Great Books Foundation Announces New President

We’re delighted to welcome Joseph P. Coulson, Ph.D., as president effective August 11, 2014. Coulson brings more than 20 years of educational experience, including teaching, administration, and curriculum development, and is also a recognized essayist, novelist, poet, and playwright.

JCphoto.“The work of the Great Books Foundation is more important today than ever before. Literacy is in decline and the humanities are under siege, but fighting the good fight are the staff, teachers, students, and lifelong learners who each day advance the methods and programs of Junior Great Books® and the Foundation as a whole,” says Coulson. “I know by experience that the dedicated practice of close reading, shared inquiry, and civil discourse is an important antidote for what ails our society. The Foundation began as a force for humanistic values, for the discussion of great literature and great ideas in the service of creating common ground. I look back to that inspiration and look forward to the difference we can make in the lives of our students and lifelong supporters. To be the new president of the Great Books Foundation is a considerable responsibility, one that I accept with passion and humility.”

Coulson’s arrival follows the retirement of George L. Schueppert who served as the Foundation’s president for 12 years. “Thanks to the leadership and fiscal guidance of George Schueppert, the Foundation is in a strong position to further expand its mission,” says Coulson. “We are most grateful for his heartfelt commitment and dedication, and we look forward to his continuing and essential role as a member of our Board of Directors.”

Coulson’s educational background and professional experience are a valued addition to the Foundation’s executive office. He studied at Wayne State University and Oxford University, and he holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Coulson has served as a classroom teacher, English department chair, senior administrator, English professor, and director of teacher training and professional development. He previously worked at the Great Books Foundation from 1999-2003 as senior editor, editorial director, and chief of staff. As an instructor and school administrator, Coulson was named a Master Teacher, served for several years as a Mentor Teacher and curriculum consultant, and worked to develop comprehensive teacher-training programs.

Coulson’s creative successes include two novels: The Vanishing Moon (published in 2003 and selected for the Barnes & Noble Great New Writers series and winner of the Book of the Year Award, Gold Medal in Literary Fiction, from ForeWord Magazine) and Of Song and Water (published in 2007 and a finalist for the Great Lakes Book Award). He has also published three volumes of poetry—The Letting Go, A Measured Silence, and Graph—and his play, A Saloon at the Edge of the World, showcased by Theater Artists of Marin, was a finalist for the Bay Area Critics Circle Award in 1996.

Coulson is a recipient of the Tompkins Award in Poetry and the David Gray Writing Fellowship, and his essays have appeared in journals and anthologies including The Barnabe Mountain Review, Walt Whitman of Mickle Street, The Critical Survey of Poetry, and The Greenfield Review.




  1. Jean Scott says:

    Wish my memories were more specific — it was at least 30 years ago! I do remember how the children ‘s minds [and mine!] really opened up as they realized there was no one “right” answer but many right questions. Our minds learned to examine, imagine, and apply the ideas of a story to our personal lives. I remember meeting with my co-leader to plan and as we discussed the book together we both had many “aha!’ moments. I participate in a book club today and am an avid reader, in part because of that wonderful experience years ago.

    1. Sharon Crowley says:

      Thanks for sharing Jean! Those “aha!” moments are the best, aren’t they? We’ve heard many teachers and students use the same language when describing their time using Junior Great Books—it’s awesome that “aha!” seems to be a universal experience. We’re going to be in touch with you soon so we can send you a book to thank you for sharing your memories. Watch for an email that ends with

      Be well,
      your friends at Great Books

  2. When my children were in a parochial grade school, I offered to lead an after-school Junior Great Books Discussion group. I had learned the Great Books Method of discussion as a student teacher and had spent 4 years working my way through law school, where the Socratic Method of teaching neatly mirrors the GBM.

    The kids surprised me. They wanted to be there and wanted to learn. It was not merely their parents insisting on their taking this course. We really dug into “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, which I had never read before. Its easily close to twenty years ago since I taught the course, so my memory is a little hazy on details, but the fact that I was able to captivate children of a range of ages, differing skills and different interests remains in my mind as the most important aspect of my season of teaching Great Books Method.

    I started an Adult Book Club close to 10 years ago, and was the leader for years (until I just wore out). Our discussions were based on GBM of discussion and we always an in depth discussion. When we started rotating the leadership, we started getting questions like “Who was your favorite character?”…almost made me go back to leading.

    1. Sharon Crowley says:

      Hi Erica! Thank you for sharing your impressive experience and commitment to Great Books. You represent the best of our Great Books community—bringing Junior Great Books to students and later starting a Great Books group. We’re indebted to people like you, and are grateful for your time and support. We’ll be in touch with you soon—please watch from an email that ends with

      With thanks,
      your friends at Great Books

  3. Kelly Adams says:

    I am currently working on a Masters of Education in Literacy at Judson University in Elgin, IL. In today’s course, LIT520 Reaching Second Language Readers and Writers, the professor mentioned the Junior Great Books program and how beneficial it would be for educators to get trained. I was so excited to hear another person mention Junior Great Books. During break, I immediately went to your website and came across this post about alumni. I had to share! I have asked colleagues whether they were a part of this program growing up, but much to my dismay no one had participated or knew about Junior Great Books.
    I remember in 6th grade at Dearborn Street School in California (LAUSD), I would stay after-school and read and discuss great books in the teacher’s lounge of my school. This was over forty years ago, so the details are long forgotten, but the memory of participating in this reading group has stayed with me. Perhaps this was the impetus for my great love of reading, and the catalyst that launched my teaching career. I will never know; however, the fond memories associated with reading and Junior Great Books remains!!

  4. Julia Kara says:

    I am a former student that read Junior Great Books in my GATE class in 5th through 8th grade, over 35 years ago. I am now a 1st grade teacher with a highly gifted student in my class that is reading at a 5th to 6th grade level. I am in search of resources to keep her challenged, and the first books I thought of were the Junior Great Books I remembered digging so deeply into. It was the first time I remember having to really think deeply and analyze a story. I particularly remember reading “To Build a Fire” and being deeply affected by it.

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