About the Headmaster

Dr. John Nagl is the Ninth Headmaster of The Haverford School. Prior to assuming responsibility for the School in July 2013, he was the inaugural Minerva Research Professor at the U.S. Naval Academy. 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 is also a Senior Fellow and member of the Board of Advisors at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
In addition to teaching at Annapolis, Dr. Nagl 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. 
Dr. Nagl is a member of the Reserve Forces Policy Board for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, 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, which selected him as an International Affairs Fellow. 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 TimesThe Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalForeign PolicyMilitary ReviewJoint Force QuarterlyArmed Forces Journal, and Democracy. Dr. Nagl was profiled in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times Magazine and 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

  • 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 >

  • Headmaster John Nagl delivers address at BYU's Wheatley Institution

    Feb 18, 2015

    Ninth Headmaster John Nagl delivers an address titled "Education for Character and Values" at Brigham & Young University's Wheatley Institution, sharing some of his past experiences and his educational philosophy. Watch video & view the transcript >

  • Feb. 23: Headmaster John Nagl discusses "Knife Fights" with Chris Stigall

    Feb 2, 2015

    Join Chris Stigall (1210 AM WPHT) as he hosts Lt. Col. John Nagl for discussion of his latest book Knife Fights. This Speaker Series event will take place in Ball Auditorium at The Haverford School on Monday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. Lt. Col will also host a book signing post discussion.

    Tickets are $30 and include a copy of Knife Fights. For tickets CLICK HERE.

  • Soldier, educator: Haverford School Headmaster John Nagl’s new military memoir hits home

    Jan 28, 2015

    By Michael Bradley ’79/Main Line Today
    John Nagl doesn’t wear the bracelet often. But when he does, its power is overwhelming. On it are the names of 23 men – his men – whom he believes died unnecessarily in Iraq. Nagl can be funny, flippant and irreverent. He’s most always thoughtful and certainly intelligent. But when it comes to those men, he’s downright angry. More>

  • Headmaster John Nagl to speak at Duke University – Jan. 27

    Jan 19, 2015

    Hosted by Duke University Political Science professor Peter Feaver (Ph.D., Harvard), Headmaster John Nagl will deliver a talk titled “Modern War in Theory and Practice” on Jan. 27 at 6:15 p.m. at the Sanford School of Public Policy. He will be joined by students from the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS) and the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy (AGS). Nagl will also meet with the Duke Counterterrorism and Public Policy fellows and UNC-TISS National Security Fellows. This event is free and open to the public.

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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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