Elon college professor writes to SJA graduate:

Just wanted to tell you that you really blew everyone away on your final essay–as Carly Simon says in her song “Nobody does it better/Makes me feel sorry for the rest.”  You don’t know how much I have admired and appreciated your extraordinary performance throughout the semester.  I certainly hope that you will share your certificate and my other forms of praise with your parents because they should be quite proud of your achievements in your first semester–and only 17 years old!  Just think what you can do when you turn 18!  You should be proud that you are one of the rare individuals in modern culture to have experienced a rigorous background.  I am sure that you will continue on to meteoric rise and success in future semesters.

Rick Branyan,
Elon College Professor


Former SJA student writes to acknowledge influence of St. John’s Academy teacher:

…I was thinking back on how I suddenly got here, and remembered, not too long ago, back when I was a student at St. John’s Academy.  My favorite class of the day used to be history classes with Mr. Hays.  I remember how an hour would fly by and I’d still be standing at the doorway, debating with Mr. Hays about the Crusades, or Augustine, or transcendentalism.  You see, it was back in those classrooms that I, mousy little thing that I was, learned to reason, debate, and write.  What Mr. Hays taught me was how to doggedly pursue my interests and tenaciously defend my opinions.  He taught me how to be a historian.

So thinking back on it, really, the only reason that I’m here, that I have the capacity to do what I’m doing right now (composing my thesis on anti-Islamic polemic written by Dominican missionaries in the 13th century crown of Aragon) is because he really taught me how to do it first.  He saw that I was interested, and so took an interest in helping me.  So, to get to the point, well, I’d just really like to let him know that I’m doing what I love now, and really, I owe a lot of it to him, and to your school.  Do you have any way that I can do so?  I know it sounds silly and nostalgic, but, this May marks the culmination of a process that started with you guys, and I wouldn’t feel right moving on without letting you know.




“My children are completing their seventh year at SJA and when I think about what sets this school apart from others, three words from the school’s mission statement come to mind: TRAINING VIRTUOUS SCHOLARS.

I know that academically, my children are receiving the best, most rigorous education possible—one that is rooted in the idea of the Trivium and that seeks to cultivate the great ideas of western civilization. Taught by exceptional teachers with a commitment to excellence, I know my children will be well prepared for the challenges of college.

But even more importantly, St. John’s Academy seeks to train VIRTUOUS scholars. Virtuous means that my children are learning to recognize and appreciate the virtues of truth, beauty and goodness so clearly found in the “great books” of our western culture and as exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ. SJA is a school that works hand in hand with parents to train VIRTUOUS SCHOLARS.”

Leah Mahan



“You have one of the most comprehensive backgrounds in the humanities of any student I’ve taught. You should be proud that you are one of the rare individuals in modern culture to have experienced such a rigorous background.”

“Michelle’s extraordinary performance on the final exam gave evidence of intellectual maturity and critical thinking, two characteristics that are quite rare among college students.”

Richard Branyon, Humanities Professor, Elon University January 2004



Hi Ms. Palmerio!
I’m sorry it’s taken so long for me to reply. I’m having a wonderful time in Spain! I hope you are doing well. I can’t thank you enough for the foundation you gave me with your Literature classes. I’m studying a very ‘classical’ curriculum here with Latin, Greek, Philosophy, History, and of course Literature! All that you taught me has helped tremendously in following the classes (anecdotal trivia included!) I hope all is well at St. John’s. Luke better be behaving himself! You should look into informing the upper school about Rotary’s exchange program. It’s really outstanding. Give everyone a hug from me!

Love, Sara