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.