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Doctor Connor with stu­dents in Europe. John Quint | Courtesy

Pro­fessor of History Tom Conner is offering a unique oppor­tunity to local res­i­dents and the Hillsdale College com­munity to travel to Europe and explore World War sites this summer.

In honor of the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into World War I, Conner, who helps lead the Hillsdale Summer Study Abroad’s Churchill World War II high school trips, is taking those inter­ested June 2 – 17 to his­torical sites from Ams­terdam to Paris for $3,200 per person, not including airfare. Hillsdale College stu­dents have the oppor­tunity to earn up to three credits from the trip.

“If you tour with Doc, you will have a guide whose love for the land, the people, and its history shine through in every­thing he tells you,” said sophomore Sammy Roberts, who par­tic­i­pated in the 2014 high school Europe trip with Conner.

Although most of the sites concern WWI, the group will visit some rel­ative to WWII, including the Anne Frank House in Ams­terdam and Normandy’s cemetery, one of Conner’s favorite sites, he said.

Conner said he approx­i­mates that he has led college stu­dents on six trips alone since 1990. SInce 2004, he has helped lead the admis­sions office’s Churchill WWII trip every summer.

Conner said he enjoys watching stu­dents encounter history for them­selves and that obser­va­tions student have made over the years stick with him. He recalled once, at a French mil­itary cemetery at Verdun, he was looking at 15,000 crosses with a student from a vantage point from which you can see the entire expanse.

“One of the stu­dents said one time, ‘Wouldn’t it be some­thing, a miracle, if all the dead could just stand by their grave and you could just actually see, see them in their youth and see that each cross rep­re­sents a life that was cut short in battle?’” Conner said. “It’s way too easy to see and think that’s just the cost of war, but if you can actually make yourself see that those rep­resent young men, not unlike the young men walking around campus today, that’s when the real tragedy of war sets in.”

For this trip, however, Conner said he is eager to lead a mixed-age group.

In Sep­tember, Conner adver­tised for the trip through service clubs, the radio, and all-college emails. As a result of this, members of the tour vary to include a variety of par­tic­i­pants, including a retired judge, a hos­pital admin­is­trator, and several Hillsdale parents.

Benzing Res­i­dence House Director Sue Postle signed up for the trip, having loved her expe­rience going on the WWII HSSA trip in the summer of 2014, she said.

“I love trav­eling to Europe, and Doc. Conner is a very knowl­edgeable his­torian to lead the trip,” Postle said. “Its def­i­nitely great to go with people who know the spots to go.”

Assistant Director of Career Ser­vices John Quint ’09 began trav­eling with Conner as a college student. As a sophomore, he met Conner, who was the faculty adviser for Sigma Chi men’s fra­ternity. Their com­bined interests of baseball and the appre­ci­ation of music led the two to travel to see the Chicago sym­phony orchestra and the San Fran­cisco Giants. The two then became travel com­panions, and Quint has accom­panied Conner to Europe.

“All the knowledge that he has of the World Wars and the history of France and Europe, watching him give a lecture while I’m standing downtown Pairs or walking along the shores of Brest, it left an impact on me,” Quint said. “His pas­sions for the history, and espe­cially for American ties to these sites, is con­ta­gious.”

Conner is writing a book on the overseas mon­u­ments and memorial ceme­teries the U.S. gov­ernment main­tains. There are alto­gether eight burial grounds main­tained by the United State for World War I deaths, and Conner will take par­tic­i­pants of the summer trip to three of them.

“It’s a real thrill to see people come in contact with those places for the first time and realize that this has been one of the under­takings of our gov­ern­ments for the last 70 – 80 years,” Conner said.

Although Quint is not joining the trip in June because of a work con­ference in the States, he said he plans to go to Europe in the two weeks leading up to the trip for more travels with Conner.

“You’re guar­anteed an excep­tional trip,” Quint said. “It will be very hard to replicate this. Someone as knowl­edgeable, as genuine, as well-respected as Doc Conner, you don’t get to travel with someone like that very often. At least not at this price.”