After being leaderless for six months, members of Benedictine’s academic program for beauty and culture on campus—known as Angelico Fellows—welcomed their new director to campus in October.
The program’s new interim director, Professor Jason Baxter, is currently a professor at Notre Dame and previously spent 12 years teaching at Wyoming Catholic College. In addition to teaching, he has also authored numerous books, made several media appearances, and is working on an original translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Baxter said that he currently has a one-year contract with the college as director of the Angelico Fellows as he assesses the needs of the program and determines where God is calling him. In the meantime, he will visit the Fellows monthly for programs and events to promote beauty and culture on campus.
The Angelico Fellows were founded in 2021 as a “program of distinction” to form students in an understanding of the good, true, and beautiful. Sponsored by Benedictine’s Center for Beauty and Culture, the students host events to promote authentic Catholic culture on campus and attend talks and seminars to understand beauty more fully.
The Fellows were originally led by Dr. Denis McNamara, who resigned in March 2023. Following his resignation, Dr. Aaron Riches, one of Benedictine’s theology professors, began directing the program until a replacement could be found.
Baxter said that he was convinced to apply for the position after two friends, who are also professors at Benedictine, told him that he would be perfect for the job. Baxter also said that he was impressed with the school and the leadership of President Minnis.
Baxter said he loves that Benedictine creates programs for growth but gives faculty the space to have unique visions for the future.
“For me… I’m looking for an opportunity which is a chance to be a visionary, a chance to be a builder, and a chance to spend time around people who are intellectually hungry,” Baxter said. “And those are all the things that I discovered, to my delight, were in existence at Benedictine.”
Paul Burghart, Benedictine’s chief of staff and director of extension programs, said the enthusiasm Baxter brings to the Angelico Fellows will cause the program to flourish under his leadership.
“His academic expertise in literature and his extensive work on C.S. Lewis and Dante are an excellent fit for the Center for Beauty and Culture and its work of renewing the culture,” Burghart said. “He has outstanding ideas about how to engage the fellows and how to connect them to some of the amazing men and women he knows who are doing excellent work in the arts.”
“Most importantly, though, Dr. Baxter exhibits a true understanding of what it means to be wounded by beauty and to allow that beauty to drive us on to greater things, including, ultimately, relationship with the Triune God,” he said.
Though Baxter currently plans to remain with the Fellows for only one year, he already has ambitious dreams for Angelico Fellows programs. Examples of programs include the pianist Kuok-Wai’s visit to the college and a presentation on Dostoevsky and Russian icons, both occurring in October. Baxter also wants to lead a pilgrimage along St. Cuthbert’s Way in Scotland and England at the end of the school year as well as shoot a short film about the pilgrimage in collaboration with Benedictine’s media center.
“My goals for this year will be to bring some world-class intellectual opportunities to Atchison and to help students expand their horizons of the Catholic intellectual world beyond Kansas,” Baxter said.