What’s so Special about Patrick Henry College?

Patrick Henry College

I don’t often engage in blatant promotions for Patrick Henry College. Semi-blatant perhaps. But rarely full-on blatant. But winning our ninth Moot Court Championship in twelve years gives me a reason to answer this question:

Why does Patrick Henry College continue to do so well?

I’ve thought long and hard about this. We all have – from the founders, to the Board of Trustees, to the staff and faculty. What is it that truly separates Patrick Henry College from the other very fine colleges out there and available to the caliber of students we attract?

The answer to why Patrick Henry College does so well is not just about moot court. It’s actually about an entire approach to education. It’s holistic and all encompassing.  And it is true for the entire college, not just for those interested in going to law school.

To start the answer though, let me give you some perspective from the moot court experience at Patrick Henry College. The American Moot Court Association is 16 years old, the same as Patrick Henry College itself. We have competed every year since the beginning, although our first team went without any coaching or preparation. We did reasonably well in the first couple years, but in the last twelve years, as noted above, we have won nine national championships. No other college has ever won more than one.

There are high ranking colleges and universities that compete in the tournament. In this year’s contest there were teams from the University of Chicago, Williams College, Duke, the University of Virginia, Holy Cross and many other highly regarded schools.

Of the schools I just named, Holy Cross did the best, narrowly losing in the semi-finals to one of Patrick Henry College’s top two teams. Holy Cross is a longtime leader in moot court, with a better record than any of the other highly regarded colleges. Like Patrick Henry College, Holy Cross has a strong coaching program, while many other teams have no faculty director. If a coach with substantial experience were to engage regularly with the students from Chicago or Williams, they would be even better than they already are.

Here’s the lesson. Many of the faculty at famous universities are hired and promoted on the basis of their publications and research. Teaching, coaching, student engagement and mentorship, however, are not the emphasis. Real education is maximized when professors and students engage in active learning, which is what we do at Patrick Henry College. If you’re looking to excel, find a college that engages in that kind of learning. There is no substitute.

But faculty engagement is not the only factor. Many colleges have that element. It’s also about academic rigor. At Patrick Henry College, we have a 63 credit core curriculum that every student must take. The curriculum is deliberate in its depth and breadth, immersing the students in the finest tradition of the classical liberal arts. It allows our students to understand the meaning of freedom, the nature of man, the rich history of Western Civilization, and the importance of knowing how we’ve arrived at this point in our nation’s history. The curriculum helps the student measure these things against the competing philosophies of the world. With that background, Patrick Henry College students can enter any conversation with boldness and confidence, but with the added component of winsomeness. 

But it’s not only about academic rigor. Other colleges have fine academic programs. It’s also about the students who come to Patrick Henry College. There is no doubt that a major reason we can not only win championships, but have four of the top eight teams in the nation (not unusual for us), is that Patrick Henry College attracts really smart kids.

Good coaching, faculty engagement, and rigorous academics are perfected when we take intelligent kids who are willing to work as a team to improve themselves and each other. The iron-sharpening-iron component of our teams’ preparation is absolutely essential. When you practice with the best you have a chance of becoming the best.

Smart kids alone won’t bring you the success we’ve experienced. There are plenty of brilliant kids at other colleges. Another factor to consider is Patrick Henry College’s apprenticeship program, which not only helps in moot court, but leads to success after graduation. Our students gain real world experience in positions that are specifically related to their major. More often than not, these positions lead directly to jobs. In some programs, such as the Strategic Intelligence major, students may even be able to obtain coveted security clearances, well before their peers. And these apprenticeships are not optional. They’re a mandatory part of the Patrick Henry College program.

However, quality internships are not the final ingredient. You can get excellent internships at other colleges, even if it’s not part of the official program. There is another factor, and it can be illustrated by a conversation I had with a very kind and considerate competitor from another college. All of our teams said this young man was one of the best competitors in the nation and we just barely beat his team in one of the later rounds. He came to me and said that he had heard that Patrick Henry College was the team to beat, and he found that to be true. He had also heard that we comported ourselves like champions. But he said it was not in the haughty way he expected. He saw that we simply demanded excellence from ourselves, while treating everyone with kindness and respect.

That young man’s very gracious comment was more important to me than being handed the national championship trophy.

Where does this come from? It’s the final and most important ingredient. It comes from the fact that Patrick Henry College is a place where everything we do is done for the glory of God. The faculty, the staff, the Trustees, and the students, love God with all their heart, soul, and mind. That formula, I believe, is the secret to our success. Coaching, faculty engagement, rigorous academics, smart kids, a deliberate apprenticeship program, and all of it done for the glory of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! You may find another college out there with one or more of those elements, but we truly believe that Patrick Henry College is the only place where you’ll find them all. And those elements permeate every program and affect every student, not just our moot court team.

If you want this kind of an education for your son, daughter, or grandchild, please seriously consider Patrick Henry College for them.

For Christ and for Liberty,

Dr. Michael P. Farris
J.D., LL.M,
Chancellor Emeritus

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