Most Hillsdale College students are plenty familiar with Dean of Men Aaron Petersen. His care for the students of the college is unrivaled as he aims to “guide young men into adulthood and through the trials and joys of college life.” Hillsdale College recruited Peterson in the 90s from Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids to play football and baseball.
Aaron’s sons, junior Martin and freshman Shannon Petersen are carrying on the family tradition as they both study at Hillsdale and play on the football team together.
Aaron Peterson, long before serving as the Dean of Men, was a biology major during his time at Hillsdale.
“I think I switched from Christian studies and a classics minor to a bio major all the while thinking of possibly med school and psychiatry in the back of my mind.”
Petersen went into business for two years after graduation, moved into secondary education for four years, and then came back to Hillsdale College to serve as the Dean of Men in 2001.
His oldest son Martin, who plans to major in American Studies and minor in journalism and business, said he worried about coming to a college where his father was Dean of Men.
“I thought I would see my dad all the time but we barely see each other,” he said. “But that can be a good thing because I don’t get in trouble as much as I thought I would.”
While Martin worries about his father singling him out, Aaron only wishes to see his boys more often.
“It bugs me that they never come to say hi and always go to lunch with their mother,” he said jokingly.
Martin and Shannon both stood out as athletes at Hillsdale High School before committing with the college. Martin, a two-sport high school athlete in football and basketball, earned all-conference honors as quarterback of the Hillsdale High School’s football team in 2013, 2014, and 2015. As a basketball player, he earned all-state honors in his senior season at the high school after scoring 1,000 points in his high school career.
Martin faced a hard choice between playing basketball or football when it came time to commit with a college.
“I always loved basketball,” he said. “Even growing up that was the first sport I found a lot of enjoyment in. In the end, I feel like I had a better opportunity to develop and grow and play more in football.”
Shannon, the younger of the two and also an accomplished Hillsdale High School Hornet, wrestled for the school and achieved all-state honors as a defensive end as well as tight end in football. He chose Hillsdale after receiving an offer from Benedictine College in Kansas. Shannon said he plans to major in psychology and minor in art with the hope of becoming an art therapist.
The two brothers enjoy being Chargers together and say they are better now that they are playing together.
“It’s helpful having Martin because, being a new guy on the team, you hear the coaches say to look to the older guys a lot,” Shannon said. “Having Martin on the team helps me in that aspect because I’m already comfortable with him.”
The brothers said they hope that they can better each other rather than develop an unhealthy rivalry.
“The competition between us is only going to grow,” said Martin.
Aaron Petersen said he never tried to push or force his boys into going to Hillsdale College.
“They were raised going to Charger football games and being friends with faculty and staff’s kids,” he said. “There might have been an argument for my sons not to go to a school where their dad is the Dean, but from what I can tell, their relationships formed here.”
Martin said being an athlete opened up a great chance for him to attend a school of Hillsdale’s caliber.
“I think my dad always expressed how big of an opportunity it is to go to Hillsdale,” Martin said. “In the end, I feel like it was my decision more than anything. Whether it was from an athletic or educational standpoint, I think it was the best opportunity I had to grow academically and athletically.”