Sarah Davis '95 Spends a Day on the Hilltop

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, Hackley alumna Sarah Davis ’95 visited the Hilltop for a full day of activities with the Hackley community.

Dr. Davis reconnected with Hackley when faculty member Steve Fitzpatrick, who is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts through the St. John’s College Great Books program, learned that she is the dean of their undergraduate program in Sante Fe, New Mexico. The program at St. John’s is unique — not only is every faculty member expected to teach every course at some point, but the curriculum is required and consists solely of the Great Books, most of which have been taught for decades. 

In her time at Hackley, in addition to being an outstanding student, Dr. Davis was the recipient of the McIlhenny Bowl, “Hackley’s highest distinction for a female in the field of athletics.” Her academic journey took her from excelling at Hackley to earning her Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and anthropology from Harvard University, followed by a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Emory University. An accomplished writer, Dr. Davis has published creative nonfiction and essays, and she co-edited “Being There: Learning to Live Cross-Culturally.” She has also worked with such prestigious publications as Time magazine in Paris and American Heritage magazine in New York. Dr. Davis is also a host of the podcast series “Continuing the Conversation,” and has been a member of the faculty at St. John’s College in Sante Fe since 2012.

Dr. Davis began her day on the Hilltop meeting with Hackley families for an HPA coffee in King Chapel, where she discussed her experience at Hackley and how it ultimately led to a career teaching at St. John’s. She then addressed the Class of 2024 in a “Chapel Talk” delivered in Allen Hall where she discussed the value of uncertainty in the face of new opportunities and new challenges, offering the Seniors another way to look at their path ahead. “I want to suggest to you that there is something powerful and of real value in the moments in which we are close to the precipice of the indeterminate, the not yet,’” Dr. Davis said. “The paths we walk are never totally known, never totally written. ... There is always room for exploration, growth, change [and] surprise.” Click here to read Dr. Davis’ full remarks.

Following her talk, Dr. Davis met with a group of Middle School students. She spoke with them about what, exactly, philosophy “is” and reminisced about her time at Hackley. In another highlight, Dr. Davis led a session over lunch with the students in the Great Books seminar, a new course offered through both the History and Classics Department, taught by Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Sheppard. Students were assigned to read Book VII of Plato’s Republic describing the “allegory of the cave” for the discussion. Dr. Davis took the students and adults present through the text in the style of St. John’s by focusing on quotes and passages of the text itself as opposed to bringing in outside information. 

Sarah Davis’ visit to Hackley provided a unique opportunity for the community to gain insights into the value of a liberal arts education and an appreciation for deep learning.

To learn more about Sarah Davis and her work at St. John’s, click here.