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Hillsdale College is a private college in Hillsdale, Michigan. Founded in 1844 by abolitionists known as Free Will Baptists, it has a liberal arts curriculum that is based on the Western heritage as a product of both the Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition.[4] Hillsdale requires every student, regardless of major, to complete a core curriculum that includes courses on the Great Books, U.S. Constitution, biology, chemistry, and physics.[5]

Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College seal.jpg
Hillsdale College Seal
Former names
Michigan Central College
MottoLatin: Virtus Tentamine Gaudet
Motto in English
Strength Rejoices in the Challenge
TypeLiberal arts college
EstablishedDecember 4, 1844
Endowment$528 million (2016)[1]
PresidentLarry P. Arnn
ProvostChristopher VanOrman
Academic staff
124 full-time, 48 adjunct[2]
Location, ,

41°55′59″N 84°37′55″W / 41.933°N 84.632°W / 41.933; -84.632Coordinates: 41°55′59″N 84°37′55″W / 41.933°N 84.632°W / 41.933; -84.632
CampusRural, 400 acres (84 buildings)[3]
ColorsBlue and white         
AthleticsNCAA Division IIGMAC
Hillsdale College Logo

Since the late 20th century, the college has been one of several in the U.S. that declines to accept federal financial support, instead depending entirely on private donations.[6][7]



Hillsdale in the nineteenth century

In August 1844, members of the local community of Free Will Baptists resolved to organize their denomination's first collegiate institution.[8]:4 After gathering donations, they established Hillsdale College as Michigan Central College in Spring Arbor, Michigan on December 4, 1844.[8]:6 This site is currently home to Spring Arbor University. Although religiously affiliated, the college was officially nonsectarian.[9]

Hillsdale no longer has any denominational affiliation but, according to its website, says that "the moral tenets of Christianity as commonly understood in the Christian tradition have been essential to the mission of the College"[10] Founded by abolitionists, it has been open to black and female students from its first days.[5]

Under its first president, Rev. Daniel McBride Graham, who held the office from 1844 to 1848, Michigan Central College opened within a two-room store and admitted five students. In March 1845, the government of Michigan incorporated the college by an act of legislature, and the college enrolled 25 undergraduates by the end of its first year.[11]:12[12][8]:11

E.B. Fairfield assumed the presidency of Michigan Central College in 1848. In two years, on March 20, 1850, the Michigan state legislature granted the college a special charter, giving it the right to confer degrees.[11]:12–14[8]:116 Black students were admitted immediately after the college's 1844 founding,[13] and the college became the second school in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.[14][11]:12–14

Outgrowing its space, in 1853 it decided to relocate to Hillsdale, Michigan, in part to have access to the railroad that served the city. It received considerable financial support from local citizens, who wanted to develop the 20-year-old town.[11]:30 The cornerstone of the new building, Central Hall, was laid on the Fourth of July 1853.[15][8]:24 When Michigan Central College completed construction and moved, it reopened as Hillsdale College on November 7, 1855.

Fairfield led Hillsdale from 1848 to 1869.[12] During his presidency, he helped found the Republican Party with Ransom Dunn in neighboring Jackson, Michigan.[16] A prominent leader, Fairfield was present at the first Republican Party convention in 1858, and was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Michigan. Hillsdale's early anti-slavery reputation and pivotal role in founding the Republican Party led to the invitation of several notable speakers on the campus, including Frederick Douglass (who visited the school on two separate occasions) and Edward Everett, the orator preceding Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.[11]:xxv, 49 On August 8, 1860, the first degrees were conferred at Hillsdale by the college. On March 20, 1863, the state legislature of Michigan "formally legalized" the college's change of name and location.[8]:33

19th centuryEdit

In 1861, many Hillsdale students joined the ranks of the Union Army during the American Civil War; a higher percentage of Hillsdale students enlisted than from any other Michigan college.[8]:60[17][18]:1 Hillsdale continued to operate during the war, but had limited enrollment because so many young men went to war. Half of Hillsdale's students who enlisted became officers, as was typical for men with some college education; five became lieutenant colonels, four received the Medal of Honor, and three became generals. Sixty students died in the war.[18]:5

Present-day Central Hall, rebuilt after the fire in 1874

Hillsdale survived while nearly 80% of the colleges founded before the Civil War were forced to close. After the war, the college regained its normal enrollment; many veterans returned and completed their education there.[citation needed] Notable speakers continued to arrive at Hillsdale's campus, including the famed female physician and educator Sophia Jex-Blake in October 1865.[8]:65 Hillsdale's Delta Tau Delta chapter, its first fraternity, was chartered on October 19, 1867.[8]:458

In 1869, James Calder succeeded Fairfield as president. The college's third president, Calder served into 1871. During his three-year administration, the commercial school opened, a theological department was established, and the college enrolled around 750 students.[8]:73, 292, 411 He resigned to become president of Pennsylvania State University.[12]

In 1871 Clara Kern became the first woman to be awarded a degree at Hillsdale College.[19] She went on to become a notable author and education activist.[19]

Hillsdale's first president, Daniel McBride Graham, returned for a brief second term in 1871, notably rebuilding the campus after the catastrophic "Great Fire" of March 6, 1874.[11]:139–66[8]:77 Soon afterward, DeWitt Clinton Durgin, a graduate of Union College, held the presidency from 1874 to 1884.[12] In 1878, the Hillsdale Herald was published, becoming the 2nd oldest college newspaper in Michigan behind Kalamazoo College's The Index. This paper later merged with another college paper to become The Collegian.[8]:page needed During Durgin's presidency, Hillsdale's Kappa Kappa Gamma and Sigma Chi chapters were chartered.[8]:462, 464

After Ransom Dunn's brief turn as acting president, George F. Mosher served as president of Hillsdale from 1886 to 1901.[12][20][21][8]:116, 125 During this time, the college grew in size and prestige. In 1884, Spencer O. Fisher, a Hillsdale alumnus, was the first to be elected to Congress.[8]:119 Pi Beta Phi and Alpha Tau Omega were chartered.[8]:465, 467 In 1891, the Chicago Herald reported, "Hillsdale has a college second in standing to no denominational college in the country." Four years later, when the University of Chicago offered to affiliate with Hillsdale, the college rejected their proposal.[11]:page needed

20th centuryEdit

In 1900, the college ceased grazing livestock and removed the agrarian fence which circled the campus.[22]:xxiii[8]:135 It began an era of institutional growth and professionalization. In 1902, Joseph William Mauck became the sixth president of the college, the first Hillsdale graduate to return as president of his alma mater.[12] Beloved by the college community and an early and outspoken advocate for women's suffrage, Mauck served for two decades.[23][24] Today, one of the women's dormitories is named after Mauck.

Hillsdale adopted its first honor code and held its first homecoming celebration. Significantly, the college amended its Articles of Association in 1907, no longer requiring the president and trustees be members of the Free Will Baptist denomination. This led to a decline in the prestige of the theological department, but concurrently an increase in the number of Christian denominations represented on campus.[8]:166[22]:xxiii In 1915, the college's chapter of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity was chartered. When World War I broke out, a large proportion of (mostly male) students entered military service. By 1918 most of the upperclassmen had enlisted.

Four years after the war, William Gear Spencer succeeded Mauck as president. He served from 1922 to 1932, when he departed to lead Franklin College.[12][25] Under Spencer's leadership, the college prospered. During this time, Hillsdale acquired its 14-acre Slayton Arboretum, built new dormitories, constructed a new field house for its developing athletic programs, and, in 1924, chartered its chapter of Chi Omega.[22]:60–69

During the Great Depression, Willfred Otto Mauck, son of Joseph William Mauck and also an alumnus, was selected as the eighth president, serving from 1933 to 1942.[12] Throughout this era, the college struggled financially, was forced to cancel its new construction projects, and cut the pay of its faculty and staff by nearly 20%.[22]:72–83[8]:210 Succeeding Mauck, Harvey L. Turner became Hillsdale's ninth president, serving from 1942 to 1952.[12] Despite the financial difficulties lasting from the Depression and World War II, the college succeeded in building a new library, having an undefeated and untied football team in 1938, and celebrating its centennial in 1944, when more than 1,000 alumni returned to campus for the commencement ceremony.[22]:113[8]:267

J. Donald Phillips next assumed the presidency, holding the position from 1952 to 1971.[12] Throughout his nearly 20-year administration, Philips corrected many of Hillsdale's financial worries and constructed many new campus buildings. In these years, Hillsdale began to resist regulations of the federal government, particularly concerning affirmative action, which followed national civil rights legislation.[22]:167, 212[26][27] In 1962, the college's trustees adopted its own "Declaration of Independence". This document affirmed the college's stance against governmental control.[22]:191 The college promoted the traditional education of the liberal arts and classics. In the late 20th century, it decided to forego any federal grants or subsidies, to "to reaffirm its historic independence and to resist subsidization of its affairs by the federal government."[28]

George Roche III became the 11th president of Hillsdale College in 1971. During the Roche years, Hillsdale College became nationally known, in part because of its withdrawal from federal and state-assisted loan programs and grants. The US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare required the college to account for students by race as part of its affirmative action student loan program in the 1970s, but the administration publicly refused. The college's trustees stated that Hillsdale would follow its own non-discrimination policy and that it would, "with the help of God, resist, by all legal means, any encroachments on its independence."[22]:237–39 In 1984, after a decade of federal litigation on the matter, the college withdrew from all federal student loans, replacing government assistance with private contributions.

Roche was highly successful in fundraising until he resigned due to allegations of a personal sexual scandal. During his presidency, the college dramatically increased its endowment, established the Center for Constructive Alternatives, and brought prominent national speakers to campus, including President Ronald Reagan. It also began publishing Imprimis, Hillsdale's monthly speech digest.[12][22]:222–23 Russell Kirk taught at Hillsdale one semester a year throughout this time, beginning in 1973.

Roche resigned in late 1999, following the suicide of his daughter-in-law and her allegations of personal scandal.[29] On October 17, 1999, Lissa Jackson Roche, daughter-in-law of President Roche, said that she had engaged in a 19-year on-and-off sexual affair with him. She fatally shot herself at the Slayton Arboretum on campus with a .38-caliber handgun taken from her husband's gun cabinet.[30] Married to Roche's son known as Roche IV, Jackson Roche was employed by Hillsdale as the Managing Editor of Imprimis and Hillsdale College Press.[31][30][32][33] President Roche denied the affair.[30][34] The college's reputation suffered and donations declined markedly.[29]

21st centuryEdit

Larry P. Arnn has served as president of the college, since 2000.[35] Under his tenure, the college completed various new buildings, including the John A. Halter Shooting Sports Center and Margot V. Biermann Athletic Center.[36] The college also opened the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, an off-campus educational center in Washington, D.C.[37]

In 2013, Arnn was criticized for remarks about ethnic minorities made when he testified before the Michigan State Legislature against the Common Core curriculum standards. Expressing concern about government interference with educational institutions, he noted having received a letter from the state Department of Education early in his presidency that said his college "violated the standards for diversity." He added, "because we didn't have enough dark ones, I guess, is what they meant." After being criticized for calling minorities "dark ones," Arnn explained that he was referring to "dark faces". He stated: "The State of Michigan sent a group of people down to my campus, with clipboards ... to look at the colors of people's faces and write down what they saw. We don't keep records of that information. What were they looking for besides dark ones?"[38][39]

Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel condemned Arnn for his comments, saying they were "offensive" and "inflammatory and bigoted", and asked for an apology.[40] In response, the college issued a statement apologizing for Arnn's remark, while reiterating the president's concern about "state-endorsed racism", as he referred to affirmative action policies.[41]


Hillsdale enrolls approximately 350 new students each year, with a current enrollment of around 1,450 students from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and eight foreign countries. The college employs 124 full-time faculty members.[42] Hillsdale was ranked joint 76th-80th in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report listing of best National Liberal Arts Colleges.[43] The Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges 2019 ranked Hillsdale as 3rd for "most conservative students" and 9th for "professors get high marks".[44] Hillsdale was ranked 203rd overall, including 35th in the Midwest and 141st in private colleges, in the 2018 Forbes report of America's Top Colleges.[45]

Undergraduate offerings include a variety of liberal arts majors, pre-professional programs, a teacher education program, and a journalism certificate program.[46]

A graduate program called the "Graduate School of Statesmanship" was inaugurated in 2012. Its focus is political philosophy and American politics; it awards MA and PhD degrees in Politics.[47]


Delp Hall and the Liberty Walk, facing Central Hall

Hillsdale's 200-acre (81 ha) campus contains multiple instructional and office buildings, 13 residence halls, seven fraternity and sorority houses, an athletic complex, music hall, arts center, conference center, hotel, and preschool.[46] Hillsdale College also operates Hillsdale Academy, a private K–12 liberal arts school.[48]

The Richardson Heritage Room, housed in Mossey Library

Hillsdale College was chosen to receive the personal library of Austrian School economist Ludwig von Mises, following the wishes contained in von Mises's will; the collection of works is housed in the Ludwig von Mises room of the college's Mossey Library. Mossey Library also contains collections of the works of Russell Kirk and Richard Weaver, and is home to the college's Richardson Heritage room. Built in 1994, the Heritage room holds many first-edition books and rare volumes, as well as sculptures, paintings, and historical artifacts.[49]

The college's Slayton Arboretum was officially created in 1922 when George A. Slayton and his wife donated 14 acres (5.7 ha) to the college. The arboretum was envisioned as an outdoor laboratory and field station for students and a biological garden for the community. Initial planting was with donated plants and the labor of Hillsdale students and volunteers. In 1939, Slayton Arboretum was listed as one of Michigan's Points of Interest, and up to 700 people a day visited the site.[citation needed]

A unique feature of the campus is the Statues of Liberty Walk, a walkway lined with depictions of well-known leaders and icons of Western culture. These include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. A statue of Ronald Reagan was dedicated on October 7, 2011, in the centennial year of his birth. Reagan spoke at the college in 1977, stating, "Hillsdale deserves the appreciation of all who labor for freedom."[50] On May 12, 2017, the college also dedicated a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, positioned directly across from that of Lincoln. Douglass was a guest at the college in 1863, where he gave an address titled "Popular Error and Unpopular Truth."[51]


Hillsdale's charter prohibits any discrimination based on race, religion, or sex, and the College has been credited as the first American college to prohibit this type of discrimination in a charter.[13] Notably, Hillsdale's football team refused to play in the 1956 Tangerine Bowl in Florida when the governing committee of the Bowl would not allow the team's black players to join the white players on the field; the committee then selected Juniata College instead.[13][52]

In the early 1980s, two hundred Hillsdale students lost their federal student loans due to the college's opposition to affirmative action.[citation needed] The U.S. federal government had asserted that it could require colleges where students received such funding to submit Assurance of Compliance forms mandated by Title IX and Hillsdale refused compliance, claiming that affirmative action was racial discrimination.[53][54] This ongoing dispute with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) intensified in 1979 when the College filed a petition for judicial review in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, asking the court to overturn a previous decision by the Reviewing Authority, Office of Civil Rights of HEW. In December 1982, the Sixth Circuit upheld Hillsdale's refusal to sign the compliance forms but also ruled that government aid to individual students could be terminated without a finding that a college actually discriminated.[55]

In the related 1984 case, Grove City College v. Bell, the Supreme Court required every college or university to fulfill federal requirements—past and future requirements—if its students received federal aid. As a result of the court's decision, Hillsdale withdrew from all federal assistance beginning with the 1984–85 academic year; Grove City College, the defendant in that case, followed Hillsdale's lead four years later.[citation needed]

Beginning with the 2007–2008 academic year, Hillsdale stopped accepting Michigan state assistance, instead matching with its own aid any funds that a student would have received from the state.[56] Since 2007, Hillsdale's entire operating budget of the college, including scholarships, comes from private funding and endowments.[citation needed]

In 2010, a resolution of Hillsdale's Board of Trustees asserted that both Congress and the Obama administration appeared "even more than the worst of their predecessors, bent on extending federal control over American higher education and other areas of American life."[57]


Center for Constructive AlternativesEdit

Hillsdale brings speakers to campus through its Center for Constructive Alternatives program. Lectures are open to the public.[58] Speakers have included Stephen Ambrose, Benazir Bhutto, Harry Browne, Russell Kirk, Harvey Mansfield, Charles Murray, Ralph Nader, P.J. O'Rourke, Phyllis Schlafly, and Juan Williams.[59][60] Lectures and speeches from the series are published monthly in Imprimis,[61] and distributed monthly for free. First published in 1972, Imprimis has a circulation of over three million subscribers.[62]

Barney Charter School InitiativeEdit

The college's Barney Charter School Initiative was established to support the launch of K–12 charter schools based on a classical liberal arts model, with a strong civics component to "equip students to understand and defend the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution."[63]

Hillsdale-Oxford Scholars ProgramEdit

Through an affiliation with Oxford's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the Oxford Study Abroad Program, Hillsdale College offers a study abroad program at Oxford University where participants participate in classes and extracurricular as associate members of one of 38 different colleges in the University.[64]

Allan P. Kirby CenterEdit

The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship, located on Capitol Hill

Hillsdale operates the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. The Kirby Center also provides assistance to Hillsdale students that are participating in Washington internships[65] and co-sponsors the James Madison Fellows Program with The Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. It engages with senior-level congressional staff members who the college describes as "dedicated to making first principles the foremost consideration in public policy formation".[66] A monthly lecture series hosted by the center is the AWC Family Foundation Lecture Series, which was started in 2008. The series has included lectures by David Horowitz, Brian Kennedy, John Bolton, and Hillsdale professor Paul A. Rahe.[67] The Kirby Center also hosts an annual Constitution Day celebration and conducts online, interactive town halls on matters related to the Constitution.[citation needed]

Campus lifeEdit


The college has a number of sports teams that compete at the NCAA Division II level, including baseball, men's and women's basketball, football, softball, women's swimming, track and field, cross country, men's and women's tennis, and women's volleyball.[68] The college also has club teams and intramural sports that vary from year to year.[69] The Chargers, as the Hillsdale athletics teams are known, compete in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference.

Football coach Frank "Muddy" Waters was the head coach at Hillsdale from 1954–1973. The football stadium, Frank Waters Stadium, is named in his honor.[70]

In 2018, Hillsdale College was named one of the best schools in the U.S. for student-athletes by Next College Student Athlete's 2018 NCSA Power Rankings.[71] Hillsdale was the #4 ranked school among all NCAA D2 colleges and universities in the U.S.[72] The NCSA Power Rankings, which recognize the best colleges and universities in the U.S. for student-athletes, ranked Hillsdale within the top 10 among all D2 schools for several sports including football, baseball, softball men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s track and field, women’s swimming and women's volleyball. Hillsdale men’s track and field also ranked #97 overall (among all divisions).[73]

Greek lifeEdit

North-American Interfraternity Conference Fraternities

National Panhellenic Conference Sororities

Alma materEdit

Hillsdale's alma mater is "White and Blue". The words and melody were composed by Bess Hagaman Tefft, Class of 1937.[80]

Notable peopleEdit

Notable alumniEdit

Bion J. Arnold
Jared Maurice Arter, former slave, writer, missionary
Chris Chocola
Elizebeth Friedman
Washington Gardner
Moses A. Luce

Politics and lawEdit

Military and public serviceEdit

Science and engineeringEdit

  • Bion J. Arnold, pioneer in electrical engineering and mass transportation

Professional sports and athleticsEdit

Academia and scholarshipEdit

Notable facultyEdit

Present facultyEdit

Visiting faculty and fellowsEdit

Past facultyEdit


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