Combat & Classics

January 29, 2018

Ep. 15: Shelley’s Frankenstein

Recent Episodes

October 24, 2017

Ep. 13: Plato’s Phaedo

Should we fear death? Jeff, Lise, and Brian discuss Plato’s Phaedo, in which Socrates is joined by his friends to discuss that [...]
September 28, 2017

Ep. 12: Sophocles’ Philoktetes

What role do lying and deception play in achieving strategic objectives? Jeff, Lise and Brian discuss that and other questions as [...]
August 6, 2017

Ep. 11: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “First Discourse on the Arts and Sciences”

Jeff, Lise, and Brian are joined by the distinguished Dylan Casey and Wes Alwan from the Partially Examined Life for this crossover [...]
May 5, 2017

Ep. 10: Anton Chekhov’s “The Student”

In this episode, Lise, Jeff and Brian discuss “The Student,” a (very) short story by Anton Chekhov. The central character [...]


Expand awareness for the great books and St. John’s College within the military/veteran ranks


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The Team

Lise Van Boxel

Lise Van Boxel

B.A., English Literature Specialist Degree and Political Science Major, Trinity College, The University of Toronto; M.A., Political Philosophy, Boston College; Ph.D., Political Philosophy, The University of Toronto; Professor / Tutor, St. John's College, 2001 - present.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson

Major, United States Marine Corps Reserve. Served in Bosnia, East Africa and Iraq as a Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Officer. Former Defense Contractor supporting Naval Special Warfare. B.S. Mechanical Engineering, United States Naval Academy. M.A. Liberal Arts, St. John's College Annapolis, Graduate Institute.

Jeff Black

Jeffrey J.S. Black

B.A., Trinity College, University of Toronto; Ph.D., Boston College; Associate Dean for the Graduate Program, Annapolis, 2011-2015; Professor / Tutor, St. John's College, 1999 - present.

Jeff Black

Sanya Sarich Kerksiek

B.A., Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; J.D., Northwestern University School of Law; M.A., Liberal Arts, St. Johns College, Annapolis and Santa Fe. Former civilian interpreter for U.S. Army counterintelligence forces in Bosnia. Federal law clerk and complex corporate litigator. Sanya is the Executive Producer, Audio Engineer, Website Support and Consiglieri for the Combat & Classics program.

Our Mission

“A leader should possess human understanding for others. Men are not robots and should not be treated as though they were machines. I do not by any means suggest coddling. But men are highly intelligent, complicated beings who will respond favorably to human understanding.” -GEN Omar Bradley, US Army

Combat and Classics is a series of podcasts and free online seminars for active duty, reserve, and veteran U.S. military members, sponsored by St. John’s College. The podcasts and seminars encourage deep thought and reflection by leaders in the company of their peers. In the discussion-based seminars devoted to what a leader must be and know, participants study historical and fictional leaders from the great books of the western canon. We examine techniques and examples of persuasion and fundamental questions on the nature of man. When participants take the time to reflect, with their peers, on the principles of leadership, they find that they return to their lives and professional positions energized and focused, with a deeper understanding of the context of their decisions, decision-making processes, and leadership roles.


  • Shaun Riley

    I came to St. John’s College after serving a tour in Iraq as an enlisted infantryman with the Maryland Army National Guard’s 58th Brigade Combat Team. I had studied political science at a large state university, but was unsatisfied with the education I received. I felt that, even after four years of studying, I hadn’t really grasped what there was to be learned from these “great books” I had heard about. Having served a tour in Iraq, I had also become deeply interested in fundamental questions of philosophy and political philosophy to help make sense of some things I experienced there. St. John’s offered the opportunity to learn from the greatest minds that have ever lived, and to think about the perennial questions that accompany the human condition. Shaun Riley U.S. Army Sergeant M.A., St. John’s College, 2013
  • Mace M. Gratz

    I attended St. John's College for my undergraduate education after four years in the Marine Corps.  Overall, I was very impressed by the high caliber of students, the quality of classes, and the warmth of the community on both campuses.  The great books program turned out to be an exceptional way to transition from military life to academic life. Mace M. Gratz B.A., St. John’s College, 2008 USMC, Sgt 1999-2003 Combat Photographer
  • Skip McGee

    This isn’t your ordinary school – St. John’s College is for those who aren’t just trying to collect a degree as a piece of paper for their next career goal. It is for those who want the time to reflect on the deep problems and ideas within the Western world, who are more interested in the why than memorizing an explanation of the way the world works. The community and faculty are unique and inspiring; fellow students who will challenge you come from different backgrounds and bring different ideas to the table. If you are willing to genuinely engage with the program, St. John’s College will revolutionize your perception of the world, filling your head with the thoughts, problems, and dialogues of great minds. The program will better enable you to listen to and understand others, building your own proficiency in dialogue and conversation. Ultimately, the College will broaden your thought and forever change the selection of books on your shelves. Skip McGee, SF ’10 Captain, USMC