John C. Knapp, Ph.D., became the 13th president of Washington & Jefferson College and a professor in the philosophy department on August 1, 2017.
Prior to his selection as president of W&J, Dr. Knapp was the president of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, from 2013 to 2017. During his time at Hope College, Dr. Knapp sought to enhance the college’s distinction as a place of academic excellence and inclusiveness by leading the development and implementation of a 10-year strategic plan. As part of his efforts to improve academics and growth, Dr. Knapp oversaw the creation of the Boerigter Institute, a program to prepare students for career success, and of the Mellon Grand Challenges Initiative to create correlation between courses and research opportunities. In addition, Dr. Knapp established Hope College’s Presidential Colloquium lecture series, bringing in distinguished speakers to discuss issues of international importance.
Previously, he was the founding director of Samford University’s Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership. Concurrently, he served as University Professor and Mann Family Professor of Ethics and Leadership at Samford where he directed academic and co-curricular programs and supported teaching and scholarship in the schools of the arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, law, nursing and pharmacy.
Before joining Samford, Dr. Knapp served as professor and director of the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business, which enrolls approximately 9,000 students. The Center was established under his leadership in 1993 (as the independent The Southern Institute for Business and Professional Ethics) and became an executive education resource for leaders seeking to strengthen ethics and integrity in organizations. His programs were attended by more than 20,000 executives and managers from numerous corporations, governmental agencies, non-profits and professional firms.
A community-minded leader, Dr. Knapp’s focus on the liberal arts extends to the value he places on diversity and inclusion. During his tenure, Hope College achieved annual goals for greater student diversity while also raising the academic profile of incoming classes. He is greatly respected by students and faculty for his work to bolster a culture of inclusion, respect, and support, especially toward students and employees from underrepresented groups.
Internationally known as a speaker and facilitator, he has addressed academic and professional audiences around the world. He leads The Oxford Conclave on Global Higher Education, a retreat for college and university presidents held annually at England’s University of Oxford, and was the director of the Stellenbosch Seboka on Higher Education and Ethical Leadership, a gathering of university leaders from throughout southern Africa.
Dr. Knapp’s academic career has also included appointments as senior scholar and professor of ethical leadership at Kennesaw State University and adjunct professor of ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary. His scholarship includes numerous articles and five books, including the three-volume The Business of Higher Education.
Earlier, during his business career, he served for more than a decade as president of an Atlanta-based corporate communication firm. During this time, Atlanta Business Chronicle twice recognized him as the region’s leading crisis management consultant; Business Atlanta (now Georgia Trend) selected him for its list of the “40 Under 40” successful young executives; and Outstanding Atlanta Foundation named him one of the “Ten Outstanding Young People of Atlanta.” As a consultant, he helped leading corporations, professional firms, universities, governmental agencies and medical providers address a wide range of sensitive issues and circumstances.
Dr. Knapp’s scholarly work was recognized in 2009 when he was named a fellow of the Caux Round Table; in 2007 with his induction into the Martin Luther King Jr. International Collegium of Scholars at Morehouse College; in 2001 with the Georgia Governor's Award in the Humanities; and in 1995 with Columbia Theological Seminary’s Florrie Wilkes Sanders Prize in Theology. In 2013, Hope College awarded him the honorary degree Doctor of Letters.
Dr. Knapp is a member of the boards of Clemson University’s Robert J. Rutland Institute for Ethics, the American Association of Presidents of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts, and several other higher education associations. Previously, he served on the boards of Alabama Humanities Foundation, Georgia Humanities Council, Georgia Foundation for Independent Colleges, Great Lakes Colleges Association, Van Andel Institute, Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities, Society for Human Resources Management-Atlanta, Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, Georgia State University Foundation, Center for Women in Transition, and Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, among others. He was chair of the 2017 Building Character Celebration of the Michigan Crossroads Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Dr. Knapp also serves as chair of the New York Times Presidents Council, a representative group of private college presidents who meet regularly with the Times higher education reporters for background discussions of issues facing our institutions and industry. The Council serves as a resource and sounding board to the journalists who cover the field. The program was created in cooperation with the Council for Independent Colleges.
Dr. Knapp earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in theology and religious studies at the University of Wales, United Kingdom, a Master of Arts degree in theological studies at Columbia Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science degree in urban life with a concentration in communication at Georgia State University.
He and his wife, Kelly, have five adult children: Amanda, Tracy, Charlie, Mary and Ron. They have two grandchildren.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.