Nathan Gill entered graduate school in 2013 and studied natural rights and social con­tract theory.
Bruce Wykes | Courtesy

The Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship is planning to present diplomas to Hillsdale College’s first two doc­torate recip­ients this May.

Kathleen Thompson and Nathan Gill will graduate with a doctor of phi­losophy in pol­itics. Besides hon­orary degrees that Hillsdale has pre­sented, these are the first two doc­torates granted in the 174-year history of Hillsdale College.

Thompson, wife and mother of two with another on the way, com­pleted her under­graduate work in English and pol­itics at Texas’ Uni­versity of Dallas, which boasts a similar liberal arts cur­riculum to Hillsdale. She entered the Van Andel Graduate School in 2012. Her studies focus on pol­itics at the local and state levels and her doc­toral thesis dis­cusses the role of pro­gres­sivism in home eco­nomics.

“The graduate school just started up when I entered, and it was the only one that focused not only on edu­cating graduate stu­dents to become pro­fessors and join academia, but also edu­cating for real pol­itics,” Thompson said. “I was inter­ested in the action-ori­ented aspect of Hillsdale’s program.”

Gill earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and a master’s in pol­itics from Regent Uni­versity in Viriginia. He entered the graduate school in 2013. His research interests include the under­standing of natural rights and social con­tract theory and their link to present-day pro­gres­sivism. He said he has accepted a teaching position at a liberal arts college.

In order to earn their doc­torates, Gill and Thompson com­pleted the extensive list of core classes.

com­pleted the extensive list of core classes.

These include studies in ancient to modern political phi­losophy, including Xenophon, Machi­avelli, and Churchill, as well as two foreign lan­guages.

They both com­pleted their dis­ser­ta­tions suc­cess­fully in March.

Ronald Pestritto, graduate school dean and pro­fessor of pol­itics, taught both Gill and Thompson in numerous classes throughout their four years in graduate school.

According to Pestritto, College Pres­ident Larry Arnn envi­sioned starting a graduate school at the college since he began in 2000. Thanks to the gen­erous dona­tions of the Van Andel family and a fundraising cam­paign in 2010, the vision became reality in 2012 after the two-year accred­i­tation process. The first cohort of stu­dents, including Thompson, began their post-graduate work in the fall 2012.

“There are a lot of people that should feel some sat­is­faction from seeing this moment at the college,” Pestritto said. “It’s true that I have been involved in it, but it is the work from a lot of dif­ferent people. It really has pulled resources from all parts of the college.”

Pestritto said he believes the Van Andel Graduate School will graduate two to three doc­toral stu­dents per year.

“The most rewarding thing about the Ph.D. program at Hillsdale is being able to have six years reading the great books and becoming familiar with them,” Thompson said. “It was an enormous priv­ilege.”