Responding to the Call for Spiritual Renewal
In the years following the Second Vatican Council, many selfless and heroic Catholic laymen and laywomen listened and responded to the call of the Council for a spiritual renewal. The three founders of Magdalen College were among these laymen.
In 1973, businessman Francis Boucher, high school teacher John Meehan, and college professor Peter Sampo embarked upon the task of founding Magdalen College. The founders recognized the need to establish a new educational institution to serve the youth of the third Christian millennium.
As Dr. Sampo explained, “It has been my experience that academic standards have slipped in colleges. Moral standards have slipped as well.” Dr. Sampo stated that Magdalen College would provide a “rigorous intellectual, moral, and spiritual education.” Mr. Boucher added, “Everyone everywhere should have a total view of reality.”
Yet, before Magdalen College could open its doors in September 1974, the founders had to accomplish several essential tasks. One such task Mr. Meehan completed in February 1973 when he met with His Excellency, the Most Reverend Ernest J. Primeau, Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, seeking his Episcopal blessing and approval to establish a Catholic institution of higher learning.
Mr. Meehan said he was “somewhat stunned, yet pleasantly surprised, at how readily Bishop Primeau accepted the vision of Magdalen College.” Bishop Primeau was a Father of Vatican Council II who served on the commission that drafted The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity. He said to Mr. Meehan, “You have my blessing and approval, now let us see how well you laymen will conform to your apostolate.”
On August 22, 1973, Magdalen College was incorporated in the State of New Hampshire as a private, nonprofit educational institution. The founding documents stated that the College would offer a liberal arts education taught in the Socratic method of open inquiry and based on the classic texts of Western civilization.
The founders informed the public of their plans at a news conference held on September 11, 1973. A fundraising dinner held just a few weeks later on October 24 was attended by over 200 supporters, and provided some of the critical initial funding for the creation of the College.