About the Headmaster

Dr. John Nagl is the Ninth Headmaster of The Haverford School. Dr. Nagl is also a Visiting Professor in the War Studies Department at Kings College of London and a life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a Senior Fellow and member of the Board of Advisors at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

Dr. Nagl was the inaugural Minerva Research Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. Dr. Nagl also taught national security studies at West Point’s Department of Social Sciences, earning the Earnest Bevin Fellowship, and in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program. He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, where he received the George C. Marshall Award as the top graduate, and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was selected as the Alumnus of the Year of Creighton Preparatory High School in Omaha, Nebraska in 2012 and as a Klingenstein Fellow at the Teacher's College of Columbia University in 2016.

Dr. Nagl was previously the President of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., and remains on the CNAS Board of Advisors. He served on the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries of Defense Gates and Panetta and on the Reserve Forces Policy Board for Secretaries of Defense Hagel and Carter. Dr. Nagl has testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee to serve on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel (the Hadley/Perry Commission).

Dr. Nagl was a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy Class of 1988 who served as an armor officer in the Army for 20 years. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm, earning a Bronze Star medal, and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the Combat Action Badge and another Bronze Star. He later served as a Military Assistant to two Deputy Secretaries of Defense. His last military assignment was as commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor at Fort Riley, Kansas training transition Teams that embedded with Iraqi and Afghan units.

Dr. Nagl is the author of Knife Fights: A Memoir of Modern War in Theory and Practice, published by Penguin Press in October 2014, and of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. He was on the writing team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. He has also been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Military Review, Joint Force Quarterly, Armed Forces Journal, and Democracy. Dr. Nagl was profiled in The Wall Street Journaland The New York Times Magazineand has appeared on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, National Public Radio, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Dr. Nagl is the proud father of Jack, who attends The Haverford School. He is also responsible for Maggie the black lab and Sparky the Jack Russell terrier, who sadly do not meet The School’s rigorous standards for academic achievement and discipline.


News, articles, and media featuring Ninth Headmaster John Nagl

  • Headmaster Reflections: Klingenstein Center Fellowship

    By John Nagl, Ninth Headmaster
    Jan 30, 2016

    While attending the Teacher's College of Columbia University, I find myself in the back of the classroom rather than at the head of it for the first time in fifteen years, since I earned my second Master's Degree at the Command and General Staff College in 2001.

  • Headmaster John Nagl awarded Klingenstein Center fellowship

    Jan 25, 2016

    Headmaster John Nagl has been awarded a fellowship to the Klingenstein Center for Independent School Leadership’s 2016 Heads of Schools program at Teachers College, Columbia University. This distinguished honor, established in 1991, is granted to 20 heads of schools annually.

  • Headmaster John Nagl honored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense

    Jan 20, 2016

    Arnold Punaro, Chairman of the Department of Defense Reserve Forces Policy Board, presented Headmaster John Nagl with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Exceptional Public Service Award and an Office of the Secretary of Defense Certificate of Appreciation.

  • The Mask You Live In: exploring America's narrow definition of masculinity

    By Ninth Headmaster John Nagl
    Jan 15, 2016

    On the evening of Jan. 14, Upper School Counselor Janet Heed and I had the privilege of being on a panel of educators who led a discussion of The Mask You Live In at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. The film, which Janet teaches to boys taking her Social Psychology course, is an unflinching evaluation of the way we socialize and educate boys. It argues convincingly that our society requires boys to wear a mask that hides their fears, their pain, their suffering - their deepest selves - from everyone they meet.

  • Nov. 4: Headmaster John Nagl discusses his book "Knife Fights" at Radnor Memorial Library

    Oct 27, 2015

    Dr. John A. Nagl, who attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, was an Army officer for 20 years. He will discuss his book Knife Fights on Nov. 4 at Radnor Memorial Library. Nagl, the ninth headmaster of The Haverford School, served as the second president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., and has taught at West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, and Georgetown University. Books will be available for purchase. The event is co-sponsored by the Radnor Historical Society.

  • Headmaster John Nagl on This Week with George Stephanopoulos

    Oct 26, 2015

    Headmaster John Nagl debated American military strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos and guests. Watch >

  • Top Military Thinkers Critique Obama's ISIS Strategy

    Jun 14, 2015

    Headmaster John Nagl joined ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss strategy around the intensifying battle against ISIS in the Iraq region with Lt. Col. Doug Ollivant. Watch >

  • Headmaster John Nagl speaks at Annapolis Book Festival

    Apr 25, 2015

    Ninth Headmaster John Nagl discussed terrorism with U.S. Naval Academy Professor Stephen Wrage and New York Times correspondent James Risen at the 2015 Annapolis Book Festival. Watch >

  • Headmaster John Nagl discusses counterinsurgency with UC Berkeley's Harry Kreisler

    Mar 5, 2015

    Host Harry Kreisler welcomes John Nagl for a discussion of his life as a scholar/soldier in the U.S. military. After recalling the highlights of his career, Nagl, focusing on the problem of counterinsurgency, analyzes the army's failings as a learning organization. Watch >

  • Headmaster John Nagl delivers 2015 Nimitz Lecture at UC Berkeley

    Mar 4, 2015

    Headmaster John Nagl delivered the 2015 Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Memorial Lectureship at the University of California at Berkeley, a lecture series focused on national security subjects. Watch >

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John A. Nagl, D.Phil. P'20
Ninth Headmaster


  • B.S., United States Military Academy
  • M.Phil., St. John's College, Oxford University
  • D.Phil., St. Antony's College, Oxford University
  • M.M.A.S., United States Army Command and General Staff College

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