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Chloe Kookogey was crowned 2019 President’s Ball queen on Sat­urday. Regan Lasch | Courtesy

After warming up the crowd Sat­urday evening, Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn announced the king and queen of the 2019 President’s Ball — seniors Gill West and Chloe Kookogey. Despite the light­hearted cel­e­bration, beneath the crown and title lies four years of hard work and a serious ded­i­cation to Hillsdale’s values.

Pro­fessors selected stu­dents they wanted to nom­inate to the court through an emailed poll. From there, the top ten stu­dents — five women and five men — sub­mitted answers to ques­tions ranging from ‘What is your major?’ to ‘What are four words you would use to describe yourself?’

Five pan­elists  — Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Roger Butters, Pro­fessor of English Dwight Lindley, Pro­fessor of Pol­itics Adam Car­rington, Asso­ciate Dean of Women Rebekah Dell, and wife of the college pres­ident Penny Arnn — eval­uated the nom­inees through their ques­tion­naires and a 20-minute interview. After delib­er­ating, the panel agreed that West and Kookogey deserved the honor of king and queen. None of the can­di­dates knew who had won the title until it was announced at President’s Ball.

“I did not at all expect to win. When they announced my name I was taken aback and really, really sur­prised,” Kookogey said. “All I was thinking was, ‘Now I need to dance with Dr. Arnn.’ That was probably the thing I was most nervous about, but it was com­fortable.”

West was equally sur­prised. “I’m not really a popular person. Now I know it’s about faculty deci­sions, so you can afford to be less popular among the student body,” he said. “I was honored that I was chosen, but it was kind of funny that I got a crown. I thought that was strange.”

For those on the panel, though, the decision was easier. After the inter­views and dis­cussion, picking two stu­dents was tough but clear enough to be unan­imous.

“Everyone who gets rec­om­mended is out­standing. You read through their resume and per­sonal state­ments, and you hon­estly wonder, ‘Where do such people come from,’” Butters said. “That decision did not come without some bit­terness.”

Butters described the decision-making process as deter­mining “frac­tions of degrees” between excellent stu­dents. “Every time you choose one thing you refuse some­thing else, and the thing being refused was in and of itself of extra­or­dinary quality and goodness,” he said. “What you’d really like to do is just give tro­phies to everybody, but you can’t.”

For Kookogey, the process helped her rem­i­nisce about her time at Hillsdale and how far she’d come. “It was a great oppor­tunity to reflect and I probably encouraged my own natural nos­talgia more than I had to,” she said.

While West and Kookogey described their career at Hillsdale, pan­elists lis­tened, impressed by what they had accom­plished.

“You see these stu­dents as seniors and what they’ve become and how they’ve grown into really out­standing young men and women,” Car­rington said. “They are, by the way, smarter and more mature than I was at that point. And to think that Hillsdale has had some­thing to do with their growth and maturity is amazing for me.”

The panel was tasked with iden­ti­fying stu­dents by their com­mitment to and under­standing of Hillsdale’s values rather than simply weighing GPA, extracur­ric­ulars, and com­munity service. “Who rep­re­sents the kind of young person that we would want to come out of Hillsdale?” Car­rington said, describing the cri­terion the panel used. “What kind of person bought into the mission, thrived here, was good for the com­munity, and really exem­plified what we would want to see as a result of being at Hillsdale?”

To Lindley, Kookogey and West are “impec­cably Hills­dalian” and rep­resent “the kind of stu­dents we want Hillsdale to produce.”