Dear Alumni,

For all of us who care about St. John’s College and about the education the college offers, recent challenges to higher education in general, and to liberal arts in particular, require careful and timely responses. We are writing to follow up on the last letter from Presidents Nelson and Peters to the alumni, which described the ways the college is trying to strengthen the admissions program and enhance the appeal of St. John’s to prospective students. Important steps in the strategy are to refresh the college’s logo and to design a new website. You should expect to see these improvements within the next month.

Many of you are aware of the Siegelvision project from the webinar sponsored by the college and the Alumni Association. The new ways for St. John’s to present itself, with a new logo and on the Web, are based on some of the proposals from Siegelvision combined with insight offered by other admissions and marketing consultants and feedback from faculty, students, and you, the alumni.  Before we say anything about the changes you will be seeing, we want to be perfectly clear on what is not changing.  The Program is not changing. It remains (gloriously!) what it is, and in the hands of the faculty. The campuses remain vibrant communities, with growing attention to the total student experience. The books and balance college seal will not be changing; it remains fully expressive of the New Program and its commitment to books, the seven liberal arts, and the people who are transformed by them. The traditional college colors of orange and black remain the same (graduation hoods, for example, remain orange and black, and you will still be able to get mugs, t-shirts, and other SJC gear in orange and black).

With that in mind, we want to put the new logo and website design in historical context, and then give you a sense of the strategy behind the design elements.

First, some historical context: The college has re-positioned its visual look before, as you can see from the illustrations of the St. John’s College seals and logos (type treatments of the name). The official college seal, dating from 1793, has Masonic symbols and the motto “Est Nulla Via Invia Virtuti”, “No Way Is Impassable to Courage.” When the New Program began in 1937, one of Stringfellow Barr’s friends from the University of Virginia drew the “books and balance” seal, with the motto based on a series of puns on the Latin word for “book” (liber) — “Facio Liberos Ex Liberis Libris Libraque”, “I Make Free Adults from Children by Means of Books and a Balance.” In 1997, when the college adopted a much more focused marketing effort, the seal itself was reworked, with more concentric circles added, and the type in the seal and logo changed to Bodoni, a font dating from 18th century texts.

Second, some strategic context: Our current re-positioning is meant especially to address the admissions challenges the college is facing. The 2014 version of the college logo, the initials sjc in lower case, with St. John’s College spelled out on the side, is meant to convey a sense of freshness, a sense of belonging in the contemporary world. This is important as entrée to the college for a new generation of prospective Johnnies. The new website will build on our focus on the contemporary relevance of the college. There will be more real estate devoted to the people who bring the Program to life—students and faculty—and to those who are transformed by the Program—our alumni in the world. The site will be fully current in its navigation. An expanded and more varied color palette will be used. Again, the aim is to present an up-to-date, fresh, yet classic look, in keeping with a message that St. John’s provides a first-rate academic experience in a distinctive way, with graduates who exhibit excellence of intellect and imagination as they venture into their lives and livelihoods. Both the logo and the website were reviewed by a college-wide committee consisting of faculty and staff, many of whom are alumni. They have also been reviewed by the Board of Visitors and Governors, the majority of whom are alumni.

We are seeing initial signs that we are moving in the right direction with our marketing strategy and with the other tactics we are undertaking to improve admissions.  Applications for next year’s freshman class are up more than 10%, and this year’s freshman class said “yes” to St. John’s (after being accepted) at the rate of 47%—an excellent record.  The uptick can be attributed to changes in recruiting methods, more personal contact with prospective students, a new admissions microsite that tested some of the new visual look, more generous financial aid,  and greater success with placing articles and blogs to increase visibility for the college.

We hope that you will support the college through this transitional, yet pivotal moment in its history. We understand that such change matters to the alumni and will be the subject of animated discussion. We wouldn’t expect anything less. Please know that these changes are meant to strengthen the college by capturing the attention of the very best and most qualified prospective students, who will eventually graduate and become St. John’s alumni among you.

Barbara Goyette (A73), Vice President, Advancement, Annapolis
Victoria Mora, Vice President, Advancement, Santa Fe

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