July 16, 2012
When it comes to the country’s most popular college
professors, St. John’s own Dr. Thomas M. Kitts ’77NDC stands at the
head of the class.
This talented English instructor and St. John’s alumnus was
featured on this year’s “The Best 300 Professors” list, compiled by
The Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com.
The ranking was based on surveys sent out to hundreds of thousands
of undergraduate students nationwide, in addition to input from
Dr. Kitts is one of five
St. John’s professors included on the list, and he believes
this is a perfect vehicle for advertising the University’s talented
“It’s a very cool honor, but I feel a bit uncomfortable talking
about myself in that way,” Dr. Kitts explained. “There are just so
many great professors here on campus – how can you narrow it down
to only a few? But still, I view this list as a great way to get
publicity for St. John’s and to show off the caliber of professors
we’ve got here. That’s the most important part.”
Dr. Kitts first came to St. John’s as a student in 1973 and was
originally interested in studying History. After taking a few
English courses, however, he quickly found his true calling.
“I had the privilege of taking some really great professors here at
St. John’s, and they made me realize that studying and teaching
English was what I wanted to do,” Dr. Kitts said. “Business wasn’t
for me, the sciences weren’t for me, but English really spoke to
me. Once I got a taste for it, I knew I wanted to continue down
After receiving his graduate degrees, Dr. Kitts became a successful
academic, with articles and reviews appearing in various journals
and periodicals, including Journal of Popular Culture Review,
Mid-Atlantic Almanack and other collections. He authored two
academic books – Ray Davies: Not Like Everybody Else and The
Theatrical Life of George Henry Boker and has also published and
staged a play entitled Gypsies: An East Village Opera. Amidst his
busy schedule, he finds time to co-edit Popular Music and Society,
an international publication.
But most of all, Dr. Kitts loves teaching his St. John’s
“I truly enjoy all of my classes, especially when I get to teach
the core to the freshmen and sophomores,” Dr. Kitts noted. “I meet
with all my students outside of the classroom to go over their
writing, and that really helps their performance and their
engagement. Getting to know the students and spending time with
them helps to motivate them to work harder – they know they can’t
hide in the back of the classroom.”
The diversity of the student body, Dr. Kitts believes, is the most
remarkable part of St. John’s, greatly enriching the classroom and
creating a more comprehensive learning environment.
“I will never forget this one class I taught,” Dr. Kitts recalled.
“The students included: an Orthodox Jewish woman sitting right next
to a man who was a Sunni Muslim, and sitting right beside both of
them was a seminarian who was becoming a priest! And you know what?
They got along fabulously and they each brought so much to the
conversation. Things like that greatly benefit the entire
He added, “We’re diverse in every way imaginable: ethnicity,
religion, musical interests – you name it. That’s what makes St.
John’s so amazing.”
Before becoming a full-time professor, Dr. Kitts served as Director
of Alumni Relations at St. John’s from 1980 to 1991. One of his
proudest accomplishments was helping to establish the Alumni
Insider’s View…U.S. Capital Program, an annual event that
celebrated its 31st anniversary this past academic year.
“That job was a lot of fun,” Dr. Kitts said. “We ran a lot of
events – well over 100 each year. And the best part was that I got
to meet so many of our fascinating alumni.”
Whether as a student, administrator or full-time professor, Dr.
Kitts has been a part of St. John’s for decades, and his recent
honor from The Princeton Review speaks volumes about his dedication
“Students often underestimate their college experience,” he said,
“and they don’t always appreciate the quality of the education that
they’re receiving. But as I’ve learned, our students are good –
really good, and we provide them with a quality education. We turn
out some excellent kids, and that’s really a testament not just to
me, but our faculty as a whole.”