I grew up near Dayton, Ohio, migrated west to Deep Springs College near Death Valley at seventeen, and never got the open spaces out of my system. I tried from time to time, taking an M.A. degree in history and theology at Duke and a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of higher education at Ohio State. I’ve been a professor (and dean for sixteen years) at the University of Utah since 1974, taking time out to lead Deep Springs College from 1995 to 2004.
My passion has always been for education in the liberal arts and sciences spirit—to open minds to new ideas and possibilities, to build vigorous learning communities, and to relate learning to life and work. My latest books, Hope, Heart, and the Humanities: How a Free College Course is Changing Lives (coedited with Jean Cheney) and The Electric Edge of Academe: The Saga of Lucien L. Nunn and Deep Springs College explore my philosophies of education and leadership in contrasting ways. The latter volume culminates ten years of research and writing about the most extraordinary experiment in liberal arts education ever to succeed among American colleges and universities. The University of Utah Press published both volumes.
I also served on the founding board of directors of the Bennion Center for Community Service, and as editor of the higher education journal The Review of Higher Education (1986-91). I co-edited (with Linda King Newell) the scholarly journal Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (1982-87).
Notable excursions include exploring Antarctica, the Alaskan bush, China before modernization, and the Galapagos Islands, as well as climbing the Matterhorn and fighting forest fires during my four college summers.
HONOR 2050 Ethics, Leadership, and the Humanities
Matters of Conscience: Conversations with Sterling McMurrin on Philosophy, Education, and Religion (1996)
Maverick Colleges: Fourteen Notable Experiments in American Undergraduate Education, 2d ed. rev., 1996. Published in OpenCourseWare Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009, online for Learning Seminar, Experiments in Education (SP.291/ESG.SP291).
Creating Distinctiveness: Lessons from Uncommon Colleges and Universities (1994)
A History of Thought and Practice in Educational Administration (1987)