, began homeschooling their daughters, Hannah and Lucy. Their subsequent membership in Home School Legal Defense Association alerted Walker 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 devoted to rigorous academics and serious Christian discipleship.
Struck by the bold ambition of Patrick Henry College’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 role of chancellor, Dr. Walker became a top candidate for the next PHC president.
The unexpected opportunity aligned with Walker’s 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, have veered away from truth because of their infatuation with human reason,” he explains. “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 adds. “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 Oklahoma Wesleyan University, 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 as president, Dr. Walker discussed PHC’s role and mission, American higher education’s roots in Christianity, and the challenge contemporary Christian colleges face in preserving a proper reliance on the Scriptures in a 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’ handwritten questions, Dr. Walker looked enthusiastically toward the future. And in an announcement that brought cheers, he cited the recent pledge that raised the final share of $9 million needed to begin construction on the new PHC student center.
To hear an audio recording of Dr.
Walker’s chapel messages, visit PHC’s website at www.phc.edu/Media/Walker/Chapel/.