Sitting in a Claremont beauty shop, three ladies got an unexpected treat when Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak handed them each a flower from a nearby florist.
Just a bit earlier, President Larry Arnn and Sajak were eating lunch in a California restaurant when those ladies recognized a celebrity at the table. Arnn said they kept coming by and glancing nervously at Sajak, pointing a little, and giggling.
“It was quite a thing, but they never came up to him,” Arnn said in an email.
But when Sajak spotted one of them getting a haircut, he followed up with flowers.
“They cried out with embarrassment that he should see their haircuts in progress. I expect they will never forget that,” Arnn added.
Sajak, the host of Wheel of Fortune for more than 30 years now, is also on Hillsdale’s Board of Trustees.
Arnn met Sajak for the first time in a Pasadena, California restaurant circa 1984.
“We had a mutual friend, Bruce Herschensohn, and he told me about Pat. Bruce praised Pat in high terms. I asked to meet Pat, Bruce introduced us, and I invited him to lunch,” Arnn said in an email.
Sajak said in an email he had known Arnn from Arnn’s work on the board of trustees at The Claremont Institute. Yet, it wasn’t until Arnn became president at Hillsdale that he became aware of the college.
“When I came to Hillsdale to look around, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the place, its students, and Dr. Arnn’s vision for its future. I was honored to be asked to join the board, and my 10-plus years of serving has been among the highlights of my life,” Sajak added.
Arnn said Sajak is a good trustee for many reasons – he believes in the mission of the college, has been a student in the college, and has excelled in his classes. Over those ten years, Sajak has diligently completely the majority of the core curriculum.
“Several have taught him, and all gave him A’s,” Arnn said. “He wanted to take the core curriculum, and we arranged for him to do that remotely by listening to tapes of classes and having conversations with professors.”
And Sajak earned every A. Arnn said when he taught Sajak the Constitution course, he decided to do it Oxford style. Each week, Sajak and Arnn spoke over the phone for about two hours, and Sajak had to write a five-page paper over the readings.
“A time or two he mentioned it was a lot of writing, and I fear I did not pay much attention. Then towards the end I added up what he had written, five or six pages a week for 15 weeks, a long master thesis. And of course this was just for an ordinary course,” Arnn added.
Arnn said he apologized to Sajak for the extreme workload, yet Sajak won’t let Arnn forget how much work he did.
“The papers, which I still have, are excellent,” Arnn added.
He said he thinks Sajak’s favorite class was English with Professor of English Stephen Smith.
Sajak said his trips to Hillsdale are a very pleasant change in his normal routine.
“Of course, I don’t have to attend class and finish assignments on time, so it’s probably a bit easier for me to relax,” Sajak quipped.
During his regular visits to the school, he meets with students who received his scholarship money. Melika Wiloughby ’14 met Sajak for the first time during a Trustee dinner at Broadlawn.
“He was incredibly amused by the fact that I was taking harp classes,” Wiloughby said.
She said she told him all the typical liberal arts classes she was taking — from Aristotle to Lincoln — and added she was taking harp.
“He was appreciative of the fact that students approach the liberal arts in their class schedules like that,” Wiloughby added.
While telling him a quick story about something that had frustrated her, she used the term “miffed”.
“He looked at me and said, ‘No one under the age of 75 uses the term miffed’,” Wiloughby said, laughing.
Before Sajak became a game show host, he worked at a radio station in Chicago, and served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam as a DJ for Armed Forces Radio. Afterwards, he was a DJ in Kentucky, and a weatherman in Nashville and Los Angeles according to his TV Guide biography.
Harkening back to the old days of journalism, Sajak said the 24-hour news cycle and social media have increased shoddy reporting.
“My time in journalism helped me learn to observe and try to understand the people around me,” he said. “Even in an area as far-removed from journalism as a game show, that experience has proved valuable.”