Lander, Wyo., Mar 23, 2013 / 01:09 pm (CNA).- Dr. Kevin Roberts, incoming president of Wyoming Catholic College, says he is “thrilled and humbled” to head a school with “supernatural joy” and a desire to be a leading force in Catholic higher education.
“Every single person there from a new student to a graduating student to a faculty member…is absolutely committed to honoring God’s will, to being devoted and dedicated to what is good, true and beautiful,” Roberts told CNA March 22.
He said the college shows a “tremendous passion” for the Catholic faith.
Wyoming Catholic College opened in 2007 in Lander, Wyo. It is based on a “Great Books” curriculum that examines the prominent written works of Western civilization in a Catholic environment. The college seeks to educate the mind, body and soul, and it has a unique outdoor leadership program that trains students in wilderness travel and backcountry skills as well as personal development, teamwork and decision making.
Its requirements also reflect Wyoming’s cowboy culture: college freshmen must take a horsemanship course.
The college announced the selection of Roberts as its next president on March 21.
Roberts said he has followed the college since its founding and many people inside and outside of Catholic higher education are aware of its mission.
“It is impressive that the college has earned a reputation so quickly in its history, and it is a good reputation,” he said. “They have really ‘planted the flag’ as one of the leaders in that segment of the Catholic education world.”
Roberts holds a doctorate in history from the University of Texas-Austin. He has taught at the university level and has published articles and books on American history. He is presently focused on the history of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and is writing a biography of Bishop John Carroll.
Seven years ago, he co-founded John Paul the Great Academy, a co-ed pre-kindergarten through 12th grade Catholic liberal arts school in Lafayette, La. He has served as co-director of the Cardinal Newman Institute for the New Evangelization, a project of the Catholic higher education group the Cardinal Newman Society.
Roberts said Wyoming Catholic College is a special place that every Christian should support.
“It is firmly ensconced in the New Evangelization,” he said.
In his view, about 90 percent of higher education is beset by “a secularism that is very dangerous for the future of western civilization.” The remaining colleges are firmly Christian and predominantly Catholic.
He praised the college for planting itself “in the trenches of the ‘culture war’” in higher education.
He said he hopes to take the college out of a defensive posture in these “trenches” and “really storm the field.” Despite the college’s small enrollment and rural location, he said, it can help alter the course of higher education “because of its commitment to fusing faith and reason.”
Roberts said his out-of-state connections will help with student recruitment and fundraising and help raise the college’s national stature.
He added that he largely intends to stay on the course set by the college’s founding president, Father Robert Cook, as it moves to its permanent campus on a ranch south of Lander. He will also oversee the accreditation process, which has already begun its initial phase.
Roberts praised Fr. Cook as a “tremendous leader” for the school. He said the administrators have done “a remarkable job with limited resources” in providing sound academic and spiritual formation for the students.
Fr. Cook, the outgoing president, said he is “delighted” with the choice of his successor and looks forward to his leadership.
“It is clear that Dr. Roberts fully understands the mission of the college, its fine liberal arts curriculum, and he embraces the unique leadership training program that has been developed here,” Fr. Cook said March 21. “I greatly appreciate his unshakeable commitment to the Catholic faith and the Catholic identity of our college.”
Roberts will take office on June 1, when Fr. Cook retires.
He added that he is looking forward to the great outdoors of Wyoming, since he and his wife are “avid backpackers.”
“I’m an outdoorsman,” he said. “I tell people that one addiction in my life is fly fishing.”
He said that Wyoming Catholic College, despite its youth, has distinguished itself by fusing “a passion for the truth with a passion for God’s ‘first book,’ which is nature.”