John Senior (1923-99)

Dennis Quinn (1928-2011)


These two Kansas University professors – initially together with a third colleague, Franklyn Nelick (1918-96) – were among a handful of American academics of the counter-cultural 60s who revolted against the debunking of classically and religiously rooted dimensions of our culture. They dared what they called an “experiment in tradition.” (More about this here.) The program they taught in the 1970s changed hundreds of lives, including my own. I dared to approach these two in the 1980s, after the program had been suppressed  – through “death by administration,” as Quinn put it – and see if we could rekindle the fire. They agreed to sit down and revisit their famous lectures, always together, without notes, but this time on tape. They were well recompensed for their work, but it was also clear that, despite their aversion to technology, they immensely enjoyed the opportunity to teach “at a distance,” long before our similar needs of 2020. The tapes were made for my students in Europe, so now distance in space is matched by distance in decades.

When these recordings were made, it had been almost 15 years since my participation in the original course. However, I found these later conversations especially engaging, with the two men more seasoned and sober than in the heyday of the program. Many of the tapes are now beyond repair, but a good number of them have been successfully digitized and (with help of my talented webmaster) enhanced in quality. As more become available, they shall be posted here. An introductory talk, followed by conversations on Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, Plato’s Republic, The Persian Wars of Herodotus and, finally, the Bible, were retrievable in their integrity. On Cicero only the third of three tapes was located. On Aeschylus and Thucydides also only one tape of each has survived; still, what is said is well worth a listen. My hopes to locate tapes on the other authors, highlighted below, may have proven misguided. 

Also provided are links to the professors’ main publications. Quinn’s book is a treasure chest on the topic of wonder, the fruit of decades of research. It gives us a sort of reference work on something that was certainly a leitmotif of the IHP. I suspect most of Senior’s former students would agree that after listening to him teach “free-form,” his written works can hardly capture the magic. Nonetheless, the books do not disappoint, bringing together talks, essays and articles that are full of insights, often poetic in tone, although more polemical than the recorded conversations. 

A fellow colleague of the program, now a Benedictine monk, has published a remarkable study of Senior’s life and work, also referenced below. 

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I include here just a few of the educational resources available today (mostly online) in harmony with the ideals of the IHP:

Angelicum Academy (Great Books program)

Albertus Magnus Institute  (despite the URL:, this is not the ‘Magnus Institute’ that comes up on google, but rather the Albertus Magnus Institute)

Institute of Catholic Culture

Catholic Productions (Scripture resources)


Estes dois professores da Universidade de Kansas–no início com um terceiro colega, Franklyn Nelick (1918-96)–contaram-se entre um punhado de acadêmicos que se opuseram contra a supressão das dimensões clássicas e religiosas da nossa herança na academia contemporânea; eles propuseram um “experimento em tradição.” (Mais sobre isso aqui) O programa que ministraram nos anos 70 mudou a vida de centenas de estudantes (incluindo a minha). Me atrevi a pedir a eles, nos anos 80, a revisitarem suas aulas, após a supressão do programa “morte por administração,” nas palavras de Quinn), e gravar algumas conversas. As fitas sofreram com o tempo, mas consegui digitalizar um bom número e (com ajuda do meu webmaster talentoso) aprimorar a qualidade sonora. Na medida em que fiquem disponíveis, vou postá-las aqui. Conversas sobre a Odisseia, Heródoto e a Bíblia já estão em preparação.