When Associate Professor of History Kenneth Calvert was asked to temporarily take on the role of headmaster of Hillsdale Academy, he had no idea that he would be there for more than 15 years.
“I was a full-time professor,” said Calvert, who has taught ancient history at Hillsdale College for 21 years. “Then, Dr. [Larry] Arnn asked me to serve as the interim headmaster. It’s been a 16-year interim position.”
After the 2017-2018 school year, Calvert will step down as the headmaster of Hillsdale Academy and focus his attention on the college. Calvert said although he has loved much about being headmaster, he always intended to return to being a full-time professor.
He said that after a “tumultuous” first few years following its founding in 1990, the academy has settled down. He said this will be the first smooth transfer of authority the K-12 private school has experienced.
The college is just beginning a search for the next headmaster. Along with Calvert and the president’s and provost’s offices, the group dedicated to finding a replacement will consist of members including Daniel Coupland, dean of faculty; Phil Kilgore, director of the Barney Charter School Initiative; and Michael Roberts, assistant headmaster.
Calvert praised academy students’ high SAT and ACT scores, as well as its athletics program, in which 97 percent of students participate.
“More than anything, we have turned our school in a classical direction, affecting the hearts, minds, and souls of young people,” he said. “We serve as a model for hundreds of schools across the country.”
He said he has enjoyed getting to know friends and donors of the academy and appreciates the “many people across the country who love our little school.”
Roberts ’98 met Calvert when he was a student in Calvert’s Ancient World course in 1996. He began serving as assistant headmaster the same year Calvert became headmaster.
“Working with him as been a great joy,” Roberts said. “He’s been a great boss and partner all these years. He’s simply one of the best men that I know.”
Roberts praised the work Calvert has done at the academy.
“He has made huge contributions,” Roberts said. “There have been very positive changes in the academy in every imaginable way, such as student enrollment, the quality of teachers, and financial growth. Dr. Calvert loves the Lord, the academy, and the college and its mission. That’s why he’s had such a great impact in serving as headmaster.”
Roberts said he thinks Calvert is an outstanding teacher and that he looks forward to working with Calvert in new ways going forward.
Calvert said that leaving the academy is bittersweet.
“There’s a sad feeling to it, because I have put so much energy into our great little school and worked so hard to make it worthy of the Hillsdale name,” Calvert said. “It’s particularly sad to leave behind the kids. But there is a rather large measure of relief to hand the reins of the institution over to someone new. I feel like it’s time to pass that on.”
Calvert’s son Ian is a junior at Hillsdale Academy. His two older children also attended the academy and went on to attend Hillsdale: Joel Calvert graduated in 2017, and Claire Calvert is currently a sophomore.
“That has been a huge joy and big part of my life,” Calvert said. “Every day is ‘Take Your Kids to Work’ day.”
Claire Calvert said she admires the work her father has done and is excited to see him return to working full time for the college.
“My father being the headmaster at the academy is all I have ever known,” she said. “It never seemed out of place, and as I got older, I began to notice how well he kept the school running. I was never ashamed of being at the academy with him, because I loved him and I knew how hard he worked to make the academy a great place of learning.”
Calvert, who used to be a stand-up comedian, said one of his lessons from comedy also applies to stepping down from the academy.
“The rule is always to leave the stage when they’re laughing and clapping,” he said.