When Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn asked Madi Moore, “What is prudence?” during her junior year, he was so pleased with her answer he told her she could be a professor of Aristotle.
Now, as a 2018 graduate, Moore has taken on the position of executive assistant to the president in June, replacing Victoria Bergen, who held the position since 2011.
Arnn said Moore was chosen after “an extensive search that produced several promising candidates.”
“My own appreciation of her began with the look in her eye,” Arnn said in an email. “It is not easy for work to be fun, but it is important that it be. She has the look of willing and ready about her, a sense of adventure.”
Moore grew up in Adrian, Michigan, about a 45-minute drive from Hillsdale. She attended Hillsdale Academy in the first and second grades and eventually chose to attend Hillsdale College after comparing it with other small liberal arts schools.
“I was looking for a challenge, and a lot of the schools that I was looking at that had the right profile, which was all in liberal arts and interdisciplinary, didn’t advertise their academic rigor; it wasn’t at the forefront of their priorities,” Moore said. “And for Hillsdale it clearly was.”
Moore took interest in philosophy for a time, but eventually settled on an English major. After taking a Great Books class with Professor of English Ben Whalen, she and a friend wanted to maintain their acquaintance with him, so Whalen suggested they all read a couple novels over the summer and meet back in the fall to discuss them.
“It became a tradition. At first we just kind of stopped by his office. Then next year we went out to a picnic table on campus and talked about the books we read, then we went to dinner at his house with Mrs. Whalen too, which was wonderful. It was such a great witness to what’s so great about Hillsdale — the way that education surpasses the classroom.”
Another favorite memory was the time she and Meghan Perks ’18 planned an Aquinas-themed scavenger hunt for their friend and classmate, Trinity Wright ’17 after they all struggled together through a particularly challenging course, “Aquinas on God.”
“We created a question in the Aquinas style, and it was ‘Whether Trinity is the best of all friends,’ and then we enlisted a bunch of friends of hers and professors she had gotten to know well throughout her college career to offer up responses to that question, such as ‘It must be true that Trinity is the best of all friends because, XYZ’… She loved it and we had a great time planning it.”
In addition to her English major, Moore minored in Latin, played percussion and violin, participated in the wind symphony and chamber orchestra, and joined Pi Beta Phi, serving as vice president of finance during the 2015 calendar year. She also studied abroad in Oxford and interned in the history office at NASA headquarters through the Washington-Hillsdale Internship Program.
Two months before graduation in the spring of 2018, Moore suffered a rock-climbing accident that fractured her right leg and arm, forcing her to undergo surgery to stabilize her bones with titanium rods. She returned to her home in Adrian and had to discontinue her studies through the rest of the semester.
Confined to a wheelchair, Moore made it her goal to be able to walk across the stage at graduation. A week before the ceremony, she began using a cane for short distances and then received her diploma — on her own two feet — and completed her final courses over the summer.
Moore recently did away with the cane, finished therapy for her lower body, and said she hopes to start running again soon. (Moore would sometimes run 10 miles “cold” during stressful moments in the semester and even participated in a triathlon during her junior year of college.)
As she continues to recover, Moore says she has enjoyed her new position in the president’s office so far. She worked in the office as a student writer during her junior and senior year under Institutional Advancement Assistant Stevi Nichols, who recommended she apply for the executive position.
“Her maturity and competence allowed for us to trust her with projects of higher importance,” Nichols said. “Madison is both organized and professional, and her steady calmness is an incredible asset for her current position. I have great faith in her ability to serve with excellence in the president’s office.”
Moore says Arnn is “excessively” busy and has the kind of job it “doesn’t seem like you can take a vacation from.” While shadowing Bergen, she learned several helpful strategies for managing his schedule.
“She really impressed upon me the importance of carving out time for Dr. Arnn to be a human being and not just the president,” Moore said. “She was always so intentional about respecting his time in that regard and that is something I will remember.”
Moore said the thing that really has made the job “outstanding” so far is Arnn himself.
“I have never had the pleasure of taking a full-term class with him, but working with him, I’ve really come to understand that he is a wholly-principled, just, prudent, thoughtful, considerate individual, and it’s an honor to work for him. He’s a great man, and I think that’s really the thing that makes the job delightful.”
Though Arnn challenged her in the past with questions like “what is prudence?” Moore said things changed when she graduated.
“I think Dr. Arnn likes to ask that question because he wants people to think about it,” she said. “Once you’ve graduated from Hillsdale, you’ve kind of proven, to an extent at least, that you are equipped to think about it on your own.”