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Alumnus C.G. Appleby lived in the ATO house for one year during his time at Hillsdale. City Data | Courtesy

C.G. Appleby recalls his mother asking him, “Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?” when ques­tioning whether Uni­versity of Michigan — his family’s alma mater — or Hillsdale would be the right choice.

Orig­i­nally from Saginaw, Michigan, Appleby chose to study at Hillsdale College. He grad­uated in 1968.

Post-grad­u­ation, after attending law school at American Uni­versity and Uni­versity of Vir­ginia, Appleby went on to be drafted into the Vietnam War, and was awarded with a Purple Heart award and two bronze stars of valor. 

After his service in the Vietnam War, Appleby clerked for NASA and the U.S. General Accounting office in Wash­ington D.C. He went on to the con­sulting firm Ed Booz Hamilton as the second top lawyer in the firm, retiring as the Exec­utive Vice Pres­ident in July 2011.

Most inter­est­ingly, the stories con­cerning Appleby’s time at Hillsdale include his mem­ories as a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fra­ternity, his role as a part of the small, close-knit com­munity of friends and pro­fessors on campus, and studying pol­itics. 

“I was an ATO, and we’ve had the old President’s house for a long time. When I was there at Hillsdale, there were five fra­ter­nities,” Appleby said. “I lived in the ATO house for one year and then lived at a cottage near Baw Beese Lake we called ‘The Hill.”

Even in the 1960s, Appleby recalls the days of date parties and events the fra­ternity house would put on, standing out as some of his most fond mem­ories in the fra­ternity. 

“We had tremendous parties at that house. We once had a date party called ‘Pajama-Rama’ at the ATO house, and all the dates came in their pajamas,” Appleby said. “At that time, we always had great rock bands come to the fra­ternity house, and I had played in a small rock band in high school, so I would play on the drums.” 

Some of the ATO events Appleby remembers also signify certain signs of the times of the 1960s.

“One of the parties at ATO was the ‘Vietnam Go-Go,’ where guys and girls had to wear mil­itary uni­forms and nurse outfits. Even though we were con­ser­v­ative, we never sup­ported the war,” Appleby said. “When I did arrive in Vietnam, I had no idea what it was going to be like.”

Apart from fra­ternity activ­ities, Appleby said that there were not very many activ­ities to do off-campus.

“When I was there, Hillsdale was still very small. My parents would come into town, and there wasn’t really any good place to go,” Appleby said. “There was a bar downtown where lots of folks would go, and I do remember a diner with a neon guy out-front. Other than that, there was not a lot to do off-campus.”

Similar to the current dynamic of Hillsdale com­munity, due to the small town and lack of recre­ational activ­ities available, this would lend to tighter-knit rela­tion­ships with both stu­dents and pro­fessors alike. 

Appleby refers back to a spe­cific memory he had with the head of the English department, his roommate, and a friend of his:

They all agreed to chop down a Christmas tree at the house of another English pro­fessor. 

Appleby said to “get to know pro­fessors that well” is a “Hillsdale thing, and not usual.”

Remem­bering bon­fires, ath­letic games, and other social gath­erings, Appleby empha­sizes the special com­munity that not only was alive when he was a student, but remains true to this day and war­rants appre­ci­ation.

“You get included in life at Hillsdale. You can’t help it you see the same people, have the same pro­fessors, and fre­quent the same places; this all really brings you into a com­munity.”

When describing a par­ticular moment in his edu­cation that remains in the memory of Appleby, he said that although he cannot remember a spe­cific moment he does recall feeling shocked to enjoy pol­itics as much as he did.

“I was a pol­itics and history double-major and took a range of business classes,” Appleby said. “I was not a straight-A student by any means, but by the end of college, I knew what was going to be important to me in my lifetime.”

Appleby empha­sizes how the liberal arts edu­cation he received at Hillsdale, allowing him to get a taste of mul­tiple dis­ci­plines, con­tributed to the great success he enjoyed later in life.

“I’ve spent time all around the world, and think back to art and music courses I had to take, but didn’t want to take,” Appleby said. “You may not appre­ciate it while you are in college.”

After accom­plishing and receiving acco­lades in a variety of manners after grad­u­ation from Hillsdale College, Appleby looks on his times at Hillsdale fondly and with an appre­ci­ation for the edu­cation he received.

“My pro­fessors made me feel com­fortable in what I was trying to do. They showed me that you can be suc­cessful and will be suc­cessful if you choose to be,” Appleby said. “You have to have the drive and ambition, and if you do, then you will be suc­cessful.”

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    this student would not have a good expe­rience under the current hillsdale goose-stepping regime. He sounds like a stand-up guy but he doesn’t ref­erence being a christian any­where, likely because it wasn’t a christian school at the time. He also liked to party. From every­thing I have heard there is cur­rently a very strict policy in place toward fra­ternity life.