Kyle Forti trag­i­cally passed away in a heli­copter crash on March 3, 2019

In the fall of 2008, Kyle Forti was just like any other Hillsdale freshman: eager and jubilant, and not fully aware of the impact he would have on each person he inter­acted with.

Like us, he attended classes such as Western Her­itage and Con­sti­tution 101, in which he was an “active par­tic­ipant” with a great deal of “per­son­ality and energy,” according to Pro­fessor of History Thomas Conner. He par­tic­i­pated in Greek life as a member of the Hillsdale Sigma Chi fra­ternity and was actively involved in Hillsdale’s Young Amer­icans for Freedom. As many Hillsdale stu­dents aspire to do, he went into pol­itics after grad­u­ating, becoming a political con­sultant in Col­orado.

But on March 3, 2019, a heli­copter crash in Kenya stole him from us, along with three of his childhood friends, bringing all of this to an abrupt end.

His passing leaves us with sorrow, tears, and ques­tions. But in my dis­cus­sions with those who knew him, I believe Kyle would have wanted us to reflect and remember the moments in which he inspired others and helped them live good lives, not the tragedy that took him.

These are the expe­ri­ences in which Kyle’s memory will endure, through his friends and family who strive to live up to his ideals. As Hillsdale stu­dents, we should take his example to heart and make his life our own:

While nav­i­gating the tumul­tuous world of pol­itics, Kyle put people first. His motto was, “Always be willing to put people before policy. After all, they’re the whole point of the policy in the first place.”

Kyle’s heart of gold and grace allowed him to handle struggles and gen­uinely connect with anyone he met. Hillsdale alumnus and fra­ternity brother John Quint, ’09, who works as Hillsdale’s assistant director of Career Ser­vices, described his inter­ac­tions with him: “I was always greeted with a smile, a laugh, and wide-open arms. He was always that way…full of life.”  

Kyle’s pledge brother, Mike Mor­rison, ‘12 said he was obsessed with “the virtues of a noble man.”

Kyle, Mike, and fellow Sigma Chi Dean Fletcher, ‘11 drove together to the annual Con­ser­v­ative Political Action Con­ference — back before College Repub­licans rented buses. They arrived in the middle of the night in Wash­ington, D.C. Unable to reach the person they intended to stay with, they slept in the car in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot the night before the con­vention opened.

During CPAC, Kyle met with pro­fes­sionals — some 30 years his senior — and shared words of virtue, policy, and society with them — as com­fortably as though he was shooting the breeze on Sigma Chi’s side-porch in Hillsdale. His passion for others was ever-present.

Kyle also had a sense of devotion. John Papciak, ’13, another Sigma Chi Hillsdale alumnus, dis­tinctly remembers a small moment from a decade prior that high­lights this. When his college sweet­heart and future wife, Hope, was vis­iting Kyle, they were relaxing with the others on the balcony of the Sigma Chi House. Kyle’s brothers were teasing him, giving him a hard time as brothers do, but he laughed it off, saying, “You guys are just jealous.” Papciak said that now, looking back, he believes that those present were truly jealous and fully aware of his devotion to the woman he would one day marry.

Despite pro­fes­sional success, Kyle lived for his family. Pro­fessor of History Dedra Birzer, a close friend of the Forti family, tells a story that took place one month before Kyle and Hope’s wedding, when Kyle’s little sister sud­denly expe­ri­enced unex­plainable seizures. Under­standing his sister would be unable to travel, Kyle and Hope moved their wedding date up and opted for his family farm in Indiana rather than a site in Cal­i­fornia so his sister could attend. All the work, time, and money they invested into the wedding and reception were of no sig­nif­i­cance to Kyle if his sister could not be there.

The care and love he pos­sessed only mul­ti­plied after his mar­riage. He grew his business as “a means-to-an-end,” as Hope put it, so he could spend at least 50 percent of each week with his son Maximus and even­tually foster children full-time. Before he traveled to Africa, Hope and Kyle decided to re-open their home to full-time foster care with a focus on teen and young adult parents and their children. Kyle ought to be known as the “Col­orado foster dad” rather than the “Col­orado political strategist,” Hope said.

He was a good family man for his rel­a­tives, and also for his friends. Max Nichols ’12 credits Kyle with rec­on­ciling a rela­tionship for him. Nichols said he holds “Kyle respon­sible for my mar­riage and my beau­tiful 2‑year-old, Alex. Without Kyle’s relentless passion for others and his com­mitment to his friends, my life would look much dif­fer­ently.” Max expressed Kyle’s drive to live “every day to its utmost” and actu­alize his oft-repeated tag line: “To lit­erally rage against the dying of that passion and light.”

From his tireless efforts, Kyle gained the admi­ration of political allies and the respect of political adver­saries, both of whom speak highly of his char­acter as a high-minded man and a gen­tleman. His is an example worth remem­bering and fol­lowing. And as Hillsdale stu­dents, we owe it to Kyle Forti to stoke the fire and keep his light alive by fol­lowing his example of grace and kindness toward his family and others. Let his legacy live on in us that we may be remem­bered by the love we show and the mem­ories we create. We are not known for the cars we drive, nor the money we earn, nor the clothes we wear, and Kyle was no exception. Everyone who encoun­tered him, even for a brief moment in time, speaks of his virtues. The love and virtue expressed in a eulogy, not acco­lades in a resume, are what we will leave behind, just as Kyle does now.

By his life, Kyle can stand before God and say as Paul said in Second Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have fin­ished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Let us honor his name and do the same.

Weston Boardman is a George Wash­ington Fellow and a junior studying Eco­nomics.