Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College
Hillsdale College Seal
Former names
Michigan Central College (1844–1855)
MottoLatin: Virtus Tentamine Gaudet
Motto in English
Strength Rejoices in the Challenge
TypePrivate liberal arts college
EstablishedDecember 4, 1844; 178 years ago (1844-12-04)
Religious affiliation
Baptist (historical)
Endowment$900 million (2021)
PresidentLarry P. Arnn
ProvostChristopher VanOrman

41°55′59″N 84°38′01″W / 41.93306°N 84.63361°W / 41.93306; -84.63361
CampusRural, 400 acres (160 ha) (84 buildings)
Colors Blue & white
Sporting affiliations
Hillsdale College Logo

Hillsdale College is a private, conservative, Christian liberal arts college in Hillsdale, Michigan. It was founded in 1844 by members of the Free Will Baptists. Hillsdale's required core curriculum includes courses on the Great Books, the U.S. Constitution, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Since the late 20th century, in order to opt out of the US government's Title IX nondiscrimination requirements, Hillsdale has declined government financial support. Instead, Hillsdale depends entirely on private donations to supplement students' tuition.



Hillsdale in the nineteenth century

Members of the Free Will Baptist sect founded their denomination's first collegiate institution in 1844.: 4  They established Michigan Central College in Spring Arbor, Michigan,: 6  The state of Michigan incorporated the college in the following year, during which the college enrolled 25 undergraduates.: 12 : 11  The college was officially non-sectarian. Its first president was Daniel McBride Graham, who held the office from 1844 to 1848.

Edmund Burke Fairfield assumed the school's presidency in 1848, and in 1850 the college was chartered to confer degrees.: 12–14 : 116  Black students were admitted immediately after the college's founding, and the college became the second school in the nation to grant four-year liberal arts degrees to women.: 12–14 

Outgrowing its space, in 1853 the school moved to Hillsdale, Michigan, in part to have access to the railroad that served the city. It received financial support from residents who wanted to develop the 20-year-old town.: 30  : 24  Construction was completed and the school reopened as Hillsdale College in 1855.

Fairfield led Hillsdale from 1848 to 1869. In 1854, he attended the first convention of the new Republican Party with Ransom Dunn in neighboring Jackson, Michigan. Fairfield was elected 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 occasions) and Edward Everett, the orator who preceded Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.: xxv, 49  On August 8, 1860, Hillsdale conferred its first degrees. On March 20, 1863, the Michigan legislature formally legalized Hillsdale's change of name and location.: 33 

Hillsdale no longer has any denominational affiliation but, according to its website, "the moral tenets of Christianity as commonly understood in the Christian tradition have been essential to the mission of the College". It has always been open to black and female students.

19th century

Central Hall, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1874

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.: 60 : 1 

In 1869, James Calder succeeded Fairfield as president. Calder served through 1871. During his administration, the commercial school opened, a theological department was established, and the college enrolled around 750 students.: 73, 292, 411  He resigned to become president of Pennsylvania State University.

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.: 139–66 : 77  DeWitt Clinton Durgin, a Union College alumnus, was president from 1874 to 1884. In 1878, the Hillsdale Herald was published, becoming the second oldest college newspaper in Michigan, behind Kalamazoo College's The Index. This paper later merged with another college paper to become The Collegian.: page needed  In 1884, Spencer O. Fisher became the first Hillsdale alumnus elected to Congress.: 119 

George F. Mosher served as president of Hillsdale from 1886 to 1901.: 116, 125  During this time, the college grew in size and in 1891, the Chicago Herald wrote, "Hillsdale has a college second in standing to no denominational college in the country."

20th century

Hillsdale College
Location33 East College Street
Hillsdale, Michigan
Coordinates41°55′57″N 84°38′02″W / 41.932531°N 84.633966°W / 41.932531; -84.633966
DesignatedJanuary 16, 1962
Central Hall in 1908

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

In 1907, the college amended its Articles of Association, no longer requiring the president and trustees to be Free Will Baptists. This led to a decline in the theological department's prestige but an increase in the number of Christian denominations represented on campus.: 166 : xxiii 

William Gear Spencer succeeded Mauck as president, serving from 1922 to 1932, when he departed to lead Franklin College. Under Spencer, 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.: 60–69 

During the Great Depression, Willfred Otto Mauck, Joseph Mauck's son and also an alumnus, was selected as the eighth president, serving from 1933 to 1942. 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%.: 72–83 : 210  Succeeding Mauck, Harvey L. Turner became Hillsdale's ninth president, serving from 1942 to 1952. Despite its financial difficulties, the college built a new library, had an undefeated and untied football team in 1938, and celebrated its centennial in 1944, when more than 1,000 alumni returned to campus for the commencement ceremony.: 113 : 267 

J. Donald Phillips next assumed the presidency, holding the position from 1952 to 1971. During his administration, Hillsdale constructed the Simpson and McIntyre Student Residences in 1966. In these years, Hillsdale began to resist federal civil rights regulations, particularly concerning affirmative action, enacted in the 1960's.: 167, 212 [better source needed] In 1962, the college's trustees adopted its own "Declaration of Independence". It affirmed Hillsdale's stance against what it called governmental control.: 191 

A marker designating the college as a Michigan Historic Site was erected by the Michigan Historical Commission in 1968.

George Roche III became the 11th president of Hillsdale College in 1971. During the Roche years, Hillsdale became nationally known, in part because of its withdrawal from federal and state-assisted loan programs and grants. Colleges that receive federal funding are required by law to report data on racial integration as part of the US affirmative action student loan program. Hillsdale announced that it refused to do so, and the college's trustees instead stated that the institution would follow its own non-discrimination policy and "with the help of God, resist, by all legal means, any encroachments on its independence.": 237–39 

During Roche's presidency, the college dramatically increased its endowment, established the Center for Constructive Alternatives, and hosted prominent national speakers, including Ronald Reagan. It also began publishing Imprimis, a monthly speech digest.: 222–23  Russell Kirk taught at Hillsdale for one semester per year beginning in 1973.

Roche resigned his position at Hillsdale in late 1999 following a scandal surrounding the death of his son's wife, Lissa Jackson Roche, who committed suicide in the Slayton Arboretum on October 17, 1999. Hours prior to her suicide, Ms. Roche stated that she and her father-in-law had engaged in an on-and-off 19-year sexual affair. Married to Roche's son, Hillsdale Professor of History George Roche IV, Jackson Roche had been employed as managing editor of Hillsdale College Press for 14 years. President Roche denied the alleged affair, but was suspended by the College on November 1 and resigned his post on November 10. Due to Jackson Roche's suicide and the ensuing scandal, the college's reputation suffered.

21st century

Larry P. Arnn has served as president of the college since 2000. Hillsdale's K–12 Initiative developed a full liberal arts K–12 curriculum for use in the charter schools and its private school in Michigan, Hillsdale Academy. In 2021, Hillsdale K–12 released a Civics "1776 Curriculum." In 2022, Hillsdale had schools following its K–12 liberal arts curriculum across 19 states and Barney Charter Schools in 9 states.

After several decades of maintaining a semester program in Washington D.C., Hillsdale established a permanent presence with the establishment of the Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship on Massachusetts Avenue. The facility was dedicated on Constitution Day 2010.[better source needed] Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, ran the Washington center's speaker series at this time. In 2015, the Boyle Radio Studio at the Kirby Center was dedicated.

In 2012, Hillsdale founded the Van Andel Graduate School for Statesmanship on its Michigan campus offering both an M.A. and PhD in Politics. Its first M.A. students graduated in 2014, and its first PhD students graduated in 2018.[better source needed] In 2020, Hillsdale founded the Van Andel Graduate School of Government on its DC campus offering an M.A. in Government. In 2022, Hillsdale founded its Graduate School of Classical Education offering an M.A. in Classical Education.[citation needed]

In 2013, Arnn was criticized for remarks about ethnic minorities he made while testifying before the Michigan 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?" Michigan House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel condemned Arnn's comments, calling them "offensive", "inflammatory and bigoted", and asked for an apology. In response, the college issued a statement apologizing for Arnn's remark, while reiterating his concern about "state-endorsed racism", as Arnn called affirmative action.

In 2019, S. Prestley Blake donated his former home, an exact replica of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, in Somers, Connecticut to Hillsdale College. In May 2021, Hillsdale dedicated the property as the Blake Center for Faith and Freedom.[citation needed] In November 2021, Hillsdale purchased land in Placer County, California for nearly $6M with plans for a new educational center.

The college is at the center of a political dispute about the K12 education, since it regards "history as politics by other means."


Hillsdale was ranked 46th in the 2022 U.S. News & World Report listing of "National Liberal Arts Colleges". The Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges 2023 ranked Hillsdale as first for "most engaged in community service," seventh for "students love these colleges," eighth for "professors get high marks," and thirteenth for "students study the most." The most popular undergraduate majors, based on 2021 graduates, were:

Economics (31)
Political Science & Government (31)
English Language & Literature (26)
History (26)
Finance (23)
Biochemistry (20)
Biology/Biological Sciences (20)

As of 2022, the college offers three graduate programs: the Van Andel Graduate School of Statesmanship, offering both an M.A. and a Ph.D. program in Politics; the Steve and Amy Van Andel Graduate School of Government, based in Washington, D.C., and offering an M.A. in Government; and the Graduate School of Classical Education, offering an M.A. in classical education.


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, a library, a music hall, an arts center, a conference center, a hotel, and a preschool. Hillsdale College also operates Hillsdale Academy, a private K–12 liberal arts school. The college opened the classical-style Christ Chapel in 2019, in a dedication ceremony led by Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas.

The Richardson Heritage Room, housed in Mossey Library

The campus features the Liberty Walk, a walkway lined with bronze depictions of famous politicians including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan.


In the early 1980s a controversy over the school's admissions practices threatened federal student loans to 200 Hillsdale students. Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives federal money. The federal government required colleges where students received federal funding to document their compliance with Title IX, but Hillsdale refused, arguing that the government could not deny federal funds to its students because the college received no direct federal funding and there was no allegation of actual sex discrimination. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) sought to terminate federal financial assistance to Hillsdale's students; an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied HEW's request in 1978, and both HEW and Hillsdale appealed to HEW's Civil Rights Reviewing Authority.[citation needed]

In October 1979, the Reviewing Authority rejected Hillsdale's arguments and the ALJ's decision, ruling that HEW could require Hillsdale to sign the Assurance of Compliance as a condition of its students receiving federal financial assistance. The college appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; in 1982, the Sixth Circuit ruled that government aid to individual students could be terminated without a finding that a college actually discriminated, but nevertheless upheld Hillsdale's refusal to sign the compliance forms because only its student loan and grant program is subject to Title IX regulation, not the entire college.

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 decision, Hillsdale withdrew from all federal assistance beginning with the 1984–1985 academic year; Grove City College, the plaintiff in that case, followed Hillsdale's lead four years later. Beginning in 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. Since 2007, Hillsdale's entire operating budget, including scholarships, has come from private funding and endowments.


The Blake Center for Faith and Freedom

In 2019, S. Prestley Blake donated his estate in Somers, Connecticut, to the college. Following a lengthy battle over zoning issues, the college has turned the estate into The Blake Center for Faith and Freedom. The center includes a replica of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Academy for Science and Freedom

In December 2021, Hillsdale launched the Academy for Science and Freedom in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The academy's stated goal is to "educate the American people about the free exchange of scientific ideas and the proper relationship between freedom and science in the pursuit of truth." The academy called the United States' response to the COVID-19 pandemic "the worst public health fiasco in history" that "has unveiled serious issues with how science is administered". Scott Atlas, Jay Bhattacharya, and Martin Kulldorff, who helped found the academy, have ties to the Great Barrington Declaration.

Campus life


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. Hillsdale was the fourth ranked school among all NCAA Division II colleges and universities in the U.S. 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 Division II 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 97th overall (among all divisions).

Alma mater

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

Notable people


Bion J. Arnold
Jared Maurice Arter, former slave, writer, missionary
Joseph Cella, former Ambassador to Fiji
Chris Chocola, former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
Elizebeth Friedman
Washington Gardner
Moses A. Luce

Politics and law

Military and public service

Science and engineering

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

Professional sports and athletics

Academia and scholarship


Active faculty

Visiting faculty and fellows

Former faculty


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