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Rick Arse­nault has helped keep Hillsdale College in pristine con­dition for 30 years this August. Breana Noble | Col­legian

August 15, 1988. Without hes­i­tation, Rick Arse­nault recalled the first day he started working at Hillsdale College, even though he says he doesn’t remember dates well.

Arse­nault, Sage Center for the Arts’ cus­todian, said he is aware that August will mark his 30th anniversary at the college. He has seen buildings come down and others con­structed. The faculty has doubled in size. Stu­dents have come, gone, and returned. Those 30 years, though, have flown by, he said.

“It seems a lot shorter than that,” he said, shaking his head. “The kids, the pro­fessors, they’ve made the 30 years seem like nothing, actually.”

It is the stu­dents, he said, who make the work of mopping the floors and deep-cleaning Markel Audi­torium worth it.

“I try to maintain the appearance as if there were VIPs touring the building every day,” he said.

It is how he treats the people he sees, too. Junior Jessica Mac­Farlane, a theater major, said Arse­nault always greets her with a smile and asks her how she is feeling.

“It’s very pos­itive,” she said. “I smile every time he talks to me. It’s genuine and sweet how he gets to know me and other stu­dents.”

Arse­nault said he does not think much of it; that is just how he was raised.

“We’re all family here,” he said. “Even if your day is mis­erable, it doesn’t mean theirs has to be, too. That’s just me, I guess.”

Those brief con­ver­sa­tions have also led to longtime friend­ships. He said some of his favorite mem­ories at the college come from seeing alumni return for Home­coming and other events.

“You get close to some of them, and you hate to see them leave,” Arse­nault said. “Like a parent, the kids are going to be moving out. That’s a sad memory, but they’re fond mem­ories, too.”

While working in the Stro­sacker Science Building, Arse­nault, always donning a Detroit Lions or Tigers baseball cap, fos­tered a close rela­tionship with Andy Brown ’97. Heading from one class to the next, Brown would meet Arse­nault in the hall with the baseball game playing on the radio sitting on his cart, and they would discuss their favorite pastime.

“We talked almost every day,” recalled Brown, who just was getting into radio at the time. “I told him we ought to do a sports talk show.”

That pre­mo­nition became reality about 10 years ago when Brown asked Arse­nault to co-host with him on his WCSR “Time Out” sports radio program at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. Now joined by sophomore Martin Petersen, they banter back and forth on trends in sports.

“I’ve always loved sports, ever since I was 3 or 4 years old,” Arse­nault said. “We get to talk about every­thing. I love it.”

Brown said Arse­nault brings a his­torical knowledge of sports since he has been fol­lowing longer than him, which is exactly what he wanted for the radio program.

“I didn’t want a pro­fes­sional broad­caster, but someone who could bring a dif­ferent per­spective like if you were talking at a bar or at a game,” Brown said. “He fit the bill per­fectly. The lis­teners enjoy that he’s funny.”

His co-hosts enjoy his per­son­ality and gen­erosity. With a bonus he received from the college one year, Arse­nault pur­chased Lions football tickets for Brown, Petersen, and himself.

Arse­nault grew up in Hillsdale. At 25, however, he sought his fortune and moved to Cal­i­fornia in the 1970s. In the Golden State, Arse­nault found jobs wherever he could.

He worked at a Beverly Hills gas station and often spotted one or two celebrities a day. He shook boxer Muhammad Ali’s hand, saw drummer Ringo Starr drive by with eight or nine women in a Rolls-Royce, and gave direc­tions to actress Jane Fonda.

“Most of them are very nice people,” Arse­nault said, though he added that he finds it amazing that any TV show is made given the drama that happens behind the scenes.

Later, Arse­nault drove a laun­dromat delivery truck that served movie studios, but the heavy Los Angeles traffic was too much, he said.

“Do I miss L.A.? Yeah, a little,” he said. “I miss the weather and the restau­rants and the beau­tiful, long-legged tan women, but the day I had to wait two or three blocks down the street just to get on the freeway — I’m not going to play that game anymore.”

After his father died, his mother asked him if he would con­sider returning to Michigan. Longing the wide open roads of the country, Arse­nault obliged and found work at the college.

To this day, Arse­nault said he is unsure if he found what he sought in Cal­i­fornia.

“I didn’t know what I was looking for, and I think that’s true for a lot of people,” he said. “I had no idea what to expect or what I would do. I said, ‘Whatever happens, happens.’”

Maybe, though, Arse­nault was meant to return home. It was a decision he does not regret at all, he said.

“I wouldn’t trade my 30 years at Hillsdale for any­thing,” he said.