How much do you know about the history of Hillsdale College?

Most of us know that a higher per­centage of Hillsdale stu­dents vol­un­teered to fight in the Civil War than at any other non-mil­itary school. We also know that the college was founded in 1844. (After all, that year appears in the Wi-Fi password.) However, the college has a much richer and a more fas­ci­nating history than many stu­dents may realize.

As stu­dents, we owe a lot to those who came before us and we should be inspired by the history of our school. First, we need to know some­thing about it. Mossey Library pro­vides access to several won­derful books, including several by Arlan K. Gilbert, a longtime Hillsdale pro­fessor turned his­torian. Before you graduate, you should read a book on Hillsdale’s history.

“The history of Hillsdale College is unique,” said Burt Folsom, a pro­fessor of history who taught at Hillsdale for more than 14 years before retiring last semester. “We were founded on equality of oppor­tunity and we have pre­served and pro­moted that ideal for 173 years and counting. Yes, devel­oping our minds at Hillsdale College is important, but I teach stu­dents in my classes the history of our college to help develop their hearts as well.”

Moved by Folsom’s admi­ration of Hillsdale, I began to do a bit of research on our history on my own. Now, I co-host the segment “Wait, What Hap­pened?” on WRFH Radio Free Hillsdale along with junior Sarah Schutte. In our show, we discuss unique stories and people in the history of our college.

“It’s good to know where you came from,” Schutte said. “There is so much beau­tiful history. There was so much strength, ded­i­cation, courage, and deter­mi­nation in the founding. It’s rare to survive through much of what we did. It gives you a new, con­crete appre­ci­ation.”

In one episode, we talked about a 1955 incident with Hillsdale’s football team, at the time coached by Frank “Muddy” Waters, the namesake of our stadium. After going unde­feated that season, the team was invited to compete in the pres­ti­gious Tan­gerine Bowl in Florida. Unfor­tu­nately, bowl offi­cials insisted that Hillsdale’s four black players could not attend. Hillsdale took a prin­cipled stand and turned down the invi­tation.

“If char­acter is destiny, Hillsdale was preparing well for the con­sti­tu­tional issues of the next sixty years,” Folsom said of the Tan­gerine Bowl story.

Hillsdale stu­dents should feel inspired and awed by stories such as this, as well as by the college’s valiant wartime efforts.

Senior Hailey Morgan recently put together an exhibit in Mossey Library show­casing Hillsdale’s involvement in the Civil War. She said that studying the history of the college gave her a new per­spective and renewed admi­ration of Hillsdale.

“There are a lot of really neat and sen­ti­mental stories about Hillsdale and people who lived here,” Morgan said. “Each is unique and very heartfelt. Espe­cially for people who are here for a short time, it’s good know the history of the com­munity and the con­tri­bu­tions of the people to give you a greater appre­ci­ation.”

The best place to start appre­ci­ating Hillsdale better is the library. If you want to start from the beginning, pick up “His­toric Hillsdale College: Pioneer in Public Edu­cation, 1844 – 1900.” If you’re more inter­ested in war history, Gilbert’s “Hillsdale Honor: the Civil War Expe­rience” is an excellent resource. For some­thing more recent, try “The Per­manent Things: Hillsdale College, 1900 – 1994.”
In addition, Mossey Library’s website pro­vides an excellent searchable database of college news­papers, mag­azine, year­books, and more. Look for the box labeled “Archives and Special Col­lec­tions” on the library’s homepage. Also, Radio Free Hillsdale’s Sound­Cloud page con­tains every episode of “Wait, What Hap­pened?”

When it comes to those who came before us, Folsom explained that Hillsdale stu­dents and faculty have much to be thankful for.

“Many pro­fessors and stu­dents at Hillsdale College in the last 173 years have sac­ri­ficed much to give stu­dents today the remarkable oppor­tu­nities the campus offers,” Folsom said. “We all owe grat­itude for what so many who have come before us have given our campus today.”

In 80 years, someone will start writing the book on Hillsdale in the 21st century. Some of our names are going to be in it. We’re par­tic­i­pating in the story of a great insti­tution. We should know the roots of our story.

Ms. Lasch is a junior studying English and jour­nalism.